13-14 juin 2015Automobile Club de l'Ouest

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As usual, four categories of cars will be competing in the 83rd Le Mans 24-hour race on 13 and 14 June this year: LM P1 and LM P2 for prototypes - and two GT classes - LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am.

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There are separate technical and sporting rules for each category, although some rules apply across the board, such as the 4-hour minimum for each driver and averaged driver weights, which avoids penalising heavier drivers.

 

LM P1 Category
 

The new regulations governing the LM P1 category (Le Mans Prototype 1) came into force on 1st January 2014. Their aim is to make motor sport more relevant to series production cars, and they put innovation at the very heart of the challenge by allocating a given quantity of energy to the entrants instead of imposing a technical specification.

Thus, the solutions used by the four manufacturers racing in 2015 are completely different. Audi, winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2014, has chosen diesel fuel unlike its three rivals and it harvests the energy generated under braking by means of an inertia flywheel. Toyota, the reigning World Endurance Manufacturers’ champion uses super-capacitors to store the energy recovered, while Porsche, back in the blue riband endurance category in 2014 after a 16-year absence, has opted for batteries which harvest energy from braking and from the heat generated by the turbocharger. And finally Nissan, which is making its comeback to the Sarthe in 2015, has explored a totally different path to its rivals with a front-engined, front-wheel drive car!

Because of these different designs there have to be equivalences between the technologies to put the entrants on an equal footing. The values were decided last year and have been frozen up to, and including, the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Private teams, which don’t have the human and financial resources to develop the complex energy recovery systems, haven’t been forgotten by the new regulations as they can enter a car without ERS in the LM P1 category.

In 2014 the LM P1 category (closed cars only) was split into two groups (LM P1-L and LM P1-H). This year there will be a single category, LM P1, and for the first time since 2011 it has received 14 entries.
In order to limit costs the number of tyres allocated for the Le Mans 24 Hours has been restricted to seven sets (rain tyres not included), two front and two rear, for free practice, qualifying and the warm-up, and 12 sets for the race itself plus four extra tyres over the whole event in case of extra time.

With the same aim in mind, the number of engines has been limited to five for all the hybrid prototypes entered for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) for the full season (7 for newcomer Nissan), and 2 (+1 joker) for the Le Mans 24 Hours for the third cars entered by Audi, Porsche and Nissan.
Minimum weight (without driver on board and without fuel):

 

  LM P1 LM P1-HYBRID
MINIMUM WEIGHT

850 kg

870 kg

CUBIC CAPACITY PETROL ENGINE

5 500 cC max

Free

 CUBIC CAPACITY DIESEL ENGINE

5 500 cC max

Free

 

LM P2 Category
 

A few years back it was the poor relation in endurance with few cars at the finish, and those that saw the flag were way down the time sheets. However, the ACO’s policy with regulations frozen for several years has boosted the LM P2 category’s reputation. Thanks to capped costs it attracts constructors with limited budgets, and with 20 starters it will be the biggest category in the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours. 
 
The aim of the baby prototype category is to allow amateurs to enjoy themselves, and to give young drivers the opportunity to hone their skills before the most talented among them move up to join the ranks of the works drivers. While LM P1 is the category reserved for professionals, LM P2 puts the emphasis on amateurs as there must be at least one in each line-up. Mixing professionals and gentlemen drivers has always been part of the Le Mans legend.

The specification of the LM P2s is similar to that of the P1s (carbon monocoque chassis) while respecting very strict cost caps: new chassis at 370,000 euros for open cars and 450,000 euros for closed prototypes, while the engine price has been capped at 80,350 euros. In 2015 four engines (Nissan, Honda, Judd and Sard) are available as well as numerous chassis (Alpine, BR, Gibson, HPD, Ligier, Morgan Oreca and Strakka Dome) so there’s room for many permutations.

This year, as is the case in all the other categories to limit costs, the number of tyres allocated for the Le Mans 24 Hours has been restricted to seven sets (rain tyres not included), two front and two rear for free practice, qualifying and the warm-up, and 16 sets for the race itself, plus four extra tyres over the whole event in case of extra time.

To limit engine costs their number is fixed, except in special cases, for the whole season. Thus the entrants in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) are allowed three engines while in the European Le Mans Series this number is reduced to two. The other entrants in the Le Mans 24 hours will have to make do with a single engine for the whole event.
 

