The ACO press conference – a look at the future!

LM24 - ACO Press Conference - David Stephens

© David Stephens

A tradition on the Thursday before the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the annual Automobile Club de l’Ouest press conference held in the museum next to the circuit. This year the ACO had lots of news to unveil.

Le Mans and the Le Mans Test Day

Even though we are just a few days away from the 78th 24 Hours of Le Mans, the date of the 79th edition was already confirmed today. On June 11-12 all invited teams will be racing around the Circuit de la Sarthe again.

It was also announced that after a 2-year break the test day will be revived. Even though no date has been confirmed it will take place in April or May, at least one month before the actual race.

The main reason to bring back the test day is the implementation of new regulations in 2011. As several manufacturers will bring new cars they and the teams running those cars will need testing at Le Mans. As a result the ACO decided to bring it back.

Le Mans Intercontinental Cup

After announcing the dates of the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans it was also announced that the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the blue riband event of the 2011 Le Mans Intercontinental Cup.

For this year the Chinese round will be held at Zhuhai, as expected. The calendar will therefore be:

10-11-12 September: Silverstone 1000KM
29 September-2 October: Petit Le Mans
5-6-7 November : Zhuhai 1000KM

In 2011 the Intercontinental Cup is set to increase to a seven round season. Two races are planned in the US, 2 in Asia, 2 in Europe as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where double points will be awarded.

March – Sebring 12 Hours (TBC)
May – Spa 1000 KM (TBC)
June 11-12 – 24 Hours of Le Mans
September – Silverstone 1000 KM (TBC)
September-October – Petit Le Mans
End of October – Fuji 1000 KM
Mid November – 6 Hours (China)

2011 Le Mans 24 Hours Regulations

The new for 2011 Le Mans regulations were also confirmed at the press conference and are all in the context of sustainable development and respect of the environment.

As it was stated the ACO has concentrated on two aspects that are important:
– An endurance race like the Le Mans 24 Hours must enable entrants to test new technologies
– The contribution of the Le Mans 24 Hours must be oriented even more strongly towards both the reduction of C)2 emissions and fuel consumption.

The ACO has therefore allowed the use of hybrid systems. KERS will be allowed, if they respect the following rules:
– Recovery and release of the energy on two wheels only.
– Maximum quantity of energy released between two braking phases: 500 kJ.
– Energy stocking: electrical or mechanical systems
– System accelerator pedal only (no push-to-pass button)
– Hybrid safety specification drawn up by the ACO
– Driver aids banned
– Fuel tank capacity reduction: 2 liters less for petrol and diesel-engined cars
– Pit lane test obligatory for the cars in the hybrid category

LMP1 and LMP2 prototypes

The new technical regulations will be presented to the teams before the start of the race on Saturday afternoon. But what has become clear this morning is:
– 2010 LMP1s are eligible in 2011, but there will be performance balancing to keep them at the same level as the 2011-spec cars.
– LMP2 will be for production engines exclusively. The engine costs can not exceed 75.000 euro’s. 400.000 for a complete car + engine.
– There will be a minimum life for an engine between two revisions. 30 hours in 2011, 40 hours in 2012 and 50 hours in 2013.
– Current LMP2 cars can race on in 2011 if a new production spec engine is placed and their performance is adjusted to the same level as 2011-spec cars.

GT Racing

With eight GT1 cars here and only a couple on average in each Le Mans Series race the ACO has decided to no longer allow GT1 cars in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Three reasons were given:

– Numerous date clashes on the calendars
– Very small fields outside the 24 Hours of Le Mans
– Current category is entirely sprint based

As a result the ACO has created a GT Endurance category with a single set of regulations valid between 2011 and 2013. The regulations are based on the 2009 regulations with some modifications:

– Steering wheel-mounted paddleshifts
– 1 evolution per year allowed
– 2 evolutions per year allowed for new cars
– Measures to reduce top speed without reducing power (it is believed to a maximum of 290kph)

The GT Endurance category will have two classes:
– GT Endurance PRO – professional category, cars and drivers free
– GT Endurance AM – cars over one year old and a minimum of two drivers classified in the bronze or silver categories

It was also confirmed that the ACO is already working on the rules for 2014-2015 in cooperation with all the manufacturers.

