After a hectic week in sportscar racing news ACO Sporting Director, Vincent Beaumesnil took time out yesterday to speak to the DSC Editor to add further detail and clarity on the specifics of the newly announced aspects of the 2020 Le Mans Hypercar regulations.
It was an interesting and revealing insight into the thought process behind a ruleset that has attracted no little negative comment in recent days.
It does require some patience to work through the philosophy, but there are two truly key points made in the interview below:
The rule is intended to help expand the grid, and not to provide a roadblock to entrants, and, there is no current known and/ or planned Hypercar programme that it would impact negatively.
Read on and look out for the full interview with Vincent Beaumesnil as part of a forthcoming episode of the Inside the Sportscar Paddock podcast.
Can you explain the philosophy of the rule that’s now been introduced for this linkage with a car brand?
“Of course. The first thing I want to say is that you must be very focused on what is written in the announcement from the ACO.
“We have introduced some rules that will enforce cars to enter under an automotive brand. When we speak about the brand, we don’t require a manufacturer to commit itself, but in the philosophy perhaps of Alpine and Aurus in LMP2.
“We believe today that by encouraging this we will also bring some more support to private teams and to expand the field of cars racing (in the top class).
“We think that the concept of it basically is to have the most extreme cars in the world that we see on the road and also to provide the fans and the media cars that they can clearly identify as a brand. We know that brands are very popular, and we introduced this system to encourage this.
“Obviously, our intention is to be quite flexible with this because we don’t want to produce too strict parameters in terms of production volumes or whatever because many car brands today are very small volumes in the field of hypercars and we don’t want these very small companies very committed to building hypercars to be out of the game.
“So, this is why we are introducing this principle and also why it will be left at the discretion of the Endurance Commission for evaluation of hypercar projects on a case by case basis.
That principle of leaving the ‘catch-all’ with the Endurance Commission, presumably is left in there for a positive reason, to find a way to get the cars onto the grid rather than to find a reason not to?
“Exactly, it is to make sure that we have something which is in line with our intention and principles.
“The only intention is to provide some support to the teams, to provide some opportunities of securing nice brands coming to the game and we feel that our fans and media have a great expectation on this.
So, to be clear here the proviso is that a car brand must be linked to every programme. What they do with that link is subject to a declaration from the brand and then subject to approval from the Endurance Committee that might be marketing-led, it might be an engine supply. It might be that it’s a manufacturer with some kind of alliance with a private team.
“Yes, there is no specific requirement on that aspect. The final intention is that when we see the car you will understand that this car recognisably belongs to, or is allied to, a brand. And we will work on the creation of the design as well.
“As to how people get together to achieve this, that is left to their own discretion of course. In the philosophy of what Aurus and Alpine are doing in LMP2, clearly we can see here the opportunities that it brings for a brand, and for a team.”
About Aurus and Alpine, is this, at least in part encouragement to those brands, and maybe to others too, to look towards hypercar rather than LMP2 in the future?
“The original intention is not especially for that but that could be a positive after-effect as well actually yes.”
Okay, moving on to smaller brands, it’s called Le Mans Hypercar, and we have heard from Gordon Murray, we’ve heard from Brabham. They’re now looking towards Le Mans Hypercar as a possible programme to promote their brands.
But before we get into those future possibilities, we’ve got a couple of other smaller brands, one of which is currently producing road cars, one of which isn’t but has said that they are going to. Is there anything in the current regulations as we now see them that will stop Jim Glickenhaus or indeed Colin Kolles from going forward with the programmes that we know they’ve got under development?
“At the moment there is no blocking point. As you know, Glickenhaus is already, today, building some road cars, so obviously the Endurance Commission is aware of that too and will make a proper examination of the entry when we will have everything together to take into account the fact that Glickenhaus is producing road cars so could be considered as the car brand.
“For ByKolles I would use the example of the Ford GT. At some stage, you need to try to be clever in order to help the sport and you will remember that the Ford GT was racing before you could buy it from a showroom.
“If we would have been not flexible enough to find a way to make this entry and to get some guarantees of the future arrival of the road cars on the market we would not have had this car on the grid and that would have been damaging for the sport.
“So, this is the way we are managing the question with ByKolles. They have announced that in parallel with their Hypercar race programme there will be some road cars produced, so it is part of the project. We know that and it’s exactly the same approach as for Ford.”
