Yannick Dalmas had the unique opportunity of sampling two LMP1 hybrid cars in the same day, as the four-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner climbed behind the wheel of both the Porsche 919 Hybrid and Toyota TS050 Hybrid last weekend in Bahrain.
But it wasn’t just a Sunday drive for the Frenchman, as the FIA Driver Advisor utilized the WEC Rookie Test to get a better understanding of modern-day LMP1 machinery for his role in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
“It was a really good experience,” Dalmas said after the test. “I’d like to thank Toyota and Porsche. For my [job] as driver advisor, it was very interesting to test the cars and to understand as a driver what [they] do.”
Dalmas completed nine laps in the Porsche and 11 laps in the Toyota, posting a best time of 1:47.584 in the German prototype, which was impressively less than six seconds slower than Neel Jani’s quick time from the day.
It marked his first prototype experience in 14 years, having last driven an Audi R8 for Team Goh at Le Mans in 2002.
“Ten or 15 years ago it was nice and less complicated. But now, today, we have more things to do,” Dalmas said. “You have to work to be on a high level for driving and to be very efficient in this car.
“You have to work very closely with your engineers, technicians for the hybrid system and engine systems, to be stronger and efficient.
“I needed a complete two days with the engineers to [fully] understand. After, I’d be better. In practice, I think after three or four days, it would be good.”
The 55-year-old said he was pleased with the visibility inside both cars, with the bonus of having a rear-view camera, a recent invention that’s helped improve safety.
In terms of closing speeds, Dalmas said he didn’t notice a big difference in the hybrid LMP1s to his LMP900 days.
“At Le Mans, it was amazing, even in my time, the speed between LMP and GT was 50 or 60 km/h,” he said. “Today, I overtook some GTs and LMP2s. But don’t forget the [power] cut when it’s coming.”
The complexity of the LMP1 hybrids, as he pointed out, has added an entire new dynamic to the driving aspect.
Dalmas admitted he didn’t memorize all of the buttons on the steering wheel, which assists the driver with various techniques.
“The radio communication [happens] all the time,” he said. “The engineers talk to the drivers and the drivers need to adjust all the time. You also have the fuel cut and the hybrid go higher. It’s really complicated.
“A good driver makes the difference but you have to work very closely with your engineers to know 100 percent the new system. You can’t understand everything in 10 laps.
“You have to change your driving style. Because in my time, we didn’t have the same driving assistance. Today. It’s about the braking, the hybrid and handling, it’s very efficient, more efficient now than 10 or 15 years ago.
“For me, driving is not enough today. You have to on another level.”
Dalmas believes up-and-coming drivers can still be competitive in LMP1 hybrids, despite 2015 World Champion Brendon Hartley currently being the only full-time factory driver under the age of 30.
LMP2 standouts Gustavo Menezes, Pipo Derani and Paul-Loup Chatin, ages 22, 23 and 25, respectively, also tested the LMP1 hybrids on Sunday, having been selected by the WEC for the Rookie Test.
“You can see in Formula One with [Max] Verstappen, the car is also complicated with many things to do,” Dalmas said. “I think rookie drivers that test the car have the same good feeling. He can make good lap times in comparison to other drivers.
“In 10, 20 or 30 laps, yes you can make something. But you’d probably need more time to be more comfortable. But if you see the job from the rookies, I think they all did a good job.”