The A.C.O. held their annual press conference today at the Museé Automobile de La Sarthe, a few meters from the main entry to the Le Mans 24 Hours circuit. Most of the A.C.O. top led by their president Jean-Claude Plassart presented a number of news regarding the future of endurance racing and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
After an introduction by Mr. Plassart the first speech was by Director General Daniel Poissenot who presented the results of the discussions that the A.C.O. had with a number of constructors last April. The main news for the coming years were outlined even if very little detail was given on some of the key items.
The headlines were:
-Reduction of engine performance (including a revised diesel-petrol equivalence)
-Authorization of hybrid engines (Mr. Poissenot mentioned many types could be admitted)
-GT1 engines will be authorized in LMP1 cars just as GT2 engines are allowed already on LMP2s (just as the current Lola-Aston Martin)
-The maximum temperature in the cockpit will be 32 degrees.
-Substantial aerodynamic restrictions
-Extended use of second generation bio-fuels
-Higher relevance of the Michelin Endurance Energy Challenge
-No pre-heating of tyres will be allowed
-Only one “gun” will be allowed during tyre changes
-Open and closed prototypes will still be homologated
-A new bodywork set of rules will be introduced (to be announced at the end of 2008)
-Side protections on prototypes will be reinforced
-There’s still a will to evolve GT rules and align with the FIA for a common set of regulations
Patrick Chaillou (Communication Director) shared the results of a survey that the A.C.O. did in 6 countries (France, UK, USA, Germany, Japan) on the visibility/relevance of the Le Mans name and Rémy Brouard (Director General) shared an initiative called “Le Mans Planet” introducing the Asian Le Mans Series as of 2009.
The new series will initially consist of two races (Fuji and Shanghai) in October-November 2009. The top cars on each class of the 2-race series will get an automatic entry for the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours so it is expected that teams from both sides of the Atlantic will be interested in participating as it does not collide with LMS and/or ALMS races.
On the media side Commercial Director Fabrice Bourrigard explained the new TV deals A.C.O. had signed for 2008 with clear expansions in Europe and Japan as well as the fact that the circuit will be fully “fibered” for HDTV is 2009. That and car cameras on all 55 participants should make the race of races even more attractive for those at home while the Kangaroo TVs will enhance the experience for those at the circuit.
Finally Pierre Fillon (A.C.O. Vice President) introduced a new Racing school as part of the A.C.O. proposal together with the three continental series and original merchandising. A new series will also emerge next year in partnership with Oreca: The Formula Le Mans. This will
Be a 7-weekend, 14-race series with open prototypes which will be support race for the LMS on their 5 races and have 2 extra race weekends.
The new cars will be a sort of “LMP3” carbon fiber open prototypes intended for junior and gentleman drivers alike.