With the covers now taken off the new for 2018 Gibson 4.5 litre normally aspirated V8 GL458 engine, which will be seen (and heard) in public for the first time at the FIA WEC Prologue in just under a fortnight’s time at Paul Ricard, it was time to catch pop with John Manchester, Gibson Technology’s Operations Director on the story so far with the Repton, Derbyshire-based outfit’s news power plant.
“We started some preliminary work on a concept for a fuel flow restricted LMP1 engine over a year ago,” Manchester told the DSC Editor today. “And when things started to come together for the non-hybrid LMP1 proposals there was a level of interest that really surprised us. That led to orders from two teams, led by Elton Julian’s DragonSpeed outfit who were the first to sign for a Gibson engine powering their Dallara built BR1 LMP1 chassis, and then later from Rebellion Racing, also opting for the Gibson to power their pair of Oreca-designed and built Rebellion R13s.
“From the point of signing contracts the work programme to take a design concept to production accelerated massively. We had outline design concepts based on the fuel flow formula (assuming 100kg of fuel per hour) and knew the basis of how we were going to rework the existing (LMP2) engine.
“Then it was a matter of finessing that design and taking it to production.”
Gibson are set to build a production run of 10 GL 458 engines, Nine as the pool to be used between the three race cars, accommodating running spares and engines in rebuild and the tenth as a factory development engine.
Supply of the first engines to the customers has been timetabled along the lines of when they have the cars ready for installation.
The first pair were delivered just days apart, Oreca receiving the first and DragonSpeed the second as the build of their car progressed to the point where the chassis was ready.
“In the case of the Rebellion the installation was pretty straightforward, the basic chassis of course is already equipped to accommodate our LMP2 engine, for the BR1 there were a few more installation design points to work on as the original BR1 car was first designed around another engine (the AER turbo V6).
“Engines 3 and 4 are in build right now.”
That means that the new engine will have gone from a conceptual design stage to test running on track in around 5 months.
“Yes it is based on the LMP2 engine (the ‘spec’ GK428 that powers all FIA WEC and ELMS LMP2s, plus the P2 cars running alongside the DPis in IMSA racing). It made absolute sense to do it that way for a number of very important reasons. “The P2 engine is a known quantity and has been very reliable, the timeframes required meant that a ‘ground up’ design could not have been achieved in under 6 months, and combined with that, certainly not in as cost effective a manner as we have achieved here.”
The performance of the new engine is still being kept under wraps other than John’s description of uplifts in both power and torque as “significant!” Bearing in mind the fact that the ‘little sister’ 4.2 litre version for LMP2 pushes out 600bhp and you can surmise that the numbers here are going to be impressive.
The two engines share the same cylinder head but thereafter around 30% of parts are understood to be completely new, including the cranks, rods and pistons for the larger 4.5 litre unit.
“We put in a lot of work on weight reduction, including some significant materials changes.”
The coming days are therefore going to be exciting not only for the teams and chassis manufacturers, but for the Gibson boys and girls too.
LMP2 Programme Progress
They don’t only have the LMP1 engines and customers to caster for though, with the WEC and ELMS Prologue tests, plus the opening ELMS race weekend to look forward too as well there are plenty of LMP2 customers to cater for too, some 24 Gibson-engined cars are set to run at Paul Ricard over the 10 days from 6-15 April.
“We’re very pleased with how the LMP2 programme has progressed.
“We still have the pool of 50 engines in circulation to cater for what we think were 31 cars that ran at some point last year, peaking of course at Le Mans.
“We have worked very hard on streamlining our processes and making our work here at Repton ever more efficient and we have no plans in the immediate future to increase the pool in number. “Those changes weren’t only important for the turn-around for the engines, they helped us too to hit targets on the commercial margins which were pretty tight to make this work.
“Certainly the growth of the class globally has been a pleasant surprise, probably around double the number of cars that we initially expected (Gibson boosted their pool early in the life of the new class as chassis orders began to escalate).
“Whilst of course there have been the inevitable early programme niggles, principally as we got to grips with the systems on the cars ‘talking’ to our engines, in the main we are delighted with the engines’ performance and reliability. We are now somewhere close to 700,000 km of running with the engines since the start of 2017.
The LMP2 engines have proved a hit not only with the teams and drivers, but also with the fans, a screaming V8 wail in this age of reducing noise levels a panacea for the petrolhead.
There will be not a few at Paul Ricard and beyond that will be not only looking at the stopwatch, but also listening as the DragonSpeed BR1, and the first Rebellion R13, take to the track!