Le Mans Hypercar latest: Entries, rules and specs for the new sports car category

Sports Car News

What is a Le Mans Hypercar? And which entries are under these rules?

Toyota GR010 HYBRID

Toyota's GR010 HYBRID is based on road-going GR Super Sport

Toyota

There has always been hope that new Le Mans Hypercars would lead to a new golden age of sports car racing, but Ferrari’s announcement that it would be building its own hypercar has raised expectations even higher.

By 2023, when Ferraris will fight for overall victories at Le Mans and in the World Endurance Championship, the Le Mans hypercar (LMH) grid will include rival hypercars from Toyota, Peugeot, Glickenhuas and ByKolles.

They will also be battling Porsche, Audi and potentially other cars, built to another set of rules in the LMDh class. A Balance of Performance system is meant to offer a level playing field for all teams.

The hypercar class is open to both specialised prototypes and cars based around roadgoing vehicles, which are eligible if 20 hypercar production models are produced over a two year period.

The more restrictive LMDh regs offer a ‘cut-price’ option to enter both Le Mans and Daytona but LMH is in some ways the opposite. Currently only eligible for entry into the World Endurance Championship, including Le Mans, the Hypercar class is free of the LMDh cost cap rules intended to curb LMP1-style development spending habits by making some spec parts mandatory.

This offers manufacturers greater creative freedom in the design of their cars and powertrains. Perhaps more in the spirit of some of the more pioneering efforts from Le Mans’ past, Toyota, Peugeot and Ferrari have opted for the LMH option. Toyota is basing its car around the road-going GR Supersport whilst the latter is building a racing prototype. It is not yet known which approach Ferrari will take.

The teams retain greater control over the design of their cars, including the hybrid system, which is a standardised part for LMDh. It offers a tangible link to the hybrid technology in the manufacturers’ road cars. The ‘Win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ mantra lives on.

This said, the intention remains for investment in LMH to be limited compared to LMP1. Aerodynamic controls, a 671bhp power limit, identical to LMDh and Balance of Performance measures, brought in to level out what are essentially two different classes, aim to rein in the sometimes astronomical spending habits that were associated with the LMP1 class.

Aston Martin initially confirmed it would enter its Red Bull collaboration Valkyrie hypercar into Le Mans, but since put that plan on ice after Lawrence Stroll’s takeover of the British sports car manufacturer, with the focus shifting to his new Formula 1 team.

 

Le Mans Hypercar vs LMDh

Toyota GR010 HYBRID

Toyota GR010 HYBRID takes advantage of great freedom afforded by LMH rules

Toyota

Le Mans Hypercars will go head to head with LMDh in WEC, which includes the Le Mans 24 Hours. It remains to be seen if LMH will be made eligible for IMSA’s Weathertech Sportscar Championship and/or Daytona.

Audi and Porsche opting for LMDh means that each will use a spec hybrid system and must choose a chassis from one of four manufacturers, the trade-off being huge savings in development costs.

In an attempt to provide a level playing field whichever route teams go down, WEC organier ACO, which has also collaborated on the LMDh rules with IMSA, has aligned the rules of both classes. The upshoot is that the power limit, minimum weight and aerodynamic performance of both LMH and LMDh will be identical.

One issue with the parity, highlighted as a stumbling block by potential entrant McLaren’s boss Zak Brown, is that only the LMH can have four-wheel drive, with the combustion engine driving the rear axle and an electric motor at the front.

If it rains, then the Hypercars should technically be at a great advantage. Making efforts to negate this, the ACO has made it so hypercars can’t engage their electric drive in normal racing conditions when running under 75mph.

For the first season, Alpine will also be in the mix, racing a ‘grandfathered’ LMP1 Rebellion R13 Gibson in the World Endurance Championship with BoP rules aiming to level out the competition. It is not yet known whether Alpine will go on to develop a new-generation car.

 

Balance of Performance

A new single BoP regulation will be introduced next year for Le Mans Hypercars, also covering LMDh when the first cars appear in 2022, with the hope of producing close racing.

Full details have yet to be announced, but it’s likely to differ from the current system which is used to peg back the dominant LMP1 Toyotas. The same BoP regulations have been used in the GT categories for a number of years.

However, a number of limitations are already in place to bring parity. Both LMH and LMDh cars will have to run a minimum weight of 1030kg, a maximum of 2000mm wide and have a wheelbase of 3150mm. Both classes must have a limited downforce to drag ratio of 4:1.

Other possible options include fuel flow and further restrictions on energy deployment from the hybrid system.

 

What does LMH stand for?

LM stands for Le Mans, indicating the ACO (Automobile Club de L’Ouest) use of the rules also its adoption for the WEC, whilst H stands for Hypercar.

