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Peugeot 908-HY hybrid prototype – Click above for high-res image gallery

On Thursday, June 10, the Automobile Club de L'Ouest (ACO), which organizes the 24 Hours of Le Mans, held its annual press conference and announced new technical regulations for the 2011 event as well as the European Le Mans Series. The ACO has long encouraged a variety of powerplant configurations, which is what prompted first Audi and then Peugeot to develop diesel-powered prototypes. 2011 will bring the official introduction hybrid power to Le Mans racing in all of the new classes.

Next year the club will move even further in the direction already pioneered by the American Le Mans Series with its "green racing" initiatives. The top LMP1 class will adopt what are essentially the current LMP2 rules, with gasoline racing engines limited to 3.4 liters normally aspirated or 2.0 liters turbocharged. Diesels can displace no more than 3.7 liters. The current LMP1 cars will be allowed to compete in 2011, but performance will be restricted by as-yet-unannounced means that will likely include more weight and smaller air restrictors. Check out the rest of the changes after the jump.

[Source: Automobile Club de L'Ouest]

A new LMP2 class will be established with the goal of lowering costs. ALMS launched the LMP Challenge class in 2010, featuring lower-cost spec chassis developed by Oreca and a sealed V8 engine based on the Corvette LS6. The goals of the new LMP2 are similar but the chassis and engine are essentially open to any manufacturer. New LMP2 cars must be powered by a production derived engine with the cost limited to €75,000 and the chassis is limited to €325,000. The current LMPC cars are priced at $400,000 ready to race.

Corsa Motorsports hybrid

Honda Performance Development immediately announced the availability of a new twin-turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 based on the engine used in the Accord and many other models. Existing chassis can continue to run in LMP2 if they switch over to a production-based engine. LMP2 engines will have to run a minimum of 30 hours between rebuilds in 2011, 40 hours in 2012 and 50 hours in 2013.

Interest in the GT1 class has dwindled in recent years, with only eight cars starting this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The class has already been eliminated from ALMS in 2010 and the big GT cars won't be able to run at Le Mans in the future, either. A single GT Endurance class based on current GT2 cars will form the production-based class for 2011. The only significant technical change is that the new GT cars will now be able to adopt steering wheel-mounted paddle shift systems.

While this adds some performance and up-front cost to the car, it tends to save money over time because the mechanized sequential-shift gearboxes are less prone to missed shifts and over-revs, which damage hardware in very expensive ways.

Within the GT Endurance ranks, there will be two sub-classes, both adhering to the same technical rules. The GT Endurance Pro class will be open to all marques and drivers. The GT Endurance AM class will limited to cars that are more than one year old, with at least two "amateur" drivers. The amateur drivers must be classified in the bronze or silver categories (as defined under LM P2 LMS 2010 regulations).

The other big technical change for 2011 is the approval of hybrid drive systems. It's not clear whether hybrid systems will be allowed in the GT cars, although the ACO announcement seems to imply that they are. At the very least, prototypes can use kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) to supplement engine power and reduce fuel consumption. ACO is allowing both electrical and mechanical energy storage systems, so we could well see a new Audi prototype that employs the Williams-developed flywheel-hybrid used so successfully by Porsche recently.

911 GT3R Hybrid

  • St9 Porsche Team Manthey; J�rg Bergmeister, Richard Lietz, Marco Holzer, Martin Ragginger; GT3 R Hybrid

Hybrid systems will only be allowed to release up to 500 kilojoules of energy between any two brake applications and can only recover energy from two wheels. Hybrids will use the extra energy on the front wheels for all-wheel-drive in the same way that the Porsche 911 GT3R Hybrid does. No push-to-pass buttons like those used last year in Formula One will be allowed; energy can only be released by the driver applying the accelerator, much like roadgoing hybrid vehicles. The revised ACO rules will also allow new alternative energy recovery systems that use sources such as the dampers, exhaust gases or heat energy.

One restriction on the hybrid systems is that they must be able to propel the car at 37 miles per hour for at least one-quarter mile on hybrid energy.

Cars that use hybrid systems will have their fuel tank capacity reduced by two liters to compensate for the performance and efficiency advantages they gain with the new technology. All other cars get capacity reductions for 2011 as well, with gasoline-powered racers dropping from 23.8 gallons to 19.3 gallons. Diesels will be cut from 21.4 gallons to 16.6 gallons.

