LMP1 cars are set to see a reduction in performance next year, in the wake of increased speeds seen by the factory prototypes in the early season FIA World Endurance Championship rounds.
ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil confirmed that the LMP1 technical working group is already in the “well advanced stages” of the proposed slowdown for 2016.
“It’s already discussed for several weeks now,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365. “You cannot change the technical regulations [for this year] but it’s something that will happen next year.”
Lap times have decreased significantly this year, with Audi, Porsche and Toyota all rolling out evolutions of its LMP1 machinery following the first year of the new fuel flow-based regulations.
The No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley was more than three seconds quicker at last month’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps compared to the best race lap set there last year, with an even larger year-to-year gap expected this weekend in Le Mans.
“There’s definitely some discussions on controlling LMP1 performance next year, simply because it looks like we’ll be below 3:20 [per lap of Le Mans] this year,” Toyota Gazoo Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon told Sportscar365.
“Next year will be another step and clearly no one wants to keep going lower on lap times. A 3:20 is considered to be a sensible limit.”
According to Audi Sport Team Joest technical director Ralf Jüttner, a reduction in LMP1 performance could lead to issues if the performance levels in the other classes are left unchanged.
“The discussions are there but it’s not such an easy solution,” Jüttner told Sportscar365. “To reduce the lap time you can reduce the power but if you do that only to the LMP1s, you create a big problem for our cars with the GTs and the P2 cars.
“We’re concentrating in the corners already now and it will be even worse if they take power from us to reduce the lap time. So it needs a more sophisticated approach to that.”
The new-for-2014 LMP1 regulations, which targeted a 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption, has resulted in increased cornering speeds, something that’s been closely monitored in recent weeks.
“We are actually slower now on the straights than we have been a few years ago,”Jüttner said. “All of the speed we’ve gained has been in the corners. So if you have to address it, that’s where you have to look at.
“On the other hand, this is not the class of race cars you want to reduce aero because we’re having a very good time in sports car racing at the moment because of the way the rules are and the possibility for innovations. For me, it has to stay like this.”
Toyota’s Vasselon believes the most likely solution would come with a reduction in fuel flow, but it would not necessarily address the issue of the increased cornering speeds.
“We have one obvious parameter, which is fuel energy/flow because that’s something that we wanted to reduce,” he said.
“It was part of the concept of these regulations, starting with big fuel restrictions. If we need to drop the performance further, the first parameter to be considered is the fuel.
“Then it depends on how much you need to drop performance, as it may not be enough.
“You can increase weight, implementing more severe aero restrictions to make sure the aero performance reduces. You can do something for all of them but the very first one is to keep reducing the fuel amount.”
Beaumesnil said a number of methods for the proposed slowdown are being explored, although with manufacturers already working on its 2016 cars, finalizing potential changes is crucial in the coming weeks.
“There are clever people thinking about it,” Jüttner said. “The organizers, the rules makers, the FIA, ACO, the manufacturers and the teams are working very closely together to make sure we have a safe approach as possible without losing any of the sophisticated technology or spectacle.”
Tony DiZinno contributed to this report