For the first time ever, the 24 Hours of Le Mans was won by a hybrid race car, with Audi taking home its 11th Le Mans win and continuing its utter domination of endurance racing. Despite severely curtailing when and where the hybrids could use their extra power, it was clear from the onset that the flywheel hybrid systems were here to stay. With this race in the books, Le Mans is looking forward with extensive new rule changes that make fuel economy as important, if not more so, than raw power.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, which puts on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has essentially wiped the slate clean and is removing all engine restrictions. The last race saw engines restricted to either 3.4 liters for petrol or 3.7 liters for diesel, while all manner of forced induction required further restrictor plates and whatnot. All in all it meant a lot of money was being wasted on eeking out slight advantages with old technology, rather than working on new and innovative ways to win.
Those restrictions on engine size and forced induction are gone, and just as I envisioned, the ACO is instead limiting energy consumption as opposed to power. Each car will get an energy allotment per lap, with diesel-powered cars getting 3.99 liters per lap and gas engines capped at 4.95 liters per lap. That equates to 1.05 gallons per lap for gas cars, and 1.3 gallons per lap for diesel engines. The fuel tanks will be 12% smaller, and currently range in size from 16.5 gallons for petrol cars to a just 14.3 gallons for diesels.
The ACO is also reducing weight limits, as well as enforcing closed cockpit cars with greater visibility in the hopes that it might cut down on accidents like the one that took out the experimental Nissan DeltaWing. The ACO hopes that these changes will encourage automakers to develop innovative technologies with real-world applications.
Christmas just came early for this writer. Now if we can only convince NASCAR of the virtues of limiting fuel consumption instead of engine size…