24 Hours of Le Mans to become final race of extensively revised calendar
The World Endurance Championship (WEC) and with it, the Le Mans 24 Hours, has had a complete shake up. It follows the withdrawal of the Porsche, and before that, the Audi teams from the series.
In the new look series that has been announced by Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) president Pierre Fillon and WEC CEO Gérard Neveu in Mexico over the weekend, the championship climax will be the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2019. The 2018/19 season, which the ACO and FIA are regarding as an 18-month “super season” will commence with the Spa 6 Hours in May followed by the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. The season will then continue for another 12 months, ending with the Le Mans endurance race in 2019. The new calendar sees the Silverstone 6 Hours being dropped next year but being reinstated back into the calendar in 2019.
The 12 Hours of Sebring to be held in March 29019 will be a combined event with the IMSA WeatherTech Championship but two separate races will be held. From 10.00am to 10.00pm on Saturday, the IMSA WeatherTech race, and from 12 midnight to 12 noon Sunday the FIA WEC.
The plans also include several innovative features which the organisers say will not only continue the close and exciting competition between prototypes and GTE cars that has become the calling card of the WEC, but also offer competitors a viable and sustainable business model for the future.
Three fundamental parameters have been taken into account during the formulation of the new-look WEC, with the calendar, logistics, sporting and technical regulations being at the heart of the decisions:
All decisions must stay in line with Endurance Racing and the values of the discipline. The 24 Hours of Le Mans remain the point of reference.
The major focus remains the client (the competitor), the product (the sporting competition that is delivered) and the fans.
As a priority, for each of these decisions, the financial and economic aspects must be taken into consideration. It is essential to allow the WEC’s teams and partners to continue in the WEC with a viable and sustainable business model.
According to provisional calculations, in 2019/2020 an LMP2 team will run in the WEC with a budget similar to 2016; meaning 20% less than now.
With the new format of calendar, the number of races will be reduced from 9 in 2017 to 8 in 2018/2019 (over 18 months) then to 7 in 2019/2020 which is expected to be the ‘cruising speed’ for the WEC into the future. This reduction automatically results in a cost reduction for the teams (entry fees, running costs, consumables etc) but also allows for new logistics to be used: using shipping rather than flying freight meaning that transportation costs are divided by three.
The plans have been presented to, and received the full support of, ean Todt, the FIA president and the FIA Endurance Commission led by its president, Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones. The calendar and new sporting regulations will be presented to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for ratification in the coming days.
The provisional 2018/2019 calendar, which remains subject to validation by the FIA World Motors Sport Council, will see four races taking place in 2018 and four in 2019 as part of an 18-month “Super Season” – for the same budget as in 2017.
5 & 6 April: The Prologue, Circuit Paul Ricard (FRA) **
4 & 5 May: WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
16 & 17 June: 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)
13 & 14 October: 6 Hours of Fuji (JPN)
03 & 04 November: 6 Hours of Shanghai (CHN)
February 2019: Place and event TBC
15 & 16 March 2019: 12 Hours of Sebring (USA) *
3 & 4 May 2019 WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL)
15 &16 June 2019: 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA)
Changes to LMP1 technical and sporting regulations from 2018/2019 regulations
The organisers have taken a realistic, responsible approach in the current economic and environmental climate. As has been the case in previous years cost reduction is an absolute priority, but without sacrificing the competition and technological research aspects. Thus, some new regulations have been adopted so that manufacturers as well as the private teams can each deploy their solutions on the track. From 2018/2019, and in the future, there will only be one category (and consequently one classification) in LMP1. To make it as accessible as possible to join this category from the 2018-2019 season onwards, the level of performance of the current non-hybrid LMP1 regulations managed via equivalence of technologies will be aligned with the current LMP1 hybrid regulations.
Each competitor entered in LMP1 will have the same potential of performance independent of the type engine power used. Very clearly there will always be a slight advantage for the hybrid engine in terms of autonomy related to lower fuel consumption.
There will be no changes made to the current chassis regulations (only LMP1 chassis will be eligible) but to facilitate the access to LMP1, more choice and engine power options will be offered. Depending on the selected criteria, an Equivalence of Technology will be implemented between turbo compressed and normally aspirated engines (as done in the past between petrol and diesel).
The non-hybrid chassis regulations will remain identical to those in 2017. They already offer a certain number of aerodynamic advantages compared to the hybrids. In addition, the adjustments to the rules aimed at including all the LMP1s in the same championship introduced by the ACO and the FIA by adjusting the fuel allocation for the non-hybrid LMP1 prototypes, will ensure that their performance is close to that of the hybrids. However, hybrid technology can demonstrate its properties and efficiency thanks to better autonomy in particular (+ 1 lap in the Le Mans 24 Hours).
On paper in these conditions the challenge in LM P1 for a private team can be justified like the wish of certain LM P2 teams to move up a category. Bearing this in mind and to anticipate the arrival of potential candidates, a technological equivalence between turbo and normally-aspirated engines will be brought in to enlarge the range of engines in LMP1. Thus, an LM P2 team thinking of converting its chassis to comply with the LMP1 regulations will be able to install a normally-aspirated engine closer to the motor already used in LM P2: it’s a very promising approach!
All these decisions will apply for the next two seasons.
Other regulatory decisions, which are still being finalised, will be announced later on covering areas such as a reduction in the number of private tests and collective tests proposed.
The 2020 LMP1 regulations will be substantially altered as compared to the model presented during the last 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The ACO and the FIA remain wholeheartedly convinced that technology including Hybrid systems must keep its place of honour in Endurance racing, but not at any price. The budgets invested over these last years in LMP1 Hybrid are no longer sustainable and a return to reasonable budgets should allow all manufacturers to compete in this discipline.
More details on the Technical Regulations will be presented over the coming weeks.
“In the light of the recent context we’ve given the regulations for the next two seasons an in-depth examination,” said Fillon. “We’re aware of the current realities and we’ve shouldered our responsibilities and made some technical modifications to ensure that for 2018-2019 we’ll have a decent LM P1 grid and not just cars to make up the numbers. Each entrant will have a level playing field out on the track. We want to involve candidates who are already tempted to join LMP2, as well as attracting some LMP2 teams who are hesitating about taking the step up into LMP1 and make them realise that now is the right moment!”
“With all these decisions, we are confident of seeing a full and very competitive grid next season. We are already discussing with several manufacturers and privateer teams who are investigating very seriously entrance from 2018/2019 season in LMP1, taking into consideration that the LMP2 and GTE grids are already strong with a high level of commitment for the future.
“We would like to sincerely thank Jean Todt, President of the FIA and Sir Lindsay Owen Jones, President of the Endurance Commission and all the commission members for their support,” said Fillon. “Many decisions, essential for the future of the WEC, have been made in record time.”