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ACO, FIA introducing new hybrid top class for Le Mans for 2020-2024; hydrogen racers in 2024

The Automobile Club De L’Ouest (ACO) and Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) will a new top class for the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2020-2024. The anticipated sleeker prototypes will retain a hybrid system while leaving free the choice of combustion engine at a predetermined and fixed cost. The name of the new class will be chosen by popular vote.

A new special class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2024 will introduce hydrogen fuel cell technology. A working group is already in place and includes various parties with an interest in the subject. Seven automotive multinationals (major manufacturers and parts makers) actively developing this technology are involved in setting down the conditions required for the creation of this class, and in demonstrating the relevance and efficiency of this new engine technology. The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is supporting the ACO endeavor.

Over the decades the laboratory that motor sport 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.

—Jean Todt, President of the FIA

2020-2024. The new top-class prototypes will remain hybrid, with a KERS system in front and 4WD to ensure energy efficiency. The regulations are seeking performance (3:20.00 per lap at Le Mans with limited fuel) and cost-effectiveness. Developments will be kept in check by a new homologation procedure and technical rules that will reduce budgets. There will be no restrictions on engine selection. Consumption rules will ensure fair competition between different systems.

The top endurance class is looking at a budget of around 25 to 30 million euros for two cars per season—25% of what was spent in LMP1 in recent years. In addition to all the other enhancements, the new regulations are looking to increase the level of safety of the driver survival cell.

The new look will be similar to current hypercars. Dimensions and aerodynamic rules will provide enough freedom for the brand design and are relevant to the dimensions/proportions of a Top-Class GT Car. Only one bodywork may be homologated per season. Overall weight will be 980 kg (2,161 lbs).

While the new top class enjoys a free engine architecture (small or large capacity, turbocharged or normally aspirated, whatever is the number of cylinders), fixed maximum performance target for power is 520 kW, with the maximum fuel flow and BSFC defined.

Other key parameters—such as limits on expensive materials and the minimum size, minimum weight and gravity center height of the engine—will be defined in order to prevent expensive development.

The main guidelines for Energy Recovery System (ERS) are:

  • Each system will be entirely homologated by FIA/ACO.

  • An ERS manufacturer must be able to supply a minimum of cars (number to be defined) entered in the championship.

  • The supply is based on a leasing per season including supply of the system, technical support and race track support.

  • The annual leasing per car, all services included, will be cost-capped by the regulation. The price will be set in order to comply with the original targets: performance and technology accessible to all competitors, including private ones.

The ERS system will comprise three main components: ERS hardware (motor, inverter...); battery / energy storage; and electronics (software and hardware). The system will be designed for the front axle for easier integration in different cars, and better performance vs. budget.

The ECU will feature a common ECU with homologated software. The battery and hybrid system has a 200 kW cap.

The gearbox is limited to 8 speeds with 1 set of ratios.Expensive materials will be banned; minimum weight and gravity center height will be capped; and electronic and/or hydraulic differential will be banned.

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