The American Le Mans Series has not yet announced how the new ACO regulations will affect its rules package. Over the coming months, the ACO will flesh out these new regulations, so stay tuned for further updates.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      If Toyota wants to build a high performance hybrid, entering this would be a very good place to start.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Toyota Team Europe (which went on to run the F1 Program) almost won the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans if it weren't for a tire failure. The Toyota GT-One was a revolutionary machine that was the inspiration for the Bentley Speed 8 and the single predecessor to modern LMP Coupes. If anyone is going to be able to make the most of a Hybrid Le Mans car, I would think it would be Toyota.
        • 4 Years Ago
        No, it wouldn't. The 24 hours of the ring maybe but not lemans, lemans is an unparalleled effort in the world of motosports, it takes nothing but the best of the best at ever level (driver, engineer, support, etc) to finish the race let alone stand on the podium. Many who have done very well in f1 have struggled at le mans so I sincerly hope Toyota doesn't start a lemans, no if their last decade of international motorsports has anything to say. Though going from laughably piss poor finishes two years at the ring to a class victory shows proprncity for improvement... But again, completely different than the p class at lemans. Nothing else in motorsports comes close
        • 4 Years Ago
        Almost won?!? Whoopdie-freaking-do. Toyota had one of the largest budgets, and a car in 1999 that had a clear advantage because it fit through a rediculous loophole in the rules and it STILL finished a lap down...

        And no, it wasn't the inspiration for the current LMP category, as 1999 was the first year that Audi ran the R8- which the Bentley coupe was based on.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Hmm. Looks like they're forcing existing LMP2 cars into the new LMP2?

      Although maybe they'll work in the new LMP1.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I understand their push towards alternative fuels and encouraging/discouraging others, but I don't like the idea of a team governing manufactures on how they should build a car.

      At the very least, I think their should be one class allowed to do almost anything. How cool would it be to see these manufactures create and race the fastest car they can make?

      To an extent, manufactures should decide on the best combination of fuel economy and performance. I'm all for having only road viable and safe cars, but restricting the design of the engine is going a bit far. What if it turns out that 4.2 liters is by far the most efficient and powerful size for an engine?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Do you guys even pay attention to anything? Even Dave Richards doesn't mind the Diesels being reduced to 3.7L and down from 10-12 cylinders to just 8. His concern actually about weight. Aston Martin doesn't want to go near Hybrid technology because that is not a feature it is selling on its road cars. They want a reduction in overall weight for petrol powered cars. Audi is actually fine with this. I think what they both fear is that Peugeot will do both Hybrid and Turbo Diesel, all at 900kg!

      So they both want less weight if they use a single power unit.

      A pure racing 3.4L V8 will make 600-700hp, see F1. Is it cost effective? Well maybe that's why its been banned in LMP2 for next season. HPD, Judd and Zytek already make such a powerplant. The HPD powered cars were the fastest LMP2 cars at Le Mans. Some of it is the low downforce bodywork, the rest of it is pure HP, because the RML Lola was doing 198mph...

      HPD already announced a 2.8L Twin Turbo Production based V6 conforming to the 2011 regulations to a tee. Also Ford and GM both make stock block production based 5.0L V8 engines, I can see many of the LMPC cars being converted to LMP2, I think the ALMS was foreshadowing here, if that happens they'll look like geniuses. You would just be opening up the engine regulations and allowing for tire companies to compete head to head in LMPC.

      Back to LMP1 for a second -

      Looking at all the potential players in LMP1 in 2011 and beyond, its hard to believe Toyota will not become a player in this, its constantly making hints. Mazda already produces a 2.0L production based MZR Turbo Engine produced by AER in Britain, a larger restrictor will allow them to match just about any other LMP power plant but for torque of the diesels, but could run at min weight if that part of the regulations is modified.

      So with tha said -

      Look for announcements by Toyota with a connection to the largely idle TTE group

      Expect Mazda to increase its funding or expanding its efforts, the MZR is already legal in LMP2 as well being production based, in Europe whatever funky fuel they are using for racing gas seems like poison to the MZR thus far. Some re-engineering will need to happen.

      HPD has committed to LMP2, Highcroft has committed to returning with an LMP1 effort and it is reportedly working with both GE and Wirth Research on 2011. Will HPD be on board? Maybe, but if Audi and Peugeot continue to bring 3 or more cars, then there will be another team besides Highcroft, stay tuned for that.

      While we ended an era by removing GT1 from the ACO races in the near future, other classes will expand and grow and become more widely subscribed.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Far from fixing the Diesel problem they now make it worse? Diesels are allowed to be BOTH larger than the largest NA gas engine AND turbocharged?

      What a joke. The ACO is indeed bought and paid for. If it weren't for the efforts of IMSA to ensure good and affordable racing the ACO would have buried Le Mans 5 years ago.

