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2020 LMP1 Regulations Outlined

Plug-in hybrid tech, cost reductions and an increase in safety

At this morning’s Official ACO Press Conference, the framework for the 2020 LMP1 regulations has been presented, with a focus on the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology, safety and cost reduction.

In terms of aerodynamics, the teams will only be able to homologate one bodykit each season, featuring simpler aero under the cars. Variable aero points will allow the teams to adapt their cars to lower and higher downforce circuits, these defined by the ACO. There will be ‘active aerodynamics with moveable wings (front and rear)’ to increase the efficiency of the car and compensate for restritctions on aero development brought in to reduce costs. There cars will also feature small variable ‘clips’ behind the front splitter.

The cars will continue to feature two eight-megajule hybrid systems, and only be allowed two gearbox units.

Continuing the theme of reducing costs, collective practice sessions will be organised for the LMP1 teams, also allowing for greater transparency. Coupled with this is a reduction in private testing time, as well as 200 fewer hours in the wind tunnel each year, down to 600 from 800. The teams will also not be able to develop all aspects of their cars each year, and will have to choose specific areas such a chassis, engine and aero.

In terms of fuels, the regulations include the integration of biofuels, and other types of more evolved fuels in ‘close collaboration with the suppliers’ strategy’, as well as new energies. Research work on new energies like hydrogen will continue with the aim of introducing them at a later date.

In terms of staff, there’s also a reduction to 50 to oversee the cars, down from 65 currently. (Though there will be no limitation for the Le Mans 24 Hours.)

For safety, there will major work on the monocoque – much more internal volume, (1 500 mm) with adjustable pedals – particularly concerning the width and the volume ahead of the driver’s head. The seat angle will be 55 degrees rather than the current 35 degrees to protect each driver’s vertebra in incidents. Cockpit height will be up by 80 mm and slightly wider than at present.

The volume for the legs slightly modified to facilitate driver changes, there will be protective foam for drivers legs, stiffer front and rear crash tests of the monocoque and the crushable structures and improved cockpit ergonomics to enhance driver visibility.

All these safety measures are said to have virtually zero impact on the LMP1 performance levels.

A bigger announcement is the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology. At each pitstop it will compulsory to pull away from the pits and run for 1km under full electric power; it will be part of the Le Mans 24 Hours and FIA WEC rounds. The ACO is also working on a way to ensure that the cars in the Le Mans 24 Hours also cross the finish line in full-electric mode.

This new set of regulations will be stable to encourage teams to commit, and will last for at least four years. Porsche and Toyota, as well as other car manufacturers were part of the meetings to create the regulations and showed ‘great interest into their contribution’.

Introducing the 2020 outline Technical Regulations, President of the FIA’s Endurance Commission, Lindsay Owen-Jones explained:

“We set three major priorities. Firstly, these regulations should provide charismatic and powerful cars for the spectators, which is a big requirement. It is also important that we promote competition between manufacturers.

“Lastly, these regulations must be relevant. Curbing emissions is important, but more and more cities are closing zones and districts to traditional road traffic in preference to electric modes of transport. In future these zones and distances will be bigger and we want to make sure our regulations reflect the need for development.

“The regulations need to remain attractive to car makers as well as reducing costs. The series is the laboratory of the future and the car makers in the meetings, Porsche and Toyota, showed great interest in their collaboration.”