Future Probable

The Le Mans 24 Hours will be held next year on June 19/20 and regulations have already been published. Entries open on December 1 and close on March 31 but, as M Michel Cosson, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest made clear at the presentation in Paris on September 7, the event will not be a part of FISA’s Sportscar World Championship.

FISA now has a narrow range of options which will be reviewed at the World Council meeting, and the outcome will be announced on October 6. Firstly, FISA can press ahead with a grand touring-based World Championship, lacking the prestige of Le Mans.

FISA could go ahead with a European based FIA Cup for GT cars, and strike a deal with the ACO. Or, FISA could abandon all ideas of running a sportscar championship, and simply decide to be nice to the ACO… or give ’em hell!

Advantage appears to lie with the ACO at the moment. They have viable regulations in the shop window, and a major attraction inside the store. FISA, on the other hand, is the franchise licensee and can dress a shop window, but has nothing inside the store.

Its best hope is to do a deal with the IMSA organisation in America (already prepared to have a special GT class at Daytona on January 30/31) and work towards a series of GT races in Europe.

However, the likelihood is that European circuit owners and promoters would prefer to align inexpensive, low-key GT races with Le Mans, to provide an infrastructure that will be attractive to the public.

In my view, the Monaco Grand Prix wouldn’t last long in its present form without the FIA Formula 1 World Championship; the Indy 500 wouldn’t survive without the lndycar (CART) Championship, and by the same logic the Le Mans 24 Hours would soon lose importance and fizzle out unless supported by a viable series of events, using the same regulations. No respectable team could be formed once a year to perform in a professional manner. Teamwork relies on schedule of races, regular employment for its engineers, proper development of the cars, and sponsorship to keep the whole enterprise viable.

The ACO knows this and so does FISA, so decisions in the near future are going to be absolutely crucial to the future of sports car endurance racing around the world. Japan hopes to follow the lead established in Europe, and America is still sufficiently pliable to go with FISA or with the ACO.

As expected, the ACO has announced a wide-ranging ‘catch-all’ set of regulations which finally abandons the fuel consumption formula, and adopts IMSA style inlet restrictors to establish a maximum power level for all but the 3.5-litre Group C category. The use of commercially available fuel supplied by the ACO is mandatory for all categories.

The size of the restrictors has not yet been determined, and the level of power has not been announced for the ‘Le Mans Prototypes’ class, but is expected to be around 425 bhp in open cars weighing 600kg. The ACO’s regulations cater for the following classes:

Category 1: Group C 3.5-litre prototype cars running to 1992 technical regulations (eg, Peugeot 905, Toyota TS010, Mazda MXR-01, Lola T92/10, Jaguar XJR-I4).

Category 2: A – 1990 regulation sports cars weighing a minimum of 900 kg (eg, Jaguar XJR-12, Porsche 962C, Nissan R90C) with inlet restrictors, sizes to be established.

B – IMSA GTP cars 1993 regulations, except with a minimum weight of 900 kg (1,985 pounds) and with inlet restrictors to be established by the ACO.

Rapid refuelling as per 1992 regulations, circa 40 seconds for 95 litres.

Category 3: A – Le Mans Prototypes. Open cars weighing a minimum of 600 kg, powered by Group A or B homologated engines, maximum of eight cylinders, with a single super/turbo charger added to choice, and air restrictor to be determined; or a Formula 3000 engine restricted to 8,200 rpm. Exhaust noise limited to 110 dB/A measured at peak rpm 15 metres from the car.

The use of carbon (except in bodywork) and titanium is forbidden, so the chassis will probably be made of aluminium or honeycomb, with strict safety requirements in accordance with FIA regulations for Formula 3 cars.

The Prototype class cars will be up to 200 cm wide (as per current Group C), 450 cm in length (a Spice SE90C is 457 cm long, and C1 cars 480 cm in length), and at least 95 cm high at the top of the rollover bar.

Other regulations include a full-length flat bottom, “conventional” five-speed manual transmission, “conventional” suspension, no telemetry, two-wheel drive, two-wheel steer, no anti-slip control, maximum wheel width 12 in and same diameter wheels front and rear.

B – national prototypes, conforming with national regulations (eg, Peugeot 905 Spyder), with super/turbo charger added to choice, but with inlet restrictor.

Category 4: Grand Touring cars. A – Having at least two seats, on sale commercially, and with national type approval (eg, Service de Mines in France, TUV in Germany). Must weigh a minimum of 1,000 kg, and engines will have air restrictors installed. A single super/turbo charger may be added, but no bodywork or chassis alterations are permitted.

A wing conforming to the Prototypes class (full width, not more than 40 cm in length) may be installed, however. Other regulations include a maximum fuel tankage of 120 litres, maximum wheel width 12 in, freedom with brakes (but not carbon, unless original), dry sump conversion allowed, transmission must have same number of gears, but ratios are free, suspension modifications are liberal.

B – Grand Touring ‘Divers’, includes national GT such as IMSA GTO and Japanese N3. Thus, Jack Roush Ford Mustangs would be welcome, but with a minimum weight of 1,000 kg and with air restrictors on the V8s. M L C