      Their lip service to the idea of racing costs is ridiculous. Now the only way to compete will be with a racing Diesel engine (which isn't sold by any company) and a hybrid system (which isn't yet sold by any company)? Pathetic, ACO, pathetic.

      I do find the idea of cars driving down the pit lane on electric alone to be interesting. It won't really happen though, what team is going to roll their car away on electricity wondering if the gas engine will fire when it reaches pit out? You'll instead start it up and drive off, so that if it fails, you can roll it right into the garage.
        • 4 Years Ago
        much anger towards diesel (production or race focused), this one has.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I could not have said it better Spin Cycle.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's called "raising the bar"....something the regressive "conservatives" don't seem to understand.

      There shall be no status quo, progress has to be fought for, and teams should constantly strive to out-innovate others. That is progress.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "By allowing much larger Diesel engines people get the idea that somehow Diesel is outperforming gas, when instead the gas engines are being strangled and the Diesel ones much less so."

      I don't understand this. An engine is really an air pump. The rules concerning displacement and boost simply recognize that diesels run at higher air-fuel-ratios and lower RPMs. The real metric is how much work gets done for a given amount of fuel, corrected, if necessary, for energy density. That's not always easy (consider the turbine attempts) so there's usually fiddling around to converge to a number.

      And the ACO is quite clear on what it's doing here: encouraging different fuels and different technologies, and it will lean to giving less established technologies the benefit of the doubt, if equivalencies are not straightforward (and they never are). Helping out privateers is a consideration but a secondary one.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This thread is probably dead and certainly buried but I'll give it a go anyway...

        "The amount of energy an engine can produce is determined by how much combustion it can create (the rate)."

        OK that's fine.

        "This is determined by the amount of fuel and also by the amount of air."

        And the type of fuel (and cycle)

        "By the Diesels being allow far larger displacements, far higher boost pressures and far larger restrictors, the Diesels can create more combustion."

        Except that because diesel has much lower vapor pressure its combustion rate is much slower.

        "And lower RPMs? What? If Diesels ran at lower RPMs, they would need less air. So why do the have much much larger restrictors?"

        ?? A 1l engine at full load at 5000 rpm pulls half as much air as a 1l engine at 10000 rpm. The static displacement isn't particularly important, the mass flow ("dynamic displacement", if you like) is key. Diesels don't need less air, they need more. But they can't use that air that quickly, so to normalize mass flow they are given a static displacement and boost advantage. Against that, gasoline engines have a weight and size advantage.

        In the end it what matters is how much power you generate for a given amount of fuel. (I would not mind seeing a formula where every car is given a certain amount of energy, without specifying form.) I'm not saying that diesel is intrinsically a better fuel for this purpose (or worse, for that matter -- fuel economy is important in endurance races), but I do appreciate ACO's willingness to experiment. For privateer-friendly spec formulas there's always Grand Am.

        I do think the diesels are given too much of an advantage, though how much is hard to tell -- manufacturer backing is also a huge advantage, whether that's Peugeot/Audi in LMP or GM in GT. But I can live with it.

        "The Diesels burn similar amount of fuels to gas engines during the race (especially if you take into account energy densities)"

        Less if you go by gallon of petroleum.

        "and they were polluting more than the gas engines."

        They were certainly blowing more soot than the filters could handle. But I'd like to see actual number densities (as well as other pollutants) relative to gasoline before I can agree or disagree with this. Gasoline PM is too small to see. And non-PM pollutants are also invisible.

        "So why is it some kind of high minded goal to get them out there?"

        I don't know. I'd guess because the EU is concerned about CO2, but that's just a guess. I do appreciate the experimental attitude, however.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If helping out privateers is a secondary consideration, then I guess having a reasonable car count is also a secondary one.

        As to the rest of your argument, you have it exactly backwards. The amount of energy an engine can produce is determined by how much combustion it can create (the rate). This is determined by the amount of fuel and also by the amount of air. By the Diesels being allow far larger displacements, far higher boost pressures and far larger restrictors, the Diesels can create more combustion. The mixture ratio is immaterial, and Diesels don't run hugely lower ratios under high power outputs, only at low power outputs.

        And lower RPMs? What? If Diesels ran at lower RPMs, they would need less air. So why do the have much much larger restrictors?

        If you're looking to control power, then restricting the gas engines and Diesel unequally only serves to give Diesel huge advantages. And for no point other than to let two companies flog Diesel engines. I ask again, why is this somehow a good thing? The Diesels burn similar amount of fuels to gas engines during the race (especially if you take into account energy densities) and they were polluting more than the gas engines. So why is it some kind of high minded goal to get them out there?

        The ACO is favoring engines that visibly pollute more, are far larger (physically) and more expensive. Why? Especially when it turns their race into a private club?
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