The final question to do with next season. We’ve already heard from you at Sebring earlier this year that we’re likely to see, to bolster the field, grandfathered LMP1s. Where do we currently stand on that?
Will this rule have to apply there as well?
We know Ginetta clearly is a car brand. But do the same rules apply to any teams wanting to come forward with it with a grandfathered LMP1 at present?
“No, they will continue to operate under an entirely different ruleset, the rules we are discussing apply only to Hypercars.”
Moving on now to the somewhat surprising announcement from Peugeot, certainly in terms of its timing.
Their announcement makes it clear that they were attracted by the option to field a car with a hybrid drivetrain, but also, attracted by something else which this class has got to offer, which is a link to the centenary race in 2023.
“You’d better ask Peugeot about that directly but as you know we have been working with them for a long time on them coming back to us. You’ll remember that we have been very committed two years ago, already to this mission with Peugeot.
“Finally, we did not expect it to happen when it did. In the meantime, though we have been changing our concept, keeping them informed and, in particular with the very strong results we have had in reducing budgets because we know that the sport is changing.
“In the past what we had with LMP1 is not something that we are able to have any more with manufacturers committing. So I think the possibility to promote the brand in the top class of Le Mans and WEC at the budgets we now have for Hypercar is a unique opportunity for a manufacturer. Having this new concept on the table has made it quite quick and efficient for them to convince their Board.”
We’ve now got a lineup of hypercars for season one and in the case of Peugeot for season three, and we gather they may, depending on the way that programme comes, ask for maybe a potential start at the end of season two. How healthy is the interest level beyond what we already know Vincent?
“Very good! For sure we, as you know, work in the background with a wide range of potential competitors as we have done in the past years. Because as you imagine, people like Aston Martin, Peugeot and Glickenhaus, we are starting a discussion with them many months before the announcement.
“I am quite confident that there is more to come.”
Let’s also talk a little bit about LMP2. You also made the final announcement as part of the communique from the ACO this week, about the package that will apply to have the current LMP2s falling into line with the revised performance of the Le Mans Hypercars.
It will be 30 kilowatts less power. It will be a spec tire supplier. Just give us a flavour of the discussions you’ve had with the LMP2 manufacturers and teams about that range of measures.
“First of all, it is important to say that with the revised performance of the Hypercars (as compared to LMP1) we had to consider refining the performance of the LMP2s. It’s actually not a big drop in performance for the LMP2s. The cars will be quite close to what we have today.
“We have had many discussions with both the teams and the manufacturers on this so I would say it was really teamwork to make the right decision taking into account both the technical and financial aspects. We are not touching at all the chassis, which is the best approach for the team.
“The performance reduction has to be achieved by a combination of parameters because if you are too brutal on one parameter, this will affect the category too much. So, here we have a drop of power but if we had worked only on power reduction we would have probably got some top speed issues with the cars racing with the GTEs.
“So, with this figure, we still have cars that in their drivability, make the overtaking in traffic still comfortable for drivers.
“So the rest of the performance, we had to find it through tyres and this is achievable obviously only if we have a unique tyre manufacturer – this was the main reason. And with this, we have really found a good balance that keeps the LMP2s very close to what we have today.
“It’s a very successful formula for the drivers and the teams and we wanted to keep this balance and by making a combination of engine and tyres we have been able to keep this balance very close to what we have today.”
Two final questions, both about hypercar. The first is a final clarification. Are you aware of a single programme, at all, that would be negatively affected by the ruleset we heard this week?
“Absolutely no, not at all.
Do you see this as being something that privateer teams will see as a positive moving forward?
“Obviously, we need to explain clearly to everybody that these rules are here to encourage new projects and not to restrict them.
“People need to understand also that this system will be a way to pull the category up in it strengths on the marketing side and communication side, the ability we have to have more fans, not only the fans that we have today to bring a wider audience of people. This is really the target.”
Final question and the other hot topic about the top class of endurance racing has been for some time the fact that we’ve got these two parallel processes with the ACO/ FIA with Le Mans Hypercar, and we’ve got DPI in the United States.
Both have had their successes, both have had their challenges. Are we going to see continued discussions about the potential for those two rulesets to come together to some degree, at least?
“IMSA and ACO have been partners for many years now.
“This was the Don Panoz heritage that we have been continuing together with our friends at IMSA and NASCAR.
“We are connected with them nearly every day with them speaking about our projects and what we do so we are still in permanent evaluation of how we can make our sport better, progressing together.”