MINIMUM WEIGHT

900 kg

 

FUEL TANK CAPACITY

75 liters

Turbocharged

ENGINE

Cylinders

Max cubic capacity

Atmospheric

8

5 000 cc max

Turbocharged

6

3 200 cc max



LM GTE Pro Category
 

Aston Martin, Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche are names that dreams are made of, and they will all be on the grid for the 83rd Le Mans 24 Hours. Even though there are only nine entries in LM GTE Pro, as always it promises to be one of the most hotly-contested categories given the tiny gaps between the four manufacturers.
 
Grand touring cars have been part and parcel of the Le Mans 24-Hours tradition since the creation of the event in 1923. At the time cars were not specifically designed for motor racing and many of them arrived in the Sarthe by road! While times have changed there is still a real link between the track and the road as the GTs must be based on series production vehicles.

To be homologated a GTE (E for endurance) must be derived from a road-going car of which a minimum of 100 units has been built (25 for a manufacturer whose production is less than 2000 units per year). The racing version must retain the shape of the road-going model, and the installation, position and layout of the engine cannot be changed with a few rare exceptions laid down in the regulations, which will be obsolete at the end of 2015.

As is the case for prototypes the number of sets of tyres (except for rain tyres) is limited: eight sets are allocated for free practice, qualifying and the warm-up and 16 sets of the race itself plus four additional tyres in case of extra time. For the duration of the event entrants can use only two engines, while their use is free at the test day.

The Pro label that designates this category means that it is reserved for professional drivers as the cars are entered or backed by manufacturers. There are no restrictions on the line-ups and they may comprise three Platinum drivers (of international renown), which is usually the case.
 

MINIMUM WEIGHT

1 245 kg

FUEL TANK CAPACITY

90 litres

ENGINE

Max cubic capacity

Atmospheric

5 500 cc max

Turbocharged

4 000 cc max



LM GTE Am Category

 

Amateurs have always been part of the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, and even if the sport has become more professional since 1923 gentlemen drivers still deserve their place in the greatest endurance race in the world. Since 2011 the LM GTE Am category has been reserved for them.
 
This category is open to well-known or works drivers who back up the amateurs as a Platinum or Gold driver can be included in each line-up. Thus, Porsche has given Hollywood actor Patrick Dempsey, who has already raced in the Le Mans 24 Hours on three occasions, one of its works drivers.

While the teams are all private outfits the manufacturers know the positive value of a top-3 finish in terms of image, all the more so as the cars are identical to those racing in LM GTE Pro. The same restrictions apply in terms of tyres and engines. The only difference is that the cars must be at least one year old so they cannot take advantage of the latest tweaks.

The similarity between the cars in the two categories means that GTE Am drivers sometimes finish higher up in the results than the pros, a reminder that top speed isn’t everything, and that to go quickly you have to be a past master in traffic management. This is an art mastered by skiers like Jean-Claude Killy and Luc Alphand, two former Le Mans 24-Hours drivers, who were used to weaving their way downhill through the gates.

The two world champion skiers are part of a long list of celebrities who have taken up the challenge of trying to tame the Sarthe circuit. Paul Newman and Jean-Louis Trintignant from the cinema, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame and David Halliday from the world of music, and Fabien Barthes from football have all dreamed of adding their names to the Le Mans list of results.
 

MINIMUM WEIGHT

1 245 kg

FUEL TANK CAPACITY

90 liters

ENGINE

Max cubic capacity

Atmospheric

5 500 cc max

Turbocharged

4 000 cc max


Garage 56

In 2012, the Nissan Deltawing inaugurated Garage 56, a new concept of a « green » entry sure to become famous in years to come.

The initiative comes from an awareness of history : to encourage the development of new technologies, the most spectacular testing laboratory is offered, the 24 Heures du Mans. Even if the car chosen by the selection committee does not correspond to the current regulations, it must still meet certain safety and performance criteria.

  • In 2012, the Nissan Deltawing showed that a motor half as powerful could be competitive when combined with half the weight and a new aerodynamic configuration – the deltawing.
  • Keep your eyes on the future, watching for the next breakthrough from Garage 56 in 2013 !
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