Yesterday the ACO and FIA revealed its changes to the Equivalence of Technology process that will govern the LMP1 class of the FIA WEC in the 2019/20 season.
There were many talking points from the news, with the ACO and FIA showing clear intent to close the performance gap between LMP1 non-hybrids and the hybrid-powered Toyotas and remove the regulations which artificially restricted the stint lengths and time spent in the pits for the privateer cars.
To get more insight into this, DSC sat down with ACO sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil.
First off Vincent, give us a brief overview of what was announced yesterday?
“The first thing to say is that we have been working on this EoT for a year and a half now. We have set some principals which were innovative in the past, and we now have one season of experience during which we learnt a lot.
“I think we have reached a very good point, especially if you look at the last races of the ‘Super Season’, especially Le Mans where the pure competitiveness of the cars, the SMPs, the Rebellions, the Toyotas, were at the same performance level. There are other parameters which produced the result in the race but it’s been a very good step.
“After that, we talked with the manufacturers and said we’d like to go further next year to create a system that is a sporting rule which means that we are not artificially changing the result of the race, the sport, the series. It would be just making a rule which is the same for everybody but makes the competition closer. It would give more competitors a chance to win the races and in the end, the best will win and should win. Theoretically, that is what we have done.
“The first thing we have done is evolve the starting EoT on the cars. We have increased the weight of the Toyota, we have aligned the number of laps per stint for all cars, which wasn’t the case at Le Mans, it was at Spa, but not at Le Mans. And we have made the refuelling time of the non-hybrid cars faster than the Toyota, to compensate for the quick-start system the Toyota has with the electric motor (when it leaves its pit box). This is the starting EoT we have.
The more points you have in the championship, the more your performance will be affected
“Then we have introduced, with the cooperation of all the LMP1 teams, success handicaps, which are based on championship points, so the more points you have in the championship, the more your performance will be affected. What is good with that is that it doesn’t allow a team to come up with a strategy to benefit its performance, because once you have a lot of points, if you go slow on purpose in one race, you will not get a bonus, because you have points. It is only points that will affect the competitiveness of the car. We have defined that each point in the championship would interact with the performance of each car by a value, which we are still finalising.
“Then how do we affect the performance? It can be weight, power, hybrid boost for Toyota. This is what the technical teams are working on now, to define exactly the sensitivity of each car and decide which parameters will be used. We have approved the principal: championship points will rebalance the cars. It’s how it is defined and everyone has evaluated and simulated this system, and it clearly, with what we can evaluate, is expected to produce different winners over the course of the season.”
So you are confident that this is enough to see the privateer competition we have giving Toyota a real fight on the track?
“Yes. It’s not easy to compete with Toyota, and not only because of the technical regulations. They have a strong line-up, are strong on strategy and an ability to adapt to changing circumstances during the race, so they have a very high-level package. The other teams are very good and have made huge progress, so I think that this alignment of these parameters gives the other teams a chance to win.
“The starting EoT is clearly rebalancing the field in favour of the non-hybrid cars, but even if Toyota does well in the opening races, quickly they will be affected in their performance so other cars can be dominant in the following races. That’s the way it has been designed.”
There will be a Le Mans-specific EoT too. How different do you see it being? How will it work?
“The success handicap will not be applied at Le Mans, because it’s the only race where we feel people could make strategies to be very slow and not score points in the previous races so that they can be competitive at Le Mans. We don’t want to have this. But at Le Mans, we have a lot of experience with the cars, we have seen at Le Mans that we are able to have Rebellion and SMP as competitive as Toyota on single-lap pace and on pure potential.
“We have also realigned the fuel autonomy and the number of laps per stint etc. This will be at Le Mans and the proper EoT of each car will be defined based on the experience we have during the season. I’m very confident that Le Mans will be very good. We just can’t apply success handicaps.”
Leaving the success penalties aside, will the other aspects of this process evolve during the season or is it all locked in now?
“The idea really is to have the success handicap do the job. That’s the way it works and is defined. It’s good because it’s automatic and isn’t a result of someone doing studies. It’s the way we do it. Of course, we always have a chance to modify something that we feel is wrong, so if we need to make adjustments we will, but it’s not the original intention.”
We always have a chance to modify something that we feel is wrong, so if we need to make adjustments we will, but it’s not the original intention
Do you think the changes for this year have possibly been introduced a bit too late, seeing as the LMP1 field is now smaller and the racing throughout last year wasn’t close?
“If you look at Fuji and Shanghai last year, the SMP car was able to be at the same level of performance as the Toyota. I don’t want to go too much into detail about this discussion, but I think you have on one side a team that’s been there since 2012 as a reference in LMP1 and other teams coming with new cars, while SMP was a new team with a new car.
“Rebellion had experience in P1 but came from LMP2 and arrived with a new car that had nearly no development work before the season.
“So we need to compare what is comparable.”
Do you see the success handicap and some of the other principles at play for this season forming a base for 2020/2021 with the new ‘hypercar’ class?
“Yes. The success handicap [or] ballast was one intention, but it was the intention before we decided on BoP. We will BoP the hypercar class; it’s not possible for me to give details on what we will have.”
We saw the announcements in June, the regulations were finalised for ‘Hypercar Prototype’, we saw Aston Martin and Toyota confirm programmes, give us a sense of the reaction since then, now you have had time to digest what happened?
“Well, first we have a very good working atmosphere with Toyota and Aston Martin with regards to the finalisation of the rules and the definition of the new cars. I expect a fantastic battle between these two companies. Now the rules are finalised we have had contact from many manufacturers that have interest in competing and are evaluating projects.
“I think the base principles were that there was no space today for hypercars in motorsport, which is a shame because they are the cars that fans dream of, just like us. We love them. Having them in racing is a real chance for all of us, and give us a chance to reach more people. LMP1 is amazing, the cars to me are the best ever, I was born in Le Mans and have spent my life there. But the people who are connected to motorsport maybe don’t understand LMP1 cars.
“When they see ‘hypercars’ they are more reachable for a global audience, the final point is that the manufacturers have a real chance to do marketing and promote their brand with the bodywork. We are very positive, it’s all working.
“Of course I would have liked this to all start earlier, like everyone, but in the end, we have done it and it’s a great satisfaction.”