Le Mans Hypercar
A Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) is the type of sports prototype race car used as the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship. Le Mans Hypercar were created jointly by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, as a successor class to the Le Mans Prototype LMP1 class from the 2020–21 season. Unlike its predecessor class, where bespoke Prototypes were created to race in the category, cars entered in the Le Mans Hypercar class can either be race-ready versions of existing hypercars, or specially designed prototypes, with hybrid power being optional for manufacturers.
Following the successive exits of Audi and Porsche from the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of the 2016 and 2017 seasons, due to the fallout of the Volkswagen emissions scandal at the parent company of both automobile manufacturers, as well as spiralling costs in the LMP1-Hybrid Category, the ACO began a series of discussions aimed at reducing the costs of competition for the next generation LMP1 rules. Initially, a single, low-power hybrid system had been positioned for what had originally been planned as the new-generation LMP1 rules, with plans for shared platform with IMSA, with representatives from the three organizations, as well as current and prospective manufacturers, being involved in talks for the proposed regulations, which would debut in the 2020-21 World Endurance Championship season. At the time, there had been an option for a customer hybrid powertrain for small-volume manufacturers and privateers, which could then replace the Daytona Prototype International regulations in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2022, allowing for the unification of top level sportscar racing, with teams and manufacturers being able to compete with the same car in the "triple crown" of Endurance Racing. These initial plans targeted significant cost reductions, while maintaining the performance levels of the LMP1 prototypes. A renaming of the category was later suggested by the FIA President Jean Todt.
In June 2018, ahead of the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA first confirmed that the new set of top-level prototype regulations would feature design concepts based on hypercars when implemented, with a summary of the new technical regs, being presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Manila. At the time, Toyota, Ford, McLaren, Aston Martin and Ferrari, were revealed to have been in roundtable meetings with the championship organisers for the new regulations, with a significantly reduced targeted full-season budget in the region of 25 million Euros, which would be 75% lower than existing budgets used by manufacturer teams.
At the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, the initial details of the new top class for the FIA World Endurance Championship, were announced at the ACO’s annual press conference, with the regulations set to be active for 5 seasons. Numerous aspects of the design for the new class would be kept open, with a free engine architecture and the freedom to run any number of cylinders with the choice of a turbocharged or naturally-aspirated design. The cars would have an overall weight of 980kg while weight distribution would be controlled, alongside a defined maximum fuel flow, with controlled efficiency and other regulations to control developmental costs. Hybrid systems would feature an electric motor, mounted on the front axle with a fixed performance of 200 kW, giving the cars a four-wheel-drive layout, while the engine’s maximum performance target would be set at 520 kilowatts (700 hp). Each car will have two seats, a bigger cockpit than the current LMP1 machines, a wider windscreen and a roofline more consistent with road cars. Manufacturers required to make their hybrid systems available for privateer teams to lease at a cost cap, while any manufacturer or company would be able to design and build its own hybrid system, which would undergo homologation by the FIA and ACO. The cars would also be set to be slower than its predecessors, with a 3:20 target lap time.
On 25 July 2018, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus became the first manufacturer to officially indicate its participation in the new rules, with the manufacturer releasing images of a prototype that it planned to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The manufacturer would offer a limited run of 25 road legal versions and one race version to fund its Le Mans program. By the end of the 2018 year, apart from Glickenhaus, no other manufacturer had committed to the new regulations, with concerns being raised by several manufacturers about the tight timelines involved, which would leave manufacturers intending to commit from the first season of competition with less than two years to design and build new cars, upon gaining company board approval. On October 21 2018, McLaren announced that it would not participate in the first year of the category due to the tight timelines involved, and the relatively fluid state of the regulations at the point in time.
On 5 December 2018, the FIA published the technical rulebook of the class, with the regulations mandating production-based powertrains. It was also decided that a minimum of 25 road cars fitted with the combustion engine and energy recovery system (ERS) of the racing car would have to be produced by the end of a manufacturer’s first season, with that amount rising to 100 by the end of its second season. This would mean that non-OEM racecar constructors, such as Oreca, Onroak Automotive and Dallara, would not be permitted to build hypercars, while the previously proposed "off-the-shelf" hybrid solution was absent from the regulations. The regulations called for a total maximum power output of roughly 950 horsepower (708 kW) drawn from the combustion and electric hybrid system, lower than the initial figure presented in June, with the maximum output of the combustion engine now at 508 kW rather than 520, although the 200 kW electric unit power output remains the same. In addition, Diesel power would be banned, with a 3 million Euro ($3.4 million US) cost cap on the supply of ERS systems from manufacturers to customer teams was announced, while it was also announced that an ERS manufacturer would be prohibited from supplying a system to more than three competitors, without the formal approval of the FIA. The minimum weight of the new-generation cars will be raised from the initially-stated 980 kg to 1040 kg, with the maximum length being 5000mm, while maximum cockpit width would also increase to 2000mm.
On 7 March 2019, it was announced that the FIA World Endurance Championship would adjust its criteria for the new prototype regulations, with manufacturers now being permitted to enter race cars based from road-going hypercars. This was done, after several manufacturers expressed interest in a closer alignment between their production and race activities, citing both budgetary, and platform availability concerns. Subsequently, the target lap time of the new cars was increased from 3:20 to 3:30, while movable aerodynamic devices, which was originally planned to be allowed under the new regulation set was removed, due to cost concerns.
On 19 February 2020, Aston Martin announced that they would be postponing their Hypercar project until further noticed, warranting that a recent creation of the joint ACO-IMSA prototype class, known as LMDh, has led to the company to reconsider their plans on the project. In addition, the company plans to re-join Formula 1 since the 1960s as a factory-backed team.
The frontal surface area of the car may not be below 1.6 m², while as viewed from above, from the side, and from the front the bodywork must not allow mechanical components to be seen, unless explicitly authorised by the present regulations, or if respecting the original car design. Movable Aerodynamic Elements are prohibited
Engine Design is free, with only 4 Stroke Petrol Engines being permitted for use. For Production based engines, the cylinder block and head castings must come from the base engine, and the crankshaft may only be a maximum of 10% lighter, while valve angles, number and location of camshafts must also remain original, as they are fitted on the original engine.
For cars utilising an Energy Recovery Hybrid system, the electrical DC power of the MGU-K must not exceed 200 kW, and with the exception of the pit-lane the MGU-K may only apply positive torque to the front wheels should the following conditions be met:
- If the speed of the car is 120 km/h or higher, when the car is fitted with dry weather slick tyres;
- If the speed of the car is between 140-160 km/h or higher, when the car is not fitted with dry weather slick tyres;
- If the speed of the car is below 120 km/h and stays below 120 km/h until the car comes to the pits.
|Minimum weight||1,100 kilograms (2,400 lb)|
|Maximum length||4,650 millimetres (183 in)|
|Maximum width||2,000 millimetres (79 in)|
|Maximum Wheelbase||3,150 millimetres (124 in)|
|Engine displacement||no limit|
|Maximum wheel diameter||710 millimetres (28 in)|
|Maximum wheel width||380 millimetres (15 in)|
|Toyota||GR Super Sport||2020|||
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