From new cars and evolutions in existing machinery to updates in the regulations, there are a number of changes in the FIA World Endurance Championship, which kicks off this weekend at Silverstone.
Sportscar365 breaks down everything that’s new for the 2015 season and what to expect for the entire season.
***Revised LMP1 cars. Porsche, Audi and Toyota have all rolled out with updated machinery for 2015. Porsche’s 919 Hybrid is all new and moves from the 6 to 8 MJ hybrid subclass, while the Audi R18 e-tron quattro doubles its hybrid capacity to 4 MJ. Defending champions Toyota remain at 6 MJ with its 2015-spec TS040 Hybrid but have strengthened its hybrid system as well.
***New Full-Season Drivers. 2014 marked an end of an era for sports car racing, with Tom Kristensen hanging up his helmet after his illustrious career. Oliver Jarvis takes the seat previously held by the nine-time Le Mans winner in the No. 8 Audi, while IndyCar standout Mike Conway lands a full-season seat in the No. 2 Toyota.
***Increased American interest. Florida-based Tequila Patron ESM has committed to a full-season effort with two Honda-powered LMP2 cars, including the only all-American driver lineup in the series. Hollywood actor/racer Patrick Dempsey is also taking part in the entire championship for the first time alongside Porsche factory driver Patrick Long in a GTE-Am class Porsche 911 RSR.
***Nürburgring Added. The series will make a trip to the Nürburgring for the first time on Aug. 28-30, replacing the Sao Paulo round on the eight-race calendar. All other venues remain unchanged from 2014, with the intention of returning to Brazil in 2016.
***New LMP2 Cars. Both the Oreca 05 and Strakka-Dome S013 make their respective debuts in the cost-capped prototype class. The Strakka-Dome debut comes following a lengthy delay that forced the Japanese-designed car out of the entire 2014 season. A third new LMP2 car, the HPD ARX-04b, was also due to break cover in the series but has since been pushed back to 2016.
***Single LMP1 class. LMP1-H and LMP1-L will be known as LMP1 hybrid and non-hybrid, respectively, under a single classification. The FIA Endurance Trophy for Private LMP1 Teams will be awarded to the highest placed LMP1 team not using hybrid technology.
***Revised qualifying format. Only one timed lap (instead of the previous two laps) from two drivers will count towards the aggregate qualifying time. Additionally, a Silver/Bronze-rated driver (LMP2) and one Bronze-rated driver (GTE-Am) must be one of the qualifying drivers. The sessions will be reduced from 25 to 20 minutes in length, pending WMSC approval.
***Landmark U.S. TV agreement. The FOX Sports family of networks will provide live coverage of the FIA WEC this season, totaling more than 70 hours of air time. It begins with flag-to-flag coverage of this weekend’s Six Hours of Silverstone on FOX Sports 1, beginning Sunday at 7 a.m. ET.
***Driver weight rules. Driver ballast will be added to cars if the average declared weight of each lineup of drivers is under 80kg (176 pounds). The measured weight includes driver with helmet, firesuit and related safety devices.
***New testing rules. LMP1 teams will be restricted on the number of test days, both private and public, with new manufacturers to the class being given larger allowances. Heavier restrictions are in place for the other classes, with LMP2 cars only allowed five closed private testing days per year and GTE-Pro/Am restricted to ten days.
***Tire restrictions. LMP1 cars are limited to a maximum of six sets per six-hour race (eight for Bahrain and Shanghai), and four sets for Free Practice. LMP2 will remain at four sets per race and three in practice, with GTE-Pro/Am set to utilize six sets in each race and four sets during practice.
***LMP1 engine restrictions. Each car will be limited to five engines for the entire season, with new manufacturers to the class allowed seven for the year. Official tests are not included.
***Drive time adjustments. LMP1 and GTE-Pro drivers must complete a minimum of 40 minutes and not drive more than 4 hours and 30 minutes in a six-hour race. The same minimum drive time rules for LMP2 (1 hour 15 minutes) and GTE-Am (1 hour 45 minutes) still apply.
***LMP1 personnel restrictions. Beginning after the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a maximum of 65 “operational” people will be allowed for a two-car team, with a total of 90 crew permitted for a three-car organization.