Adrian Newey and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2/2): “I'd love to be involved in a Hypercar”
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Adrian Newey and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2/2): “I'd love to be involved in a Hypercar”

In 2007, the current Technical Director of the Red Bull Racing Formula One team took part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans at the wheel of a Ferrari F430 GT. Adrian Newey remains a knowledgeable fan of the world’s greatest endurance race in which his son Harrison took part in 2018. In part two of the interview, he shares his views on the technological changes that the race has seen since his own participation in 2007.

Since 2007, the the 24 Hours of Le Mans has witnessed the advent of hybrid technology, and, more recently, hydrogen, with the Mission H24 prototype project directed by Jean-Michel Bouresche – whose team, JMB Racing, Newey drove for in 2007. The British engineer has always followed the 24 Hours of Le Mans, monitoring technology and sharing in the passion, especially when his son took part in 2018.

During your time with Williams, McLaren and Red Bull Racing, did you follow the 24 Hours despite your commitments in F1?

Yes, of course. As a motor racing enthusiast as well as being in the profession, I've always followed the results of Le Mans and I know some Le Mans drivers such as Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen quite well. So, it was always interesting to talk to them afterwards.

Your son Harrison was a child when you competed in the 24 Hours in 2007. How did you talk about the race together before he entered himself in 2018?

My son was 8 when I did Le Mans. He was just starting karting and indeed in 2008, the year after we did it were at little karting track called Clay Pigeon in Dorset. That track is on the edge of a campsite. Joe Macari was with us. We were in our little motorhome and that evening as soon as the karting had finished we found a big TV in the campsite and my son Harry, Joe and I watched as much as we could of the 2008 race and I'm sure that helped to motivate his interest in Le Mans.

PHOTOS : LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 HEURES DU MANS 2018. Top (LOUIS MONNIER / ACO): Adrian Newey in the garage of Russian team SMP Racing, with whom his son Harrison raced in 2018. Below (D.R. / ARCHIVES ACO):  Like his father before him, Harrison Newey saw the chequered flag at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He and teammates Norman Nato and Viktory Shaytar finished in the top 10 in LMP2 with the Dallara P217.

How do you see the evolution of the 24 Hours from 2007 to 2018?

I think the most startling thing is just how much quicker the cars have got. I believe I'm correct in saying that the LMP2 cars now are faster than the Audis and Peugeots of the time, which is remarkable. Also, of course, it’s pretty spectacular that LMP2 also has amateurs driving the cars and they're able to drive them at that sort of speed.

You owned a Ford GT40 for quite a while. What do you appreciate most about it?

 Obviously, it’s an iconic car, a very pretty car, and one of the last cars from that era that you could also drive on the road. You could race it then jump back in and drive it home if you wished to. All that Le Mans success also makes it special.

PHOTOS (D.R. / ARCHIVES ACO) : LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 24 Hours of Le Mans 1968 and 1970 - Below, the Ford GT40 of Lucien Bianchi and Pedro Rodriguez, winners in 1968. Adrian Newey owned a Ford GT40, which he raced at historic events. Below, two of Newey's favourite Le Mans cars: the Porsche 917 (#20, Brian Redman/Jo Siffert) and the Ferrari 512 (#7 - Derek Bell/Ronnie Peterson - and #14 - Joachim Bonnier/Reine Wisell), at the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Which other Le Mans classic cars would you like to drive?

I think the other classic Le Mans cars for me are of course, the Ferrari P4. The same era and very pretty car, and then the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512. And I'm sure that's all down to when I was born. We’re talking mid to late 60s, very early 70s, when I was between 10 and early teens. And when of course, your interest is formed so much. So cars of that era are very special to me.

In terms of performance and technology, it would still have to be the Porsche 917 and the Ferrari 512. I remember reading all about them. When I was 10, or 11. Paul Frère wrote a very long book on the racing Porsches, which focused a lot on the 917.

What I find interesting now is to compare the 917 to the 512. In my opinion, the 512 is the better car. But, of course, the 917 was far more successful. I think the 917 was a triumph of development over design. Had John Wyer or the Wyer team ran 512s instead of 917s I think the 512 would be in the history books. It's interesting how the success of a car is not simply how good it is technically. The Chaparral is another great example of that. Technically the Chaparrals were very advanced cars. Many of its features eventually ended up in Formula One. The Chaparral was the first one to properly use a rear wing. It was the first one to have fans at the back. It used fiberglass monocoque. It had a lot of features, side radiators and so forth that have gone on to be used in Formula One at various times. Yet it had relatively little success because it was never properly developed.

 

What do you think of the new 24 Hours of Le Mans Hypercar regulations, the race's centennial in 2023 and the current developments in hydrogen technology?

I think hydrogen technology is interesting. I applaud the ACO for pursuing this. I think hydrogen does have a place in the automotive industry. Without doubt it is the best solution for long distance haulage, which involves well-defined stops and trucks with a high energy demand. There, hydrogen is a very suitable technology. Whether it will be taken up in general – in automotive or not – is not at all clear. But it is an interesting area. For endurance, it is clearly much easier than batteries, because you can recharge a hydrogen tank in close to normal refuelling time. You most definitely can't recharge a battery in those sorts of times. And it will be interesting to see how this new hydrogen class goes.

But I'm very pleased to say that we at Red Bull Advanced Technologies are doing working in collaboration with Oreca on the hydrogen car. And it should be quite a spectacular car.

The Hypercar regulations are also very interesting and look as if they're going to combine with the LMDH to bring a new era of intense competition in the top class. Already we have Toyota, Peugeot, Ferrari and Glickenhaus I believe in the Hypercar category. And then Porsche, Audi and some of the American manufacturers in LMdh. So, it really offers a new boost. After several years of Toyota monopoly it's something for the fans to really look forward to. Certainly, from my own point of view, I'd love to be involved in a Hypercar. We were hoping to do one in collaboration with Aston Martin by taking the Valkyrie but unfortunately, that didn't happen in the end. But who knows, maybe at some point in the future, we'll get another opportunity to look at Hypercar.