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New Safety Car Procedure, Slow Zones for Le Mans Revealed

ACO to implement “slow zones” to reduce safety car periods in Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

There will be considerable changes to the safety car procedures in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, as well as adjustments to regular-season FIA World Endurance Championship rounds, with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest set to introduce a new procedure aimed to cut down on the amount of full-course cautions.

The French organizers revealed plans Friday for a new “slow zone” procedure, where only one section of the 8.5-mile circuit would be put under caution. However, unlike local yellows, cars would be not be allowed to exceed 60 kph in the designated zone.

A similar system, named “Code 60”,  has been used in the 24 Hours of Dubai, where all cars immediately slow to 60 kph and retain their relative positions on track, eliminating the need of a safety car.

The ACO’s proposed system, however, will still see the use of safety cars for larger accidents that would require the entire circuit to be neutralized.

While this process would only be used at Le Mans, there will also be changes to the conventional full-course caution procedure in the FIA WEC next year, with the race director now authorized to allow wave-arounds.

The system, which allows cars that were caught behind the safety car on the tail end of a lap to regain their position, has been successfully used in American racing.

The ACO also confirmed Friday that safety improvements will be made to the Tetre Rouge and Corvette corners of Circuit de la Sarthe, in the wake of Allan Simonsen’s death in this year’s race.

Additionally, a half-day simulation training course will become mandatory for any rookie driver or those who have not raced at Le Mans in the past five years.

More details on the safety improvements will be made on Feb. 13 during the annual ACO press conference to unveil the entry lists for the FIA WEC and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John



  1. 917

    December 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Great stupid pass arounds whats next the lucky dog? Le Mans is great and has real racing drama it doesn’t need stupid gimmicks and cars coming from 14 laps down without passing the leader once like at daytona.

    • jack

      December 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      i think you misunderstood, its not cars that are a lap down, its cars that are on the tail end of the lead lap that got separated from there class leader by the overall leader in the race, its the same system that was in the alms. cars that are a lap down still have to earn those back

    • joshvc

      December 20, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      The pass arounds are for the lower classes to maintain their battles. Last year at Le Mans, an early safety car came out after the leaders had lapped all but 3 GTE Pro cars. Those 3 were the only ones in contention for the remainder of the race.

      Under the ALMS style wave around, the remaining GTE Pro cars would be waved past the overall leader to rejoin the class battle. It takes for-effing-ever to sort out, so it gets dumb in a 2:45 race, but the safety car periods are so long at Le Mans anyway that it shouldn’t add any major delays.

  2. joe

    December 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    yeah the gte pro battle at lm last year was such a shame last year because of the safety car. even those few cars that managed to stay on the lead lap (in class) anf had a great race for a while were eventually broken up by more saftey cars. porsche was competive but they were basically handed the race when the split safety car procedure set back the leading amr car. i think the splitting of the field is the issue that needs a close look. the amr stayed onthe lead lap but was set way back by being caught behind a different safety car due to pit sequence and not track position

    • pman

      December 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm

      It would have been worse without splitting the field, that 1/3 of a lap would have become a whole lap.

      • Joe

        January 6, 2014 at 7:57 pm

        i don’t think so because the separated cars were never a full lap behind the leader, the leaders pitted behind their pace car and then restarted behind their pace car, and basically got a free pit stop out of the yellow without giving up any track position. The split actually brought other cars down enough to eventually lose laps they may not have by catching them out while their track position was lost after a stop. I think the answer could be instead to change the pitstop rules. Perhaps forcing teams that pit under yellow to rejoin the track behind the next pace car rather than allowing them to rejoin immediately and usually get out behind the one which originally picked them on the track.

  3. Pat W

    December 21, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I hope this is a trial for a full rollout of a Code 60 style system to replace the 3 SCs in 2015/2016. The 3 SC system is fundamentally broken. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to have a system like this and only use it for local areas so I have to assume it’ll be bigger in ’15 once they see how it works on a track of this size.

    Very good news about the wavearound rule for trapped class cars, although I think the commenters above are a bit confused. The article says it is for ‘the conventional full course caution procedure in the FIA WEC’, which you have to remember is independent of Le Mans, even though the race scores WEC points.
    It would be great if they did it at Le Mans as well though.

  4. Barton Workman

    December 22, 2013 at 6:50 am

    Anything must be better than the “musical chairs” approach of splitting the field into three groups
    during extended cautions. As noted, good races in the GT classes were broken up and multiple
    cars got screwed by this.

    Additionally, Le Mans is finally facing up to the fact that their antiquated armco barriers (many of
    which are supported by rotting wood pylons) are no longer acceptable. It’s time the ACO lines the circuit
    with Safer Barriers as most of the extended cautions we saw this year were due to the fact that the
    crumbling infrastructure of the armco barriers took forever to be replaced after being damaged in the
    many shunts.

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  6. Andrew

    June 12, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Localised speed restrictions sounds like a great idea, the concern is… can they be enforced ??

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