Conversations about a new set of regulations for the LMP1 class have a long time, as predicted by the development road that the FIA and ACO expect for the class, and as the first cycle of regulations has at least two more seasons to go in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the efforts to keep the class balanced while the machines evolve seem to be settled, even though it’s still away from the ideal point.
Based in the efforts that FIA and ACO brought in order to slow the manufacturers a bit, the times clocked at Paul Ricard during the Prologue prove that development in the edge of the regulations and there’s always another route for that. With this, the new set of regulations to start in 2018 may create a gap to what Audi, Porsche and Toyota have on track, while improving the role of the hybrid systems and consequently reliability.
The current regulations establish only two hybrid systems harvesting a maximum of 8MJ based in a lap at Le Mans. Two of the three manufacturers currently achieved at least one of these goals while the third one is really close to do so, and based into Toyota’s specs of the new TS050 Hybrid, the balance between the combustion engine and the hybrid systems is equally distributed or nearly so.
The 2018 rules will enable a car to have three hybrid systems, harvesting 10MJ of energy. As there will be more cuts in terms of fuel flow, engines will also suffer some changes, although no definitions were given on this matter, but we can expect different engines from the ones used now, probably being smaller to meet the fuel flow levels. While the technology continues to evolve, cost cutting is still a point, so limitations in aero, testing and wind tunnel usage may keep the cost rising under a minimum.
Then we look to the side and we have the privateer LMP1 teams, which are now represented by Rebellion and ByKolles. The work on this side seems to be equally complicated as their evolution is slower than a manufacturer due to cost restrictions, and this detail puts the goal of being closer of the top players a task near of the “impossible” definition.
Today the privateers are between 6 and 10 seconds behind the manufacturers depending of the track, and while this is a commending effort for a car without hybrid power, it can make frustrating to invest huge amounts of money to not see the possibility of an overall win.
A new regulation specifically for non-hybrid cars is expected to come to light in 2017, but representatives from ACO recognize that giving extra power to cars is a measure that can be applied immediately with instant results. What they will approve after discussing with the teams is the only point that is keeping some interesting prospects in the sidelines, like BR Engineering and a return of Strakka Racing to the FIA WEC top class.
More meetings about the future of the LMP1s may occur this year, as ideas and constraints need to be analyzed carefully in order to create good and healthy competition between the parts involved.
PHOTOS: FIA WEC