Ahead of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the FIA World Endurance Championship announced the revolutionary changes they would be making to the less than ten year old series with a new concept of a ‘hypercar prototype’ class. It has been revealed this week that the budget for entering the hypercar class will be lower than was predicted five months ago.
A revised budget of €20million per season, for a two-car factory team, has seen a drop of nearly €10million as the original proposed budget stood at €25-€30million. This money saving comes off the back of the official class rulebook now having been written.
The new budget covered the cost of design and development of the hypercar concept, and is an amelioration of the costs for a five-year life span in the series. All of this, along with some eye-catching and impressive CGI representations of what the new hyper cars could look like, were sent out in a prospectus to manufacturers in an attempt to persuade more teams to follow this route in joining the WEC, strengthening the frontrunning class of the series.
Nevertheless, hypercars are not just for the established manufacturers as the prospectus also included a €16million budget for privateer teams wishing to purchase cars in this class.
The hope is that, with the lower budget, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship could be enticed to also take on the new hypercar class and, therefore, WEC and IMSA competitors could race against each other on track. This has been something the FIA has been striving towards for the last few years, with the attempt to match the DPi and LMP2 cars in 2017.
As of the date of publishing, there has yet to be an official comment from a WEC representative or the rule makers, but it is understood that they believe this new, lower budget is achievable. However this achievement comes at a cost, because the lower the budget of the concept car, the lower the performance targets would be set.
On track, that is set to reflect around five seconds lost a lap (it was predicted in the original presentation that the hypercars would set 3m20s around Le Mans, which has now been revised to 3m24/25s prediction with the new budget). This is likely to be an unavoidable outcome of a reduced budget, as the hypercar class would have an enforced maximum downforce and minimum drag number as part of the class’ rules. Slowing the ‘LMP1’s would have a knock-on affect to the other classes in the series as the LMP2s would also be slowed down so as to not be faster than the hypercars.
The loss of performance may come as a disappointment to some, but it may be a worthy price to pay if it brings back the, currently lacking, competition to the front of the field.
The underlining note from these new rules is that, although there would be no restriction to competitors spending more than the €20million budget on their hypercar, more spend would not translate to better competitiveness on the track.
This may be seen as handcuffing the manufacturers, as there too would be strict restrictions on development through the season, but once again, the main motive behind this shake in regulations with a focus on the front running ‘LMP1’ class is to revive the competition that has not so secretly been missing this year.
The WEC even tried moving the benchmarks with the EoT at the 6 Hours of Fuji, but Toyota Gazoo Racing were still able to come home with a competitive one-two, four laps up on the field. A lack of competition is damaging to a racing series, and predictability is something that will turn viewers away from a sport. It is important to recognise that the WEC and FIA are doing what they can to prevent this, and the hypercar concept is an interesting next step.
The final rules and regulations of the new hypercar class will be put in front of the Endurance Commission in early November before being taken to the FIA World Motor Sport Council for final approval on the 5th of December.
A new era of LMP1s are coming, and we for one are fairly excited about the new hypercar concept.