20 Comments on The ACO press conference – a look at the future!

  1. Exciting news on the Le Mans Intercontinental Cup. A revamped world sportscar championship, I wonder what the FIA thinks of that!

    As for GT1s, the way they are headed I’m not sad to see them go.

  2. Hmm im not sure if i like the new GT PRO and GT AM categories…. but maybe i will after watching them race.

    I just think they should have GT2 become GT. So that way GT1 cars are all forced to enter the new FIA GT1 series to make that more exciting.

  3. All the above is very nice, but what about levelling the performance of the diesels Vs petrol engined cars? AMR have already hinted that should the playing field NOT be levelled, wheres the incentive to keep coming back? Best of the rest is hardly much to shout about.

  4. I think this is too ambitious. There’s no real advantage to running in the Intercontinental cup, as opposed to the LMS or ALMS.

    IF the LMS or the ALMS did not exist it would be great but the current leagues are just fine.

  5. am I the only one that likes the GT rules? Means manufacturers only have one class of car to build and this will be eligible for each category – it gives privateers a class of their own, as current GT2 was originally intended to be when the ACO introduced it, but doesn’t require bespoke equipment to run in it and it’s not a spec class.

    The only hindrance I can see is privateers funding/building a new car, which then wouldn’t be one year old in its first year.

  6. @Rodger – I think the rational is that factory ran or supported teams pretty much get or build new cars every season. Most of the GT2 cars are evolutions of the 2009, only the BMW from the from the unibody back is a different car and the aero a bit less aggressive, you don’t need that kind of downforce here.

    By buying last year’s hardware, Pro-Am drivers like the Robertsons/Murray will have a shot at their own championship, race wins or both, we’ll see.

    Using the FIA Driver Rating System will be a bit tricky though. Because to be a Gold rated driver you have to be a Championship driver in some of the top series around the world. But if you never got a front line drive and only won at the lower levels, well then people like Alexi Rossi would be a Silver driver but could be just as quick as anybody else here.

    Looking at the ALMS, there is really only two or three cars running at the back. This could open it up for other teams to return and new teams to appear by putting funded Bronze or Silver drivers in a car or Rich Guy and Silver driver in a car. In the right conditions they could challenge for podium finishes.

    I was more concerned about actual rules changes in the cars, which didn’t happen!

    Bamba – I don’t think its ambitious at all, its smart. They had to link it to the ALMS and this is assuming there is still a LMS, when there MIGHT not be. This is also assuming there will be a Asia-Pacific Series as well of more than two races and how does that effect Super GT in Japan?

    But I think LMP doesn’t change that much at all, not so much that people will throw up their hands and quit.

    I can see Audi/Peugeot moving down to a 3.7L Turbo-Diesel V8, basically loping off 2 cylinders. Current LMP2 bespoke engines, becomes LMP1 engines, though HPD has a 2.6L Twin Turbo V6 based on the Production Honda V6 you find in say a Accord or Ridgeline Pickup. The IRL engine will be slightly smaller and single turbo, but for HPD this cuts down on cost.

    LMPC is pretty much what LMP2 will beyond 2011, as some cars are “grandfathered” in for 2011 ONLY. By Sebring 2012 you will see all new cars. I still see this being difficult for home or smaller budget teams and I think Wirth Engineering is making their push to become a supplier to more than just Highcroft and Strraka.

    Duncan Dayton unofficially said he’ll be back at Le Mans with an LMP1 car and HPD power. So while no official papers have been signed yet, if they can carry on to victory on Sunday and win the ALMS title again, I don’t think they’ll be any doubt the team with no history in professional level racing is the one left standing and running LMP1….

