next year, what happens in 2014 is the hot topic in motor sport circles right now. Major new regulations are due the season after next that will
change the shape of Grand Prix and sports car racing. But in both worlds there remain question marks over exactly what this new landscape will look like. In Formula 1, the FIA is pressing ahead with
its plan to introduce 1.61itre V6 turbos, though Berme Ecclestone appears determined to torpedo the new regs in favour of sticking with the current 2.4-litre V8s. The tensions between Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt haven’t yet boiled over publicly, but make no mistake: fuel efficiency, the development of energy recovery systems and engine regulations better suited to the specific technical and marketing needs of the world’s car manufacturers are a clear priority for one party, and emphatically not for the other. In this issue, Adrian Newey reflects on 20 years
of Fl evolution and appears resigned to evertightening rules that strangle expressive and original design. As he admits, the layout of the modern Fl car is more or less dictated by the constrictive regulations, and that won’t change in 2014 whatever the engines. Perhaps he should switch to designing sports cars instead.
That’s because in this area the FIA, in partnership with Le Mans governing body the AGO, is adopting a philosophy that harks back to the Group C days. Instead of tightening restrictions on engine sizes and capacities, sports car design will be dictated solely by how much fuel is consumed. This offers car makers the freedom of choice: petrol or diesel, hybrid or any future technologies such as electric, fuel cells or hydrogen, all are permissible — at whatever engine size they choose. For each concept, a fuel allocation will be set and it’ll be up to the engineers and designers to make the most of how much they have to work with.
At the FIA World Endurance Championship round at Fuji Speedway, AGO sports director Vincent Beaumesnil put it this way: “Whether they choose a V16 with a 10-litre capacity or a moped engine, it’ll be down to how the manufacturers use the fuel they are given.” Hell, prototypes could even run with 1.6-litre V6 turbos…
The new direction was set out back in June at Le Mans, and at Fuji the FIA and the AGO offered more detail as the rules are honed.
The biggest potential stumbling block is how the fuel usage is measured. Two mandatory fuel flow systems are being investigated, and the whole philosophy behind these rules hangs on finding which solution can be the most accurate and reliable. In sports cars, Newey would still find restricted chassis dimensions — the prototypes will be narrower and open LMP1 cars will be banned in the name of safety — but the design packaging choices offered by the various power concepts and subsequent engine sizes should allow genuine
freedom of creativity.
Sports car racing remains the only true open formula in international motor sport.
At Fuji, there was also good news for GT manufacturers. The FIA and AGO will invite them to form a ‘working group’ to create a single, global GT formula. They want the performance levels of the current GTE cars matched to the affordability of the burgeoning GT3 category that is attracting huge grids featuring all the major car manufacturers. As you will read in this issue, Bentley is the latest to join them. So why don’t they just adopt GT3? Well, there isn’t a rulebook to work from, and the FIA and AGO demand one for Le Mans and its World Championship. Cars of all shapes and sizes are eligible for GT3, and their performance is then balanced to ensure all can be competitive — exactly what has attracted Bentley. It works to an extent, but it’s a contrived and ultimately unsatisfactory way to go motor racing. ED
No timescale has been set for this new GT rulebook. A consensus within this large working group will surely be hard to find, while car manufacturers may need some convincing to fund, build and market all-new cars. The process will take years. But like the new prototype philosophy, it’s an ambitious, idealistic step in the right direction. I n an email exchange before I headed out to Fuji, Vic Elford told me my trip would not be complete without exploring the old Turn 1 banking if it was still there. “At the end of the long pit straight, there is now a right-hand hairpin followed by the rest of the circuit,” he wrote. “When I raced there for Toyota in 1969, that
right-hand bend was not there.., we went flat out straight over the top of a blind crest and then dropped into a steeply banked curve.”
Inspired by his vivid memories of the circuit that sits in the foothills of the magnificent Mount Fuji, I went exploring. And there, beyond the modern hairpin and the perimeter road that bends round it, lay a couple of hundred yards of the most fearsome-looking banking I’d ever seen. Thankfully, it was preserved during the Tilke rebuild and stands as a monument to the original Fuji Speedway. When the track was constructed in the early 1960s, it was intended to be a full-blown oval, but financial constraints forced a change of plan. The resulting road course, featuring a mile-long straight, that terrifying banked
corner and a flowing section of infield bends, was spectacular but lethal.
In 1969 Elford spent a couple of months at the track developing the potent Toyota 5-litre Can-Am car, then raced it in the sports car Grand Prix. One can only imagine how it must have felt to come tonking down that long straight, then diving blind down a drop of what must be at least 30 feet on to steep 30-degree banking with barely a lift. Elford was famous for his bravery. Here, he needed to be. The banking claimed its fair share of victims and was finally closed in 1974. The ‘new’ Fuji was, of course, the scene of the infamous Hunt vs Lauda climax in ’76 and the tragic ’77 Grand Prix in which a marshal and a photographer were killed when Gilles Villeneuve’s Ferrari vaulted the catch fencing. The modern Tilke circuit, which hosted the Japanese
GP in ’07 and ’08, has lost some of its charm thanks to the inevitably vast runoffs and a fiddly final third of the lap, which isn’t a patch on the old and very long swooping final curve. But it still offers a challenge to drivers, and set against such a picturesque backdrop, the , track offers magnificent views for spectators. I loved it. ‘1 Fuji is a wonderful addition to the modern FIA World Endurance Championship. But that little stretch of
forlorn banking, so easily missed if you don’t know it’s there, offers a startling perspective on how sanitised the modern sport has become. he news that Lola Cars International has ceased trading has cast a significant shadow this month. It was hardly a surprise,
in the wake of the company falling into the hands of administrators back in May. But as the skeleton workforce packed up and left, we ponder whether this is finally the end for the last of the grand old British racing car constructors. Martin Birrane has given his all, but in the absence of a buyer to take it as a going concern, the assets will now be sold. What a huge loss for the whole motor racing world.