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Voices on Hypercar: Part 4, Vincent Beaumesnil (& Gerard Neveu)

The ACO's Sporting Director, and WEC CEO

The final instalment, for now (we’re working on several others!) in our short series of in-depth chats with some of the most important voices in the current machinations over the timing, scope, and success of the planned 2020 ‘Hypercar’ regulations goes to the rule makers themselves.

The notes below were collated at Sebring, both in an open press briefing and later in one-to-one conversations with ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil.

They serve as the unfettered responses to some pretty direct questions not only from the DSC Editor but also from several other notable reporters on the sportscar racing scene.

The vast majority of answers came from Vincent, but there is one key response that came from WEC CEO Gerard Neveu, that is noted clearly in the text below.

Where are we today in the process?

“We published rules in December, with a large number of manufacturers involved in the discussion, after we published the rules people go back home with the rules, make their calculate-ion and evaluate their entry into the programme.

“Three of them came back to us and told us that at this stage they had some blocking points that they wanted to discuss, Aston Martin, McLaren and Ferrari, at that point we reopened the discussions with them in order to understand what the blocking points were and what adjustment we should do under the rules in order to facilitate this.

“We are in the middle of this now, this is where we are today.”

It’s a significant change to make this a class-based not exclusively on prototype cars?

“It is, but to be clear, the initial concept was very well welcomed by everybody.  Based on, for some, marketing reasons, some companies have said that they want their road cars to race.

“You cannot be blind and say you can’t listen to this proposal.

“This type of proposal was rejected early on in the process but the reality of motorsport now is that things are changing rapidly, the reality of one day is not the same 3 months after.

“It does not mean that we will change every few weeks what we do, but at this stage, due to the importance of those around the table it was our responsibility to reopen the discussion.”

Are you fully committed to the original regulations as well with the prototypes?

“Of course we are committed. The prototype rules as they were defined are of course in force.

“The original idea was to take some elements of the road car to the race car, the engine, the hybrid system, we even looked at the possibility of bringing the road car chassis over but in the end we decided to enlarge it – it was not written in the rules issued in December that you could not start from a road car to do it, it was just that it was quite difficult to achieve it with the rules so we just want to make it easier.”

You must have a very firm indication with this secondary way of doing it to make the change?

“Of course!

“The timelines for announcements is not always what you would like and expect but we are working on it.

“We are speaking with the three manufacturers that requested the change nearly every day.”

Are aspects of the powertrain in the mix, where the hybrid is deployed, whether they need a hybrid at all?

“Yes, we have to be realistic, if you start from a road car there will be differences that, by technical regulation, it is going to be impossible to have similar performance at some stage.

“Yes, it is true that some companies have said to us that, for them, hybrid technology is not in our marketing plans, its additional car to facilitate the facility, it would be good to have the option to choose.

“Diversity has always been one of the principles at Le Mans, we believe we can leave the door open to hybrid or not.”

If you do that though you will need to balance the performance of these cars with and without hybrid, otherwise it is unfeasible.

“It is clearly a conclusion we all reached together, to balance this performance, we have to achieve this and it will be a guarantee that the budgets are controlled because you don’t any more have a war to find the next few tenths of seconds.

“It should also provide an opportunity for manufacturers to jump in because there is a sort of guarantee that the level of performance of all of the competitors is good.

“As a motorsport fan I cannot say I am a big enthusiast of BoP but we will have to see how this goes. We have very good expertise in this area, the results in GTE are not so bad, and we will work on the principle of how it will work.”

What kind of target lap time?

“The target is 3:30 race pace at Le Mans, to make it realistic, lower than the original announcement to help the road car based hypercars to come. This has been identified as a good performance level to have the field together.”

And the original budget suggested was 20 million Euro, presumably the manufacturers are prepared to accept that the road car based cars will cost much more than this?

“It looks like people have different opinions on the impact of starting from a road car. Clearly, some see it for them as a saving because the development of the chassis etc has already been financed.

“Manufacturers have all different ways to make their budgets, it’s not the same rule in every company, for some of them, this is clearly an advantage.

“We have long shared the figures that we have with the manufacturers, we are really confident of those figures and the only remaining doubt was that for performance reasons we might overshoot our target, but with BoP in place, we believe it will not be the case any more

“It is too early to give detail on the basis for the BoP process.”

How long before you have a set of rules for both the prototype-based cars and the road car based cars?

“We have not fixed a deadline, for sure not a long period.”

Will existing LMP1s be grandfathered?

“For one season yes. Depending on the arrival of the manufacturers we can adapt, it is too early to say.

“Every time we have transitioned to a new set of regulations there has been provision to accommodate the previous cars, it is not unusual.”

What is your target for the number of new cars by September 2020?

“As much as possible! If we are sticking to September 2020 it means that some are going to be ready by that point.”

And the effect on LMP2 of the change to the lap time target for the new cars?

“We will have to slow them down for sure, but only 5 or 6 seconds at Le Mans, not a big big deal!”

IMSA new gen prototypes are due in 2022, can you give us an impression of how things are going with IMSA, whether they might adopt some or all of what you are working on?

Gerard Neveu

“There is a permanent relationship and dialogue

“Clearly the wish, from both sides since the beginning, if we can find with each other, similar performance levels with the top categories.

“It would be very helpful from the visibility and the stories and the future together. We know the evolution (for DPi) is for January 2022.

“The fact is, if we can find a way to rejoin someday, this is what we are looking for. There is always a discussion going on.”

So with the change in target race pace might there be a way for the DPi’s to race with the new cars?

Gerard Neveu

“Why not? Very frankly, if it is possible to do it, why not?”

“We can have different names, different stories, but if the performance is similar, if it’s the same level of performance, if they can race together, then that’s another story.”

Vincent Beaumesnil

“The DPi is a very good car, it’s 80% an ACO car by regulation, it’s an LMP2 chassis as you know so we are very proud of the success of DPi because we have built with the FIA a big part of the technical (make-up) of this car.”