All three leading LMP1 manufacturers have voiced varying levels of support of the FIA’s recently announced measures to slow cars by fuel reduction, and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a limit on maximum power output from its energy recovery systems.
Beginning next year, LMP1 cars will have a reduction of 10 MJ of fuel per lap of Le Mans for all tracks, while the maximum ERS output will be capped to 300 kW on Grade 2 circuits, which at this time only includes Le Mans.
“The end result is that we’ll reduce the fuel consumption, which I think is a perfect message again for the championship and for the regulations,” Porsche LMP1 technical director Alex Hitzinger told Sportscar365.
“We’re getting more and more efficient. We’re using less and less fuel and still at a good pace.”
Track records have been smashed this year, with the pole-sitting Porsche 919 Hybrid for Sunday’s Six Hours of Fuji lapping more than 3 seconds quicker than the previous qualifying record.
It’s forced the FIA and ACO to make performance cuts, a measure that’s been written into the LMP1 regulations if speeds exceed acceptable and deemed safe levels
“We have to control the performance at any time,” ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil told Sportscar365. “The safety management of motorsport is [not only] by improving the circuits and cars but also controlling the performance as well.
“I think we all noticed that last year we reached a big step in performance. It’s always been for the ACO something we need to control to make sure we don’t exceed a certain amount of performance.”
Hitzinger said the fuel reduction will not require any significant architecture change to their engine, although the ERS power output cap could see teams focus on further Le Mans-specific developments.
“I don’t fancy to have two different specs for the WEC and Le Mans,” he said. “I don’t think that makes much sense. For me, it would have made more sense to limit it everywhere or don’t limit it at all.”
According to Hitzinger, the Porsche 919 Hybrid produces about 300-400 kW unrestricted at Le Mans, which under the new 300 kW cap, may not result in a significant change.
He estimates the combined changes will see lap times reduced by between three and four seconds at Le Mans.
“At the end of the day, it’s not like we’re limited in how much energy we can place,” Hitzinger said. “It’s means the boost gets a bit longer at a lower power but it doesn’t have a huge lap time impact.”
For Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon, the ERS limit will also have an impact on its new TS050 Hybrid, which is currently under development for next year.
“It clearly affects the kind of hybrid system we have,” he told Sportscar365. “Since we have two KERS, for sure we have a lot of power.
“But in Le Mans, this kind of limitation has a limited impact in terms of performance because the straight lines are very long.”
While understanding of the reason to limit to limit power output at Le Mans, on safety grounds, Vasselon has questioned whether it would make sense for a season-long limit, which has been allegedly proposed for 2017.
“It’s just for Le Mans next year but it’s planned to come back on all tracks in ’17,” he said. “This we question because we don’t see the logic.”
While manufacturers are already far along on their 2016 cars, Head of Audi LMP1 Chris Reinke said the changes have not come at a surprise to to the German manufacturer.
“I think we have to do something to slow the cars to amounts where at all tracks it’s still safe to be used but at the same time, show an increase of performance and show the competition on the engineering side as well,” Reinke told Sportscar365.
“I think we found a good measure with that.”