Stephen Errity, Le Mans Correspondent
From 2014 on, LM P1 prototypes in the Le Mans 24 Hours will be closed-top cars with a specific amount of fuel allocated per lap depending on whether they are hybrid, non-hybrid, petrol or diesel. Senior ACO figures presented the revised rules to the media at the Circuit de la Sarthe this morning.
“The basis for these rules was drawn up in 2009, and then presented to the manufactures,” said ACO president Pierre Fillon. “Since then the teams and the ACO have worked together constructively – we listened to everything the manufacturers had to say.” Lindsay Owen-Jones, president of the ACO's Endurance Commission, said: “Our aim is to return endurance racing to the summit of motorsport, where it deserves to be. This category makes the most sense in terms of everyday road cars, and the regulations go in that direction.”
The drivers will be able to go flat-out.
ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil laid out the six points that define the 2014 LM P1 rules: a certain quantity of fuel allocated to each car, with the aim of reducing fuel consumption by 30 percent compared to the current cars; emphasis on performance and spectacle, so the races don't become a dull reliability run; technical openness; cost control; and relevance to everyday road users.
For 2014, LM P1 engines will be four-stroke piston motors, with the cubic capacity left up to the manufacturers. A high turbo pressure will be specified, but fuel injection pressure will also be up to the individual makers. The cars' power will be controlled by a fuel flow meter to measure a precise allowance of fuel per lap, eliminating the need for air restrictors and other balancing methods.
Also, any fuel saved while running behind the safety car will be 'lost', according to a formula to be defined by the ACO. Petrol and diesel will be the primary fuels allowed, however second-generation biofuels and other sources such as hydrogen will be looked at in the long run.
Five categories of hybrid systems will be introduced, depending on their power output: 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 megajoules. The higher energy a hybrid system has the less fuel the car will be allocated per lap. Private LM P1 teams will be permitted to run without a hybrid system (the zero megajoules option), with a corresponding increase in their fuel allowance per lap.
As mentioned above, LM P1 will permit closed two-seater cars only from 2014 onwards, with a minimum weight of 850kg for hybrids and 830kg for non-hybrids. Overall width is reduced by 10cm, while the driver will have to sit higher and further forward in the car, as part of a bid to improve visibility and eliminate serious accidents of the kind that befell two of the three works Audis in 2011. The holes in the front wheel arches will be moved from the top to the side of the arches, to reduce the amount of spray thrown up in the wet. Further safety improvements take the form of Zylon lateral protection panels (already seen on the DeltaWing), a rear crash box and regulations on how powerful LM P1 headlights can be.
“Each constructor can choose the best option for their aims and budget,” concluded Beaumesnil. “But the quickest car will win – and the quickest car under these rules will be the one that uses its allocated energy most efficiently. The drivers will be able to go flat-out.” Finally, the ACO says it will consider a 'transition period' of one year in 2014 for cars that comply with the current regulations.