Following a successful rollout last year, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has made further adjustments to the Slow Zone procedure heading into this weekend’s 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The enforced local yellows, which saw cars slow to 60 km/h last year, has been increased to an 80 km/h speed limit, along with an expansion from 19 to 35 zones around the 8.5-mile circuit.
According to ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil, the changes also include a newly connected set of panel lights to inform drivers of the slow zones.
“We have been working so hard over the winter to educate 1,500 marshals to the new process,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365. “We’ve invested in the technology.
“The track management will be different for the first time in [many] years. I think we have a huge improvement. From last year to this year, it’s a big step.”
Beaumesnil said the panel lights, which are connected to each car’s on-board marshaling system, will provide better accuracy and less margin of error.
The changes is expected to further reduce the number of safety car periods used in the race, following only three from last year when the initial system debuted.
“We will avoid a lot of safety cars and a lot of red flags in the practice,”Beaumesnil said.
While the FIA World Endurance Championship has adopted a version of a virtual safety car, which slows the entire field for an incident, Beaumesnil expects a Le Mans-style slow zone system to eventually be rolled out in the regular season races as well.
“We are testing all of this in Le Mans and our plan is to apply it in the WEC after,” he said. “Since we control the rules, the marshals and the circuit here, it’s all under our control.
“So we know we can make these kind of changes here. Once it’s completely ready, we can introduce some [more] changes in the WEC.”