During the week leading up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2015, the ACO announced the selected projects for Garage 56 in 2016 (quadruple amputee Frederic Sausset’s SRT project) and 2017 (Welter racing’s Biogas project).
This announcement triggered great disappointment for Dutch team InMotion, which was also contending for the 2017 slot. “I remember being in Le Mans,” says InMotion team manager Marco Lenssen. “We were sad, but at the same time, we understood ACO’s decision. Welter Racing had been working on their project for two years. Their monocoque was ready.”
The InMotion team was formed in 2012 with the initial project of building a race car that progressively evolved towards an innovative Le Mans prototype car: the IM01. Among its innovations are an active suspension, adjustable wings, a Brabham BT46 inspired fan (which keeps the car sucked to the ground), an 1100 bhp hybrid powertrain with a rotary engine and individual electric motors powering the wheels. In a nutshell, the IM01 is capable of reaching speeds of a Formula 1 car with only half the energy.
The innovation behind this car also lies in the people developing this project, who are all students from the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Fontys University of Applied Sciences. “We have 50 to 60 of them working in the team right now. It would be a first to have students producing and running such a prototype car in Le Mans,” says Lenssen.
Several large corporations like SKF and Mitsubishi have been partners in the InMotion Garage 56 program since the early days. “It is now important for us to demonstrate our ability to build a competitive car, as this should attract more sponsorship,” says the Dutchman. “We also need to acquire experience, hence the recent launch of the KP&T IM/e, an electric single seater that we will use as a test vehicle.”
The car features similar adjustable wings and electric motors to those used on the future Le Mans prototype. Weighing 658 kg and 545 bhp, the KP&T IM/e can reach 100 km/h in less than three seconds and a top speed of 280 km/h. This by far exceeds the current performance level of a Formula E.”
A trio of Dutch drivers will be developing the car in 2016: 1988 Le Mans winner Jan Lammers, Xavier Maassen and Nick Catsburg.
Beyond this, they will seek to beat two significant lap records set by an electric car, first at Zandvoort (lap time currently held by Xavier Maassen on a Tesla Roadster: 2’10’916) and then at the Nordschleife (currently held by Jochen Krumbach with a Toyota TMG EV P002 : 7’22’’329).
“If we get proper funding, we should be able to build the IM01 prototype towards the end of 2016” says Lenssen. “Then, our team will return to the Nordschleife, this time to attempt a new lap record and beat Stefan Bellof’s 6’11’130. By then, we should be ready for the 2018 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
Mat Fernandez (@matlemans)