What’s all the hype-rcar about? Le Mans opens new category for 2020

Held since 1923, Le Mans is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance history and in its grand old 88th year for 2020, hypercars will be taking to the track!

From the McLaren P1 to the Aston Martin Valkyrie, these cars are known for their dynamic make-ups, force of exhaust gases and high horsepower turbocharging systems, and they’re set to send the tempo of Le Mans into overdrive.

ACO explained that their ambitions for the hypercar category is “to create a top class with a level playing field” and to limit the amount of performance gain that could be found through greater investment than in the current LMP1 budgets.

FIA president Jean Todt said the rules:

“Will provide a stable platform for the long-term as well as cost-effective proving ground for the next generation automotive technologies”.

Cost cutting was a key point of the presentation, although specific numbers were not revealed beyond reaffirming that costs will be a quarter of “recent” LMP1 budgets.

Manufacturer design must take “precedence” over aerodynamics, with efficient aerodynamics set to be mostly generated from the underbody of the car.

Hypercar drivers will be expected to read a 24 Hours of Le Mans rulebook, which is made of two chapters outlining sporting regulations and technical regulations, laying down the law of the track.

It’s also been rumoured that the category may be termed “hyper sport”, but hey, that’s just hearsay.

Looking further to the future, Aston Martin have already made an oath that their Valkyrie hypercar will enter the 2021 race.

Valkyrie hypercar

For many years, there was much talk about hypercars being brought into production, but no action. Since then, manufacturers like Bugatti and Porsche have demanded attention with the Chiron and 918 Spyder.

In 1995, the McLaren F1 designed as a prototype by Formula One designer, Gordon Murray, won the epic and historical Le Mans race, and we’re expecting to see equally brilliant results from the hypercars of the future!

But enough about what’s going to happen… what happened at Le Mans JUST NOW?

Tut tut… did somebody forget to read the rules?

As mentioned above, drivers are expected to do their homework – with no excuses like the dog ate it – and read a 24 Hours of Le Mans rulebook before competing in the race.

When in Le Mans, you live by Le Mans rules

But race stewards caught drivers Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller from a US entry team taking advantage of their autonomy in the race. The team finished fourth, heading a Ford 4-5-6-7 result in the GTE Pro class, but a report from the FIA and ACO Technical Delegates following post-race scrutineering said that the “total on-board fuel volume [was] found to be in excess of the permitted limit”.

Oh dear.

According to a ACO/WEC release: “Since the car was shipped, the BoP [Balance of Performance] changed, and the team had previously made the changes to their tank, but given the resources on site, they were not able to do a calibrated check.”

Hmmm… who do you believe?

There’s nothing like a bit of last-min bedlam

Flat tyres may cost us a fortune, but they normally don’t cost us the greatest race in the world.

Just when the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid thought it was on the Mulsanne home straight, its glory lap was snaffled from it by the #8 sister car in the final hour.

Two minutes ahead of the #8 sister car in the lap prior, onboard footage showed that driver of the #7, Lopez, later got stuck in third gear, with his steering wheel telling him he had a puncture – a puncture to the front-right tyre they believed. Yet the tyres had been playing tricks on them, and the left-rear one was in addition in ill health. Whoops.

Asked why the Toyota #7 team didn’t simply elect to replace all four tyres in an earlier pitstop, unlucky team member Vasselon said: “The option exists, but you have to change for a set that has done four stints, which is not ideal when you want to be safe at the end.

“That’s why we put only one used tyre and not four on – when the tyre is very warm, it is more likely to get punctures. It’s all about risk management.

“In this case it would have been much better to change all four, but it’s not something you do usually, because you don’t want to do the last stints with tyres that are already four stints [old].”

Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso were on the winning team, making Toyota the first Japanese manufacturer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice – are they going to be a third-time-trophy-taker in 2020?

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