It’s officially official: hybrid hypercars are going to race at Le Mans from 2020. In fact, “sleek, high performance hybrid cars” will race across the World Endurance Championship – of which Le Mans forms a part – between 2020 to 2025.
Out goes the current top tier of LMP1 cars made of unobtanium, then, and in comes a raft of new hypercars backed by “much more reasonable budgets”.
Exciting, isn’t it? The FIA had long been considering changing the structure of the very sharp end of WEC racing to better resemble road-going hypercars, and has now confirmed a few regulations for this new tier of ‘hyper sport endurance racing’.
The cars, as noted before, will have to “turn the heads of experts and newcomers alike”, and embody such things as “sportiness, competition, speed, adrenaline, passion” and other effervescent buzzwords. “The regulations should encourage manufacturers to produce cars that resemble road vehicles,” explains ACO sport director Vincent Beaumesnil.
In more technical terms, the performance aim for these new cars is a 3m 22s lap time during qualifying, and a 3m 27s for the race. Long race, too.
Getting even more technical, the FIA says each car will only have one hybrid system on the front axle, delivering 200kW – around 268bhp – which can’t cost any more than €3m to develop. The battery will weigh 70kg, and the motor 50kg. “This easily achievable specification does not require expensive development,” the FIA says.
Now to the big hairy part. The internal combustion unit will produce just shy of 700bhp – 697bhp to be precise – with a minimum weight of 180kg. The FIA will, in time, denote a specific consumption amount in order to limit development costs for the engine. In total, you’re staring down the barrel of nearly 1,000bhp.
Which will only power a weight of 1,040kg. We’re told each car’s aero will get a “very restricted” window of development to avoid massive expense, and overall, each team’s budget will be set at €20m (RM94.7 million) per full WEC season, for two cars. Personnel is limited to 40 people for both cars.
There’s something called ‘success ballast’, too, for additional competitiveness – 0.5kg will be added to each car per marked point, up to 50kg. The cars will carry this weight right up until Le Mans, at which point it all comes off and everyone goes bananas. Given the controversy caused by ‘Balance of Performance’ regs elsewhere on the Le Mans grid, that’s welcome news indeed.
The FIA still hasn’t figured out a name for this new breed of aero-restricted, cheaper hybrid hypercars, but will announce it in January next year following a popular vote. And, we already know one particular manufacturer who – upon hearing the news months ago – declared a very strong interest in running a team. Koenigsegg.
“We would love to go and race,” company boss Christian von Koenigsegg told TG earlier this year. “Finally, there is a chance. This new class is fantastic. If it really comes to fruition in a good way, it will be amazing.”
Toyota too, at the start of this year, showed us a rather delightful hybrid hypercar in the shape of the Gazoo Racing Super Sport concept (pictured above): a car with - that’s right - 1,000bhp…