Endurance Racing

eSports, hydrogen and new regulations – all you need to know about the ACO Press Conference

Photo: WEC/Adrenal Media

A new eSports series, this year’s Spirit of Le Mans award recipient and the introduction of the 2018 grand marshal. And more details about the upcoming prototype regulations. The 2018 ACO’s annual press conference was jam-packed.

 

Joining the eSports movement

If you hadn’t noticed already, eSports has been on the rise not just in motorsports, but as a sport in its own right. Following the likes of Formula E and Formula One, the ACO has announced today that Le Mans will be getting its own eSports series – Le Mans eSports, a joint venture with the Motorsport Network. Not much is known about the series currently, other than the fact that Fernando Alonso has expressed an interest and a confirmation from the official discord server tells us that the championship will be based on Forza Motorsport. A full announcement about the series is expected at the Six Hours of Silverstone in August.

And the award goes to…

Every year the ACO awards their Spirit of Le Mans trophy to someone who lives and breathes endurance and who has made a significant impact on our sport. This year’s recipient was Sir Lindsay Owen Jones, the current head of the FIA’s endurance commission.

A welcome return to Le Mans

The grand marshal post for 2018 has been filled by legendary driver Jacky Ickx. An accomplished Formula One and endurance racer, Ickx took six 24 Hours of Le Mans victories between 1969 and 1982 in cars ranging from the iconic Ford GT-40 to the Porsche 956.

A new beginning for the top class

The major news for this press conference is the ACO’s confirmation of more details regarding the new ‘LMP1’ format coming in 2020. It seems that the prototypes we have come to love will be replaced by a new generation of ‘hypercar’ based machines. The idea is that manufacturers will enter cars that take key design tips from their existing brands – for example, McLaren could design a racer based on the Senna; so that fans will more easily be able to recognise their favourites.

CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship, Gerard Neveau said: “The direction for the new regulations announced today jointly by the ACO and the FIA is a supremely positive one. The 2020-2024 regulations are, for competitors, both technically interesting and sustainable, with the controlled budgets being a key factor. We are confident that we will welcome an increased number of world-class manufacturers and international teams to the WEC and that all elements are in place for them to be able to compete at the highest level, with the pinnacle, of course, being the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

The new regulations demand that cars be built to certain GT standards, including being 2 seated with larger cockpits, a roofline and a wider windscreen, but they will also adopt the hybrid nature of the current LMP1 cars. A single KERS system will be required in the front of the vehicle, and the regulations also stipulate that anyone wanting to develop the KERS system must also offer it for sale to other competitors. The engine rules will remain open and a budget target has been set for the category at around a quarter of the current LMP1 budgets.

The cars have a power target of 700bhp from the engine, plus the hyrbid system to generate around 1000bhp in total and are estimated to produce Le Mans laptimes in the 3:20s, so slightly slower than this year’s LMP1 offerings. Entries will have a weight limit of 980kg, and weight distribution will be capped. Only one set of bodywork will be homologated for a season, and in order to allow greater freedom of design, the ACO have decided that aero downforce and drag will be fixed.

These new regulations will take effect from 2020-2024.

It’s hydrogen baby!

Hydrogen also made an appearance in this year’s conference. The ACO announced that they wish to introduce more clean racing, with the plan of having hydrogen power on the grid from 2024. The idea of a separate class for hydrogen-powered cars has been mentioned, and the ACO already has a group in place to explore the possibilites.

The 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours kicks off Saturday at 3 pm local time.

Missed what’s been going on so far? Catch up with our free practice and qualifying reports.

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