News is filtering out this morning of an astounding proposed change to the Le Mans 24 Hours from the next LMP1 regulation change in 2020
Responding both to the concerns from existing LMP1 manufacturers on a potential reeling back of tech, and to aspirant manufacturers who are exerting pressure to keep technical costs under control, the ACO are understood to be set to seek permission from the FIA to reinstate a chicane-free Mulsanne Straight from 2020, the 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
ACO rulemakers now believe that the opportunity for their future LMP1 entrants to go through several accelerate, lift and coast phases on a re-instated 3.7 mile run from Tertre Rouge down to Mulsanne Hairpin will allow future hybrid tech to be clearly demonstrated but also to allow realistic controls on the costs of such systems.
The chicanes were introduced after the 1990 race when a dispute was sparked between the ACO and then-president of the FIA, Jean-Marie Balestre, over the regulatory homologation of the Circuit de la Sarthe as a whole.
The dispute led to the implementation of two chicanes along the Mulsanne straight on the grounds of safety that have remained in place to this day.
Roger Dorchy holds the outright trap speed record on the pre-chicane Mulsanne straight at 251.6 mph, set in 1988 at the wheel of a WM Peugeot (the 1989 WM is shown below).
Such are the advances in both hybrid systems and aerodynamics since then that it is understood that even with a mild reeling back of tech advances, that a target performance window should see 2020 LMP1s topping out at no more than 220 mph, but still bettering the 1988 WM’s time along the straight as a whole by almost 10 seconds!
Senior ACO sources refused to comment when approached by DSC.
This potential change does however bring forth challenges to the ACO. The circuit will obviously need safety improvements to accommodate the higher speed. Track infrastructure will need to be improved substantially. Fences will need to be raised by 1-4 feet, more trees will need to be felled too and several buildings will need to be demolished or moved, with several apparently slated to be relocated including the famous Chinese Restaurant which will be rebuilt brick by brick in the new spectator compound at Arnage.
The decision could be ratified by the FIA World Council at their next Safety Working Group meeting currently due at some point after 1 April 2018.
FOOTNOTE – And yes this was another April Fool story – and led to a concerned note from a senior member of ACO staff asking where we had heard this!
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When asked whether that policy might change several senior DSC sources said: There are no immediate plans to do so.”