ACO shares details on WEC's 2020 hypercar concept, hydrogen class set for 2024
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) revealed further details of the ‘hypercar’ category to be introduced in the FIA World Endurance Championship replacing the current LMP1 class from the 2020 season onward until 2024.
The move is aimed to rope in more manufacturers in the premier class after the loss of Nissan, Porsche and Audi in the last few years leaving only Toyota as the big-time constructor against the privateers.
The yet-to-be-named ‘hypercar’ category will allow manufacturers to bring in more road relevant technology, while still keeping the ethos of the championship together. The idea was first revealed earlier this month after the World Motor Sport Council’s meeting.
Specific details were outlined during the press conference held on the eve of Le Mans 24 Hours race at La Sarthe. The hybrid technology will be retained in the new regulations, while there will be a free choice for engine architecture.
It means the manufacturers can have a turbo charged or normally aspirated unit with whatever number of cylinders whether a big or small capacity – but it will have to come under a predetermined cost to balance the budgets.
The cars will carry a single KERS system at the front which will be 4WD to ensure energy efficiency. The maximum target performance for power will be fixed at 520kW for the engine with the maximum fuel flow also defined.
There will be a common ECU with homologated software and fixed performance for battery and hybridization at 200kW. All the new manufactured products must be cost efficient and available to the private teams for equal competition.
The bodywork of the new ‘hypercars’ will also be of utmost importance so that it has road car relevance with dimensions and aerodynamics set in place for manufacturers to design the prototype like a top-class GT car.
Meanwhile, the overall weight distribution will be capped with the car weight being 980kg. The other geometrical parameters defined like the two seats, bigger cockpit volume, roofline and wider windscreen will be put in place to fulfill GT standards.
FIA President Jean Todt said: “The new regulations for the FIA World Endurance Championship, which come into effect for the 2020/21 season, are the result of hard work between members of the FIA, ACO, manufacturers and teams.
“This will provide endurance racing with a long term, stable platform, while continuing to offer a cost-effective stage to showcase future technologies.”
ACO’s President Pierre Fillon added: “Crafting these regulations was particularly satisfying as very quickly it sparked interest and gained the support of competitors or potential competitors.
“A new era will dawn in 2020 for endurance racing. On paper it has enormous potential. Le Mans 2018, 2019 and 2020 will each be outstanding editions, but now I can’t wait for the start at the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
WEC’s CEO Gerard Neveu commented: “The direction for the new regulations announced today jointly by the ACO and the FIA is a supremely positive one. The 2020-24 regulations are, for competitors, both technically interesting and sustainable, with the controlled budgets being a key factor.
“We are confident that we will welcome an increased number of world-class manufacturers and international teams to the WEC and that all the elements are in place for them to be able to compete at the highest level, with the pinnacle of course being the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
In addition, a hydrogen-powered cars category was also teased for the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours race. Upon revealing about the project, FIA President Jean Todt said: “Over the decades the laboratory that motorsport provides has driven forward the development of technology and safety that has a direct benefit to all of us.
“The FIA has been at the forefront of this development, and the inclusion of a class for hydrogen technology in the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2024 is the next, important, step on the road to a cleaner and sustainable future.”
No further details were revealed at this stage with only a teaser poster of ‘H2’ shown to the media, but the ACO stressed that they are already working behind the scenes towards creating the hydrogen fuel cell category with seven manufacturers involved in the project.
It remains to be seen if they create a brand new category just for the Le Mans race or mix it with the new-to-be launched premier class. No technical specifications was also mentioned or any rules regarding the category.
German manufacturer BMW – which currently races in the WEC’s GTE category – earlier in the year indicated about returning to the premier class in WEC with a hydrogen-powered prototype car, especially to race in the Le Mans 24 Hours race.
ACO’s President Pierre Fillon stated: “We continue to drive automotive research and defend our beliefs. Hydrogen is the future of zero-emission mobility. This is not just a statement of intent: we have 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 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
[Note: This story was also written by me on Formula Rapida]