Slightly confusingly, in WEC, the entrants will be in a class called ‘Hypercar’, which will include both the LMH cars and the LMDh.

 

Le Mans Hypercar regulations explained

Chassis

Along with the powertrain, possibly the biggest differentiator from LMDh.

Whilst LMDh teams must purchase a predesignated LMP2 chassis from Ligier, Oreca, Dallara or Multimatic, LMH teams are free to create their own chassis within the above dimensions mentioned, which can be based on a roadgoing hypercar or a specialised prototype.

Whilst the roadgoing rule was brought in to accommodate the now-paused Valkyrie project, Toyota has based its new Hypercar on the showroom-ready GR Super Sport, with Peugeot, ByKolles and Glickenhaus pressing forward with the prototype models.

 

Powertrain

Peugeot hypercar powertrain annotated

Peugeot have detailed their powertrain plans in advance releasing renders of the actual car

Peugeot

Entrants are free to make their own choices on power unit, the only proviso being that it mustn’t be diesel-fuelled.

The maximum power output of the engine must be 500kW (670bhp), also aligned with LMDh cars.

 

Hybrid System

Whereas in LMDh a spec hybrid system is mandatory, LMH entrants can elect whether to run a hybrid system or not.

The combustion engine must drive the rear axle and while electric motor powers the front.

If an LMH team opts for a hybrid system, its maximum output must be 200kW (268bhp). A resultant production car based on a prototype (the route opted for by Toyota, Peugeot, ByKolles and Glickenhaus) must have its hybrid system in the same position on both cars as well as having identical deployment.

As mentioned above, hybrid cars will be restricted in their deployment in the dry, with the electric motor not providing drive when under 120kmph (75mph).

A final decision has not yet been made on wet weather deployment, but it will be somewhere between 140kmph to 160kmph (86mph-100mph).

The new rules do allow hybrids to use more of their available engine power up to the combined limit when the hybrid is ‘off-boost’. Hybrid engines should have an advantage over non-hybrids both in terms of the immediacy of power delivery and fuel consumption.

 

Aerodynamics

Again as part of of the BoP, both LMH and LMDh are required to have a limited downforce to drag ratio of 4:1.

An appeal of LMH is that they will have much greater leeway in terms of styling their own bodywork compared to LMDh, a potential boon to the marketing possibilities of manufacturers.

 

Performance

The new LMH cars are expected to lap La Sarthe in or slightly under 3min 30sec, as are of course the LMDh cars.

Toyota’s Kamui Kobayshi currently holds the current lap record set in 2020 qualifying at 3min 14.791.

Though the new regulations see cars set to be significantly slower than previously, the ACO are hoping the trade-off of full grids at Le Mans will make it all worthwhile.

 

Cost

Whilst a host of measures have been brought in in an effort to reduce costs, primarily centred around the BoP and restrictive aerodynamic package, the fact remains that there is no hard and fast cost cap for LMH.

As a result the class’s development costs, through use of its own chassis and powertrains, will probably be far in excess of LMDh.

However, it’s thought unlikely to reach peak LMP1 levels of spending. As an example, Porsche’s 919 LMP1 programme, which was run between 2014-2017 and only eligible to race in WEC, is said to have cost $200m. The new rules are designed in part to negate anything near this kind of outlay.

 

Le Mans Hypercar entries: which teams and manufacturers are confirmed? Who’s next?

Toyota Gazoo Racing – confirmed (2021 entry)

Toyota was first to unveil its new Le Mans Hypercar, the GR010 HYBRID

Looking to pick up where it left off in LMP1, Toyota has long been at work on the GR010 – it began as soon as the rules were announced 18 months ago. The Toyota will be ready to race at the first opportunity.

Based around its GR Super Sport road car, the Japanese firm claims little is carried over from its TS050, but the new Hypercar does bare an uncanny resemblance to its predecessor.

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The team has opted to design an entirely new hybrid system. The hybrid racer will be four-wheel drive, with a 3.5 litre V6 twin-turbo powering the rear axle with 671bhp. The front-axle will have 270bhp provided to it with an electric motor.

The total power is capped at 500kW (671bhp) in LMH rules, with the GR010 Hybrid’s advanced electronics dictate the amount of hybrid boost used to ensure it doesn’t go over the limit

The team’s 2020 driver line-up is being retained, with WEC champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López manning the no7 car and 2020 Le Mans winners Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley taking on the no8.

With the Toyota team so well prepared, things are looking ominous for other Hypercar entrants.

 

Glickenhaus – confirmed (2021 entry)

Glickenhaus LMH

Glickenhaus are looking to capitalise on a new dawn of regulations to take the fight to Toyota

Glickenhaus

The American Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus team intends to enter two of its Italian-built SCG007s in WEC and Le Mans this year. It has gone non-hybrid, plumping for a bespoke twin-turbo V8 produced by Pipo Moteurs.

