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May/June 2010
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All news content copyright Michael J. Fuller, unless otherwise noted

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6.20.10

>>So with Le Mans 2010 having come and gone we're still no closer to having definitive 2011 regulations.  In the mean time we understand there is active discussion amongst the manufacturers (the teams are out of the loop) and the ACO.  The primary topic of concern are the details of the 2011 grandfathering with the manufacturers and teams waiting with baited breath.  One who wishes to remain anonymous recently stated to us in an email, "This is the ACO's to spoil in my opinion.  And if they make the restrictions too onerous for current cars many teams may stay at home or do something else next year."  Interestingly we're also hearing that the ACO is deathly afraid of this possibility, though the ball's in their court.  

Ironically this could end up being a windfall for the American Le Mans Series.  While the ALMS hasn't stated anything in regards to 2011, it is pretty well assumed they will adopt less a restrictive interpretation of the ACO's 2011 regulations, slowly integrating the full regulations across a longer time period.  

Let's hope the ALMS takes advantage of this potential opportunity.

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6.16.10

>>We've finally sat down and had a read through of the Version 4 draft of the 2011 regulations.  In this draft it clearly states that yes, for 2011, you will be able to run your current LMP1 or LMP2 with only one modification, namely the great-honking-fin.  This is all covered under Article 19.  The ACO has laid out slightly different regulations for LMP1 and LMP2 and we'll break them down.

At this time the ACO has not called out the restrictor or boost reductions that 2010 LMP1s will have to entertain while also indicating that a performance advantage (slight) will be given to new 2011 rules compliant LMP1s.  The ACO also states that the only modifications that will be allowed on the old-rules engines, "...will be those necessary for the use of new restrictors in order to maintain the efficiency of the engine."  These modifications will need to be documented and signed off by the ACO.  The ACO also states that the engine builder will need to maintain an example of their 2010 power plant such that it can be compared should any questions arise.  Fuel capacities of 2010 LMP1s will also need to be brought in line with LMP1 2011.  The ACO reserves the right to alter LMP1 performance relative to its competitors through adjustments in weight, inlet restrictor, and fuel capacity as needed.

For LMP2 the ACO will equalize performance through adjustments in weight, fuel capacity, inlet restrictor, or whatever other method deemed necessary by the ACO.  At this time the ACO hasn't stated what the starting point will be for any of the parameters.  The ACO explicitly states that should a car shown performance above any of the others they will take immediate steps to reduce that car's performance by the next event.

The ACO has also defined eligibility requirements of current LMP2s for 2011, 2012, and 2013 that currently do not meet the 2011 price cap.  LMP2s homologated before 3/31/2010 are eligible for 2011-2013 as long as:  

>only a single variation of bodywork is eligible during the season
>the car's performance will be evaluated relative to its competitors and subsequently adjusted (after taking part in an ACO organized pre-season test)
>the only allowable modification is the fitment of the obligatory great-honking-fin and the installation of a production based engine
> the chassis manufacturer is allowed to build new duplicate chassis as long as they meet all the above requirements

Naturally these aren't official until the ACO actually finalizes the regulations...
5.20.10

>>We've been waiting a while to be able to use this image, so it's made the rounds by now.  This shot appeared after the Paul Ricard Le Mans Series race and is interesting if simply because we can see the VGs on the under side of the R15's front diffuser.


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Gebhardt Ford JC853, Nurburgring 19865.15.10

>>Radical regulation changes are looming for next year and little has been officially said since the initial announcements last year, so we went digging to see what was being discussed behind the scenes and were a bit surprised by the responses.

>>Yes, "honking great fins," as one put it, will unfortunately be adorning all the cars next year as the ACO's solution for reducing sudden high-speed yaw-induced blow overs.  We understand this concept was developed 18 months ago and presented by Porsche to the FIA as a possible solution.  We've also been told that when combined with the domed 20 mm skid (proposed by Wirth Research and adopted at the beginning of the 2009 seasons) the fin shows to be pretty effective.  But ironically we're told that the fin itself generates a substantial over turning moment.  But this over turning moment is offset by the fin's ability to kill the lift created by the leading side rear wheel arch when the car is suddenly yawed 90░.  But more than one aerodynamicists has indicated that the fin also disrupt airflow to the rear wing in normal yaw moments (cornering, 0-5░), leading one to wonder if the solution was throughly thought out and sorted beyond a day or two in a full scale yaw tunnel?  We're sure it has been, but we still would have hoped that the ACO would have commissioned an independent aerodynamics research study (similar to the Piper study that helped establish the 2004 LMP regulations related to yaw safety) to properly investigate the problem instead relying on what appears to be a grab bag of solutions put forth by various groups working separately.

>>Beginning next year, the ACO will be radically changing the engine regulations for LMP1 and LMP2.  As we understand it at the moment, the intention is that 2011 LMP1s will be powered by either normally aspirated engines up to 3.4 liters and 8 cylinders, turbo engines up to 2.0 liters and 6 cylinders, or turbo diesel engines up to 3.7 liters and 8 cylinders.  The LMP2 engine landscape is changing as well and will embrace homologated normally aspirated engines up to a maximum of 5.0 liters and 8-cylinders and homologated turbos up to a maximum of 4.0 liters and 8 cylinders.  We're told the 2011 regulations have been changed at least three times this year alone though can hope that some permanence will be reached, and soon (we're told today, 5.17.10, Le Mans at the earliest).  Does it need reminding that most of the world is still dealing with the recession?  But regardless,  pretty big changes are on the horizon.  

With the last large set of regulation changes (2004), the ACO allowed the grand fathering of the existing cars, allowing manufacturers and competitors to ease into the new regulations thus not obsolescing any of the existing cars with the regulation change.  It worked rather well and the LMP900 and LMP675s continued on with increased weight and reduced diameter engine inlet restrictors allowing them to race along side the LMP1s and LMP2s through 2006.

But we've been told that with the switch to 2011 engine rules the ACO has no interest in grand fathering existing engines.  Therefore it would appear that the onus will fall upon the independents to immediately produce engines that fit into the new framework and new chassis' optimized to the new regulations (yes, we're aware this has been looming for a couple of years now, but the expectation was always for an overlap period).  With that as the only option, we understand that inquiries have been made to the ACO, but the general consensus is that grand fathering is off the table.  And there seems to be little chance in this changing short of convincing the ACO that moving forward will decimate the field for the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans; Le Mans Series, and especially the ALMS, be damned.

>>Further inquiry about the engine regulation changes revealed particular dissatisfaction with the direction in LMP2, with special discontent being ladled over the mirage of decreased cost with the utilization of production based engines for 2011 and beyond.  Since most production engines are simply unsuitable as racing engines, the ACO is allowing the substitution of most of the engine internals for bespoke racing replacements.  At their September 13, 2008 press conference the ACO espoused the desire that the 2011 regulations also take into consideration cost containment for the LMP2 category by switching to production based engines.  But let's consider the expense of taking a 200 kg production based engine and paring it down to 150 kgs or less.  Added to that the veritable free-for-all regarding the engine's internal design, and the regulation changes hardly seem to create a solid foundation for cost containment.  In addition to this, the ACO will also be implementing a price cap of 75000 ($95243) per engine including ECU, wiring harness, and track support engineer.  That's the cap for 2011, but the cap is lowered in proceeding years, putting engine builders in the difficult position of racing in a competitive racing series with designed-in shrinking profitability.
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ęCopyright 2010, Michael J. Fuller