Episode 1 - Battle stations!

The principles of the LM P1 regulations have undergone a sea change...

The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours has excited ambitions! Yesterday 18th December Audi presented its new car about which an increasing amount of information has been divulged over the past 10 days. Porsche has finished its 2013 tests and presented its drivers last Saturday. Toyota is preparing for the first shakedown of its new LM P1: the three favourites for the 82nd Le Mans 24 Hours are busy fine-tuning their arms for the major rendezvous of the season on 14-15 June 2014!

“The principles of the LM P1 regulations have undergone a sea change. We’ll have to lap as quickly as in the past but with much less energy. Do more with less: an avant-garde approach!” Doctor Wolfgang Ulrich, the Audi Motor Sport Director, sums up in a nutshell the spirit of the new technical regulations for the cars which will race in the blue riband prototype category in next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours and throughout the season in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The major manufacturers are working flat out to take on this challenge.

Audi presents its new R18 e-tron
Audi presents its new R18 e-tron

Photo by: Audi Communications Motorsport

Since Porsche announced its comeback to Le Mans in July 2011, the record holder for outright victories in the Sarthe has been moving mountains to be ready. Its 919 hybrid has been running since June and finished its 2013 tests in Portimao (Portugal) last weekend. Mark Webber, who has arrived from the 2013 F1 World Championship winning team, has joined up with the squad presented last weekend in Weissach including Porsche works drivers Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Marc Leib, New Zealand coming man Brendon Hartley and Neel Jani from Switzerland. Last week the Stuttgart manufacturer also gave some more technical information about its new challenger, which is equipped with a hybrid system that includes a supercharged 2-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection, two energy recovery systems (one on the rear wheels and the other on the exhaust) and a high-power battery.

Audi has gone down a very different technical path. Its new R 18 e-tron quattro, whose bodywork bears a strong resemblance to this year’s car, is in fact radically different. It is powered by a V6 diesel engine coupled to a flywheel linked to the front axle. A second hybrid system recovers energy from the turbos. This car has been running since early autumn and and was presented yesterday evening (Wednesday) during the traditional Audi Motorsport Prize Giving at the German manufacturer’s headquarters in Ingolstadt.

Porsche LMP1 testing at Paul Ricard Circuit
Porsche LMP1 testing at Paul Ricard Circuit

Photo by: Porsche AG

While Toyota has not yet run its new LM P1 the Japanese engineers have not been left behind. They have chosen a normally-aspirated V8 petrol engine with a kinetic energy recovery system recuperating energy from the front and rear drive trains that it then delivers back to them. The new Toyota should take to the track in mid-January and will be officially presented in the first three months of 2014.

In addition to the big names in the car industry, Oreca is in the process of finalising its new LM P1 chassis for the Rebellion Racing team. The first of these prototypes powered by a normally-aspirated Toyota engine is in the process of being built. The Rebellion R-One should have its first shakedown in March 2014.

Before the Le Mans 24 Hours the different rounds of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship will provide a base to assess the different teams and the relevance of their technical choices. After the test session on the Le Castellet circuit in the south of France on 28-29 March, the teams will be at Silverstone (Great Britain) on 20th April followed by Spa (Belgium) on 3rd May for the first two rounds on the calendar before doing battle in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the highpoint of the season, on 14-15 June.

The 2014 technical regulations

In 2014, a revolutionary set of technical regulations will come into force in the blue riband prototype category in the Le Mans 24 Hours and the FIA World Endurance Championship. These regulations have been drawn up by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and the FIA, and their philosophy is to take into account the problems linked to sustainable development adapted to motor sport. Thanks to a maximum allocation of energy supplied to each competitor, these regulations will enable cars in the LM P1 category to have performances identical to those of the previous years, while using 20 percent less fuel as well as reducing their carbon footprint in a drastic manner, thus giving manufacturers the opportunity to develop new technological concepts, which prefigure the car of tomorrow.

In this way, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest underlines its wish to consolidate on a long-term basis what has been the vocation of the Le Mans 24 Hours since 1923, namely: to be a great popular race at the service of society thanks to technological developments that will benefit everybody.

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About this article
Series Le Mans , WEC
Drivers Mark Webber , Timo Bernhard , Romain Dumas , Neel Jani , Brendon Hartley
Teams Rebellion Racing
Article type Analysis
Tags audi, bernhard, dumas, hartley, jani, leib, lemans, porsche, toyota, webber, wec