    I also can see Dario and Marino in the same car at Le Mans, you heard it here first, I think Dario wants to be one of those rare people that have won the Indy 500 and the 24hrs of Le Mans. Because I think Dayton will have a TWO car effort…

    If you read race car engineering, Nick Wirth said it cost less than a Veryon to build a turnkey F1 car for Virgin Racing.

    I think we’ll finally see how a non-diesel factory supported car.

    Finally, I think its okay for GT1’s to be left off next year.

    The FIA GT1 Series will likely use the Spa 24 maybe in the future, I think the World Championship will be strong, because all manufactures really have to do is build and design a car, take a page out of Porsche’s notebook.

  7. Add in Monza 1000km in April and Nürburgring 1000km in Ausgust and it’ll be like the old WEC/WSC…

  8. @Mark that is assuming there is no LMS. I think its very possible that might not continue. If you pay for teams or help teams pay for freight across the pond, you already have a 7 race series, more than the current or previous LMS series.

    By bringing back Test Day, they don’t have to host (pay) testing at Paul Richard either.

    If it proves successful, I think Audi and BMW will push for a “home” race near future.

    If this is done right, in challenging financial times, just imagine what happens when the large corporations feel its okay to really spend money…

  9. huh, interesting…

    First, glad to see the that GT1 has been taken out, and glad to see the division between amateur GT teams and Professional, works GT teams. Personally, I’m not so happy with the paddle rules because its one more step towards sports cars not having manual transmissions in road cars, which is very sad, Otherwise, I’m totally satisfied with GT.

    I think that road-car based engines should be in the 2011 regs for sure. I love the screaming Aston, I think it makes manufactures more able to justify a Le Mans budget if they can use an existing road-car based engine, and I love the variety. In 2010 LMP2, there are only 3.4 V8s at Le Mans, and they all sound the same… which is dull. LMP2 regs seem sensible, I hope they’re fair and keep LMP2 just as interesting.

    For the ICC, I love next years calender to bits with two exceptions. I wish we could go to the awesome Suzuka instead of Fuji, and I feel we should go to Yas Marinas instead of China for a night race given their facilities and spectacular circuit.

    Overall, I like the regs, I hope that players like Aston, Oreca and Ginetta can fight fairly with Audi and Peugeot, and I hope the hybrid system will serve to suck up much of the two giants’ budgets for minimal gain, thus reducing the budget gap. can’t wait to see the new bespoke Aston!!

  10. Oh, and can we please throw Monza 1000KM back on the ICC 2011 calender, its one of my favorite circuits in the world and I think the low drag set-up would help for Le Mans prep. Thanks ACO!!

  11. Le Mans has been rubbish for years. Any kind of motorsport where there are only two teams capable of winning the main prize is rubbish. WRC is rubbish, F1 was rubbish until last year. The best endurance race I’ve seen in 20 years was the last ALMS race at Laguna Seca. The ACO should all retire and let the ALMS people take over. Racing first and foremost is about tension, excitement, competition. Engineering & technology should always take a back seat to that. series like Le Mans have forgotten that

  12. @Mound The future will have paddle shift and semi-automatic gearboxes, for many companies it will be too costly to add in all the safety features and media features customers want and still build full manuals for the 2-4% of the public that want these cars.

    All the cars have sequential gearboxes anyway what difference does it make if you don’t now have to depress the clutch on the downshift? That’s the only time its used currently…

    I like Fuji just fine its a fun track to run in games, sure they have slowed it down over the years, but they have done the same thing with Suzuka, no circuit outside of some in America built in the 60’s and 70’s largely remain the same, you can blame F1 deaths for most of the changes in these circuits.

  13. Reducing number of categories is good because current 4 classes to have seen too much. Also cut the cost and introducing new technology makes sense reflect to current situation… so generally ACO has made a good job with deeper consideration.

    ICC virtually means a revival of the Sportscar World Championship.
    I am eased that Japan round allowed to remain in the calendar. There is rumor that Toyota has been linked to Le mans prototype return with their hybrid technology. Of course Audi v Peg v AMR v Toyota will be so exiting (if it realize) but the first key of success of the championship IS how to fill the grid with plenty of LMP1s for every round.

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