The Automobile Club De L’Ouest revealed a detailed framework for the proposed 2020 ‘LMP1’ regulations for the FIA World Endurance Championship (and therefore the Le Mans 24 Hours) today at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
From 2020 onward, the top class (its name still has yet to be decided) will feature prototype-based cars with styling designed to ensure highly visible relevance to the brand fielding each car, the categories of car mentioned as examples being “super cars, luxury GTs, hypercars and concept cars.”
All of them will be four-wheel drive, with a hybrid KERS system operating on the front axle and a common ECU with homologated software. Any manufacturer hybrid system must be available to privateer teams at an accessible cost.
The engine architecture will be free, allowing both normally aspirated and turbocharged engines of either small or large capacities. They will, however, feature a fixed maximum performance target of 700 horsepower, with an additional 271hp from the hybrid system.
On the aero side, the ACO states that “dimensions and aerodynamic rules are set in order to provide enough freedom for the brand design and are relevant with the dimensions/ proportions of a top-class GT car.”
Mobile aero devices will be accepted for this, and downforce and drag will be fixed, with only one set of bodywork per season to be homologated.
The target lap time for these new top class cars at Le Mans will be a 3m20s. Toyota’s pole lap for this year’s race was 3m15.377s.
These new regulations, subject to approval, will be fixed for five years, from 2020 to 2024, with a focus on cost control. FIA WEC CEO Gerard Neveu told RACER that the target is 25-30 million euros [$29-$35m] for a program per season — touted as roughly a quarter of the budget of the current LMP1 hybrid programs — and that he expects aspirant privateer teams to be able to compete alongside manufacturers in the class, especially with the potential for customer programs.
“When you speak about budgets of 20-25 million, there are many business models possible. When you do a joint venture and use some partners. We have seen (in the past) top privateer teams making joint ventures with manufacturers or major sponsors.”
Neveu said multiple manufacturers have expressed interest, having been involved in conversations throughout the “long process” in developing the regulations.
U.S. sports car sanctioning body IMSA was also part of the process, and although no decisions to make this new platform global have been taken yet, IMSA President Scott Atherton told RACER that making the regulations universal is a target.
“Whether or not we can all work together to make this a universal or global solution is still to be determined,” he said. “That remains the goal for sure and we are here meeting actively, and in dialogue, with that and a number of other things in mind. We are here in force with that as the mission.”
The key gap here, he explained, is budget rather than the general philosophy of the proposed regulations. But, Atherton added, “our optimism remains strong that over the next few months we can work to close that gap.”
Neveu echoed Atherton’s desire for a universal set of regulations across the WEC and IMSA.
“Clearly we would like to see a global platform, with cars eligible in IMSA and the WEC,” he told RACER. “I think that with most of the things we presented today, we are very close. But we try to reduce the budget a little more. There will be a working session in the next month before the final details are presented. IMSA is around the table still, so it must be positive.
“Our job now is to try and provide a platform that is exactly like GTE, because that works really well; we are sharing regulations, we have some partners that are not racing in IMSA and they have Corvette, which is not racing in the WEC, but healthy grids in both.”
Further into the future, the ACO also teased a hydrogen fuel cell category from 2024 onward, athough at present there are very few details of how this will work or how it would be integrated into the FIA WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours. ACO technical director Vincent Beaumesnil simply said that those details were “coming soon.”
“We continue to drive automotive research and defend our beliefs. Hydrogen is the future of zero-emission mobility,” said ACO President Pierre Fillon. “This is not just a statement of intent: we already set up a panel of experts and are working hand-in-hand with manufacturers. We are focused on practical research so that we are ready for 2024 and the introduction of a hydrogen class at the Le Mans 24 Hours.”