Here’s a sneak peek at Gary Watkins’ investigation in the Fall issue of RACER ” the Racing Business and Technology Issue ” of the complex matrix of megajoules, fuel-flow rates and fuel tank size, plus an ?anything goes? approach to energy-recovery systems, put relevancy and equality centerstage at Le Mans.
Relevance has been a buzzword at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for more than a decade. The idea that the French endurance classic is a proving ground for automotive technologies destined for the street was reinvigorated when Audi introduced the direct-injection version of its R8 prototype in 2001. It gained further momentum on the arrival of the German manufacturer’s turbodiesel R10 five years later, then snowballed with the start of the battle of the hybrids between Audi and Toyota in 2012. For 2014, the relevance factor is about to go exponential.
A new set of LMP1 regulations for Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship next year will place the emphasis firmly on efficiency. Each car will be given a set amount of energy and, for those run by manufacturers, be required to recoup more of it than ever via energy-retrieval systems. There are no limits on the size of the engine, just a target that the most efficient car should win.
Efficiency prizes are nothing new at Le Mans. The Thermal Index of Efficiency was first awarded at the race back in 1959 and its modern equivalent is the Michelin-sponsored Green X Challenge, which was pioneered in the American Le Mans Series from 2009. But these have been what Vincent Beaumesnil, the sporting director at the Le Mans-organizing Automobile Club de l’Ouest, calls ?parallel prizes.?
The ACO saw the potential to go further.
?We imagined regulations where efficiency would not be a parallel or secondary target, but would determine whether or not you win,? explains Beaumesnil. ?We wanted to see how we could come up with a set of rules to give a strong incentive to manufacturers to build the most efficient car, because that’s their top priority when it comes to road cars.?
That’s led to a diametric shift in the way power is controlled in the LMP1 division. Since the mid-1990s, limiting airflow by the use of air-restrictors had been the method of choice. Now it will be done by controlling the amount of fuel available to each car.
?The principle is to limit energy in order to force the manufacturers to come up with new technology,? says Beaumesnil. ?What we’re saying is, ?It’s up to you make the best of the fuel we give you.’?
? For details on how the ACO plans to enforce these rules, read the full article in the Fall issue of RACER, on sale now. Click here to learn more about the Racing Business and Technology Issue.