ACO Announce New Regulations For Le Mans 2020
Evolution, Not Revolution
Friday at Le Mans, and everything is quiet. But not if you’re a journalist. Friday at Le Mans is the big day, the day when the major players stage their media conferences. By far the most frustrating thing about the last time I was at Le Mans was not having media accreditation and twiddling my thumbs while a legion of Aussie Journalists, who were granted accreditation, either ignored the conferences altogether or only turned up to ask drivers their standard aussie questions.
“Have you seen V8 Supercars? Do you know about Bathurst? And do you want to race Supercars?”
The highlight of the day is the annual ACO media conference when the future of the great race and the FIA World Endurance Championship is unveiled and discussed.
The 2017 conference has announced the 2020 LMP1 regulations and it’s a mixture of subtle changes, cost cutting and faux green gimmicks designed to appeal more to ponytail wearing marketing reptiles than hardcore race fans.
Aerodynamics will see some major changes with the introduction of a DRS type movable rear wing, while development of a car’s underbody will be severely restricted.
The greenhouse area is up for change with a larger cockpit area, up to a minimum height of 80 mm and slightly wider than at present.
Driver comfort has also been addressed with a revised seat angle of 55 degrees instead of the laid back 35 degrees. This figure has been arrived at after consultation with medical experts to provide the best protection to drivers in the event of a major crash.
The controversial hybrid systems will remain with power set at it’s current level of 8 Megajoules, but added to the current rules will be a requirement that all cars must leave each pitstop and run at least one kilometre exclusively under electric power, this Zero emission E-Zone will end at Le Mans just beyond the Dunlop esses.
Also in what is clearly a PR stunt designed to appease the green lobby, all LMP1 cars in the Le Mans 24 hours must cross the finish line under only electric power.
This of course means that a car could lead the entire race but fail to finish or lose as a result of one single, silent lap.
All cars will also be required to have plug-in charging capabilities although just how that will work is not fully explained.
Cost reduction will see major changes to homologation, testing and staff numbers.
To try and save costs a single bodywork set will be homologated per year and per manufacturer to reduce development costs.
Wind tunnel testing will be reduced to 600 hours per year compared to 800 at the moment and there’ll be another reduction in the number of test days. Teams will have a very limited number of private tests. All the others will be collective sessions organised by the championship promoter,
A system will be put in place to prevent a manufacturer from being able to build a new car every year. The regulations will define the features (chassis, engine, hybrid system, bodywork) that the manufacturer will be able to develop between two seasons so choices will have to be made. Thus, the more a feature considered as important by the regulations is developed during the winter break, the fewer possibilities the manufacturer will have to develop others,
An undertaking on the stability of regulations for four years minimum that will have a big impact on the costs.
According to the ACO the new regulations have been the result of major negotiations with current manufacturers and will focus on five key areas:
• Adapting the technologies to road-going vehicles;
• Cost capping;
• Technological diversity;
• Level playing field in terms of performance;
• Retain the appeal for spectators, sponsors and media thanks to top-level performances undergoing constant improvement.
There was no mention of other classes including any possible changes to the LMP1 Privateer rules or GTE changes.