The US-based company recently announced a link-up with 15-times Le Mans winner Joest Racing, who will provide personnel and support to the race team. Sauber have been employed to develop the aerodynamics, the Swiss squad having won Le Mans overall with Mercedes in 1989.

When quizzed on who would drive for the team, team founder James Glickenhaus was bullish: “Getting top drivers in today’s world, who want to win Le Mans, it’s not a difficult task,” he said. “We’ll have great drivers – that won’t be a problem.”

Glickenhaus wasn’t wrong: the team first announced Daytona 24 Hours winner Ryan Briscoe and Le Mans LMP2 class winner Gustavo Menezes, followed by two-times Le Mans winner Romain Dumas, Daytona winner Richard Westbrook, Daytona and three-times Sebring 12 Hours winner Pipo Derani, LMP2 race-winner Olivier Pla and experienced endurance racer Franck Mailleux.

 

Peugeot – confirmed (2022 entry)

Peugeot hypercar powertrain overhead

The Peugeot hypercar chassis and powertrain – can they emulate 2009 success?

Peugeot

Peugeot announced in November 2019 that it was returning to the top table of endurance racing, looking to emulate its LMP1 years which resulted in overall Le Mans victory in 2009.

No shots of the full cars have been revealed, but Peugeot has stated its hybrid intent as it unveiled a twin-turbo, 2.6-litre V6 engine which will power the car.

A 671bhp petrol engine provides drive to the rear wheels, while a 268bhp electric motor powers drive those at the front.

The 165kg powertrain apparently took inspiration from the diesel-powered 908 line, which was in its ‘09 winner, as well as the four-cylinder turbo WRC car run by sister company Citroen.

The team doesn’t yet know if it’ll be ready for the start of the 2022 season. As mentioned above, Peugeot has mirrored the other Hypercar entrants by going down the prototype route, as well as imitating the V6 of Toyota and Glickenhaus.

Peugeot has now confirmed its driver line-up. Kevin Magnussen makes the switch from F1, accompanied by two-time Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne, 2020 Le Mans LMP2 winner Paul Di Resta, 2013 overall winner Loïc Duval, Gustavo Menezes and Mikkel Jensen.

 

Ferrari — confirmed (2023 entry)

Ferrari announced its Le Mans Hypercar programme in February, after several months of speculation. The team had openly said that it was examining the possibility and will now return to the Le Mans 24 Hours race on its centenary.

Adding to its current tally of nine overall wins is undoubtedly the target.

“In over 70 years of racing, on tracks all over the world, we led our closed-wheel cars to victory by exploring cutting-edge technological solutions: innovations that arise from the track and make every road car produced in Maranello extraordinary,” Ferrari president John Elkann said.

“With the new Le Mans Hypercar programme, Ferrari once again asserts its sporting commitment and determination to be a protagonist in the major global motorsport events.”

Few details have yet been released, but the team confirmed that development is underway.

Speaking earlier, while Ferrari’s involvement was uncertain, its head of sport car activities Antonello Coletta said: “The most important question is whether we can have a link with a road car. Having our own chassis is a must, and we will see in the future if it is possible to have a new supercar.”

 

ByKolles – uncertain

ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01

Will the new ByKolles Hypercar enable the team to challenge for Le Mans glory?

ByKolles

Unusually, ByKolles has developed a hypercar apparently in time for the 2021 season but has declined to take part.

It’s thought that a dispute with the WEC organisers has contributed to this, meaning that it’s not known when the car will race.

A mainstay of the LMP1 class since 2014, ByKolles went down the prototype route, but intend to produce a road car version also.

Currently PMC Project LMH, the Hypercar will be produced both as a track day car and a road car, in addition to the racing model,

The road car will produce over 1000bhp and have a hybrid system but the LMH will be reined in at 700bhp, in part due to the fact it will be running a normally aspirated non-hybrid system.

Although the full powertrain details are yet to be released, it’s thought that the team will carry over its Gibson V6 from its ENSO CLM P1/01 LMP1 challenger, eschewing the hybrid route.

If it does race, ByKolles drivers Bruno Spengler, Tom Dillman and Oliver Webb could all be in contention to drive the new Hypercar.

 

Others

Ford was involved in negotiating the rules for LMH, and was thought to have expressed an interest in developing a new Hypercar of its own, but the company appears to be leaning towards the more cost-effective LMDh ruleset.

McLaren was also a widely mooted a candidate, but since changed tack and pushed (successfully) for LMH/LMDh convergence. However, its announcement of having an option on Formula E for the 2022-2023 season has likely delayed any potential Le Mans plans.