LMP1 non-hybrids are set to face limitations in stint length as part of the FIA’s revised Equivalence of Technology for the 2018-19 World Endurance Championship season.
Privateer teams competing in this weekend’s season-opening Total Six Hours of Spa will be limited to a maximum of 17 laps per stint, with the Toyota TS050 Hybrids permitted up to 19 laps at Spa.
It comes following a reduction in usable energy for the non-hybrids, in an EoT change made prior to Spa, that’s likely to give Toyota a further edge, both on the track and in the pit lane.
The declaration, which was made during a meeting with teams and manufacturers at the Prologue last month, follows the EoT regulations that state the Toyotas will have a one-lap fuel advantage in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 4.352-mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit is roughly one-half the length of Circuit de la Sarthe, which has therefore given the Toyota a two-lap edge for this weekend.
An extrapolation of the stint lengths, similar to the amount of hybrid energy permitted at each circuit, will be implemented for the remainder of the season.
It’s understood to be the first time, outside of Le Mans, that a specific lap limit has been established in the WEC, which faces many unknowns in the LMP1 class heading into the weekend.
“We haven’t actually concerned ourselves too much about it,” Rebellion Racing team manager Bart Hayden told Sportscar365.
“Our focus has been more upon getting ready, being here, having the cars running and on the track, really than worrying too much about where does that put us.
“I think the reality is that we don’t really know, based on what we saw at Prologue, where Toyota is at.
“This will be the first real time to see where they’re at and also where the non-hybrid cars are at.”
It’s understood that even with the recent energy reductions, LMP1 cars would be able to complete more than 17 laps, or roughly 35-minute stints, if permitted, this weekend.
The stint length limits are expected to be at 11 laps (Toyota) and 10 laps (non-hybrids) at Le Mans, marking a three-lap reduction over the Toyota’s capability in the race from previous years.
DragonSpeed Fuming Over Stint Length Limitation
DragonSpeed team owner Elton Julian has lashed out at the WEC for the “stupid” decision to essentially implement 35-minute stints for LMP1 non-hybrids this weekend.
Julian said the limitation has caused a wrinkle in its race strategy, having initially planned to only single-stint Bronze-rated driver Henrik Hedman because of the 40-minute minimum drive time.
“We have a whole program, everything is designed around a 40-minute stint,” Julian told Sportscar365.
“Then they come with this rule [a few days] before the first race. Now we can’t do one stint drive time.”
Julian said they will now be forced to do a “very public” drive through the pit lane to reset the 17-lap clock, in order to prevent Hedman from having to complete two full stints in the six-hour races.
Under the stint length regulations, LMP1 cars are now expected to be forced to complete one additional pit stop compared to LMP2 cars.
“At 17 laps, Henrik will come in and do a drive-through, go out and do two laps, then do a driver change and pit stop,” he said.
“We’re spending a fortune on engines for using a fuel flow sensor. We’re spending triple the money than the P2 engine to run lean, to then save fuel. It’s pretty stupid.”
Julian said a proposal to permit Hedman, the only gentleman driver in LMP1 this season, to fulfill his drive time requirements with a single stint, was shot down by three fellow privateer teams.
“Many people here are trying to race Toyota; we’re not,” Julian said. “We don’t care if they’re in our class. I don’t know why some people have the right or ability to match them. We’re clearly in our own race.
“I told [the FIA], ‘Send me a rulebook when you’re done. We’ll race to whatever it is.'”