Both Toyota and Audi are hitting the newly inaugurated World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans with hybrid propulsion that pairs a conventional, fossil-fuel-burning engine to an electric motor set-up that – like the Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) used in Formula One – stores up energy from braking for redeployment under acceleration.
While embracing the hybrids, they've got regulators at the ACO and FIA a little concerned over their potential advantage. So rather than let the hybrid prototypes put their stored energy down anywhere they see fit, the officials are identifying specific zones on each track where the systems can be used.
At the 6 Hours of Spa in Belgium where the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro made its race debut (finishing second only to its conventional counterpart, the R18 Ultra) there were five such zones. At the longer Circuit La Sarthe where Le Mans is held, organizers have identified seven zones – specifically Dunlop, Forza, Michelin, Mulsanne, Indianapolis, Porsche and Ford, for those up to speed (so to speak) on the names of each corner and chicane on the circuit.
The measure is not unlike those taken in F1, where the use of KERS is not limited, but specific straightaways are identified for each race where the Drag Reduction System (DRS) on the rear wing can be opened.