LMDh latest: Entries, rules and specs for the new sports car category

Sports Car News

New-generation LMDh cars can race at Le Mans and Daytona; in WEC and IMSA series. Here's the latest on the rules, specs and team entries, including confirmed and rumoured manufacturers

Porsche LMDh Hypercar

LMDh class, along with Le Mans Hypercar, heralds a new era in endurance racing

Porsche

With the new dawn of endurance racing nearing ever closer and entries piling up, anticipation for the 2023 sports car season is reaching fever pitch – with the new LMDh class central to the excitement.

Porsche has led the way by testing its LMDh car already, but it will be joined by Acura, Cadillac and BMW in 2023, with Alpine and Lamborghini entering the year after.

These cars will run under a ‘Hypercar’ umbrella class, alongside cars run to the Hypercar regulations also – which will include Toyota, Peugeot, Ferrari and Glickenhaus.

The influx of entrants is evidence that the new LMDh regulations, due to come into play in 2022, are working as intended.

Designed to cut the costs of racing, these new rules stipulate that a chassis that must be bought from one of four suppliers and a that a standard hybrid system must be used. The cars will be eligible for both the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and North American IMSA Sportscar Championship, enabling them to fight for overall wins at Le Mans and Daytona.

By 2023, it’s likely we will see Ferrari, Toyota, Peugeot, Porsche, Cadillac and BMW competing for the overall Le Mans win — potentially with customer teams and other manufacturers in the mix too.

Scroll down for more information on the key aspects of the LMDh formula, or click below to jump to a section.

Balance of Performance

What does LMDh stand for?

LMDh technical regulations

LMDh entries: confirmed manufacturers and teams, plus rumours

 

LMDh vs Hypercar

LMDh cars will compete against Le Mans Hypercars in WEC, including the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Hypercars — being built by Peugeot and Toyota among others — offer manufacturers greater freedom but at a higher development cost.

The ACO, which organises WEC, and drew up the LMDh regulations with IMSA, is attempting to ensure close racing by harmonising the regulations: the power limit, minimum weight and aerodynamic performance of both types of car will be identical.

However, only the Hypercars will have four-wheel drive, with the combustion engine driving the rear axle and an electric motor at the front. In an attempt to reduce the advantage, the Hypercars won’t be able to engage the electric drive below 75mph in normal racing conditions.

A Balance of Performance system will also be used.

 

Balance of Performance

A new Balance of Performance process will be introduced next year for Le Mans Hypercars and will extend to LMDh when the first cars appear in 2022, as part of attempts to ensure close racing.

Full details have not yet been announced, but it’s likely to change from the system used last season in LMP1, which heavily penalised the Toyotas and prevented the Japanese cars from fighting between each other. A similar process for GT cars has been operating for several years.

Options include adjusting weight, fuel flow and energy deployment from the hybrid system.

 

What does LMDh stand for?

‘LM’ stands for Le Mans whilst the ‘D’ stands for Daytona to reflect the regulations, which are designed to unify elite sports car racing. What does ‘h’ stand for? No-one’s quite sure. WEC prefers ‘hypercar’ whilst IMSA has moved towards ‘hybrid’.

 

LMDh technical regulations explained

Chassis

The LMDh car will be based on an enhanced iteration of LMP2’s next-generation chassis. Entrants can choose from four options made by one of the specified manufacturers: Dallara, Oreca, Ligier and Multimatic.

  • Manufacturers have relatively free-rein over the styling of the bodywork, enabling them to incorporate aspects from road cars.
  • Underfloor aerodynamics are tightly controlled. Each car will have a limited downforce to drag ratio of 4:1.
  • Maximum dimensions are 5100mm in length, 2000mm wide and 3150mm wheelbase.
    The car’s minimum weight is 1030kg.

 

Powertrain

To cut costs, LMDh cars must be fitted with a specified hybrid system and power management software. It’s a major divergence from Le Mans Hypercars, which are allowed to run entirely bespoke powertrain systems.

In both categories, manufacturers can design their own combustion engines with few major restrictions except for a cap on power output.

  • The combined LMDh powertrain is limited to produce a maximum of 500kW (671bhp) at any one time. The engine, designed by manufacturer entrants – must provide a minimum peak output of 470kW (630hp).
  • The spec hybrid system produces 50kW (67bhp). Bosch is developing the hybrid motor, Williams Advanced Engineering the battery and Xtrac the gearbox.
  • The system is supposed to withstand 22,000km (14,000 miles) of running, equivalent to more than four Le Mans 24 Hours races, between rebuilds and has its software locked so teams cannot tinker.

 

Performance

In terms of lap times, the cars are expected to clock in around 3min 30sec at La Sarthe. The lap record set by Toyota’s Kamui Kobayshi in qualifying last year is 3min 14.791.

Whilst markedly slower than current LMP1 cars, the ACO, FIA and WEC will be hoping an increased field size will make the trade-off worthwhile. This has been boosted by both Porsche and Audi saying they hope to supply customer LMDh cars in addition to their works efforts.

 

Cost

What makes LMDh so potentially attractive to manufacturers and entrants is the cost. The hybrid system will cost €300,00, the chassis €345,000, with the total (once the bodywork is added in) coming to around €1m before the combustion engine is factored in.

To compare, Porsche’s 919 LMP1 programme, which was run between 2014-2017 and only eligible to race in WEC, is said to have cost $200m.

As Porsche’s CEO Oliver Blume put it: “The new LMDh category allows us to fight for overall victories with a hybrid system at the Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring classics – without breaking the bank.”

 

LMDh entries: which teams and manufacturers are confirmed? Who’s next?

Porsche – confirmed

Three years after closing its LMP1 919 programme, Le Mans’ most successful manufacturer (with 19 overall wins) is back again at endurance’s top table for 2023 – this time in partnership with legendary American outfit Team Penske, which is running Porsche’s newly-christened 963 LMDh prototype.

The livery of the new machine has now been revealed also, a retro combination of the Obermaier Racing’s 956 No47 entered at the 1984 Le Mans, and the Salzburg Racing 917 which took the marque’s first-ever Le Mans win in 1970.

For a luxury sports car brand known for its engineering excellence, opting for a set of regs which is cheaper and has less creative input from the designers doesn’t seem to be particularly ‘Porsche’, but the company appears convinced by the longevity a cost-effective set of rules offers.

Porsche and Audi both announced recently that they would be partnering with Multimatic to make their respective chassis.

Porsche LMDh Hypercar

The wraps have now come off the Porsche LMDh 963’s livery

Porsche

The Canadian company has been a technical partner with Porsche for a number of years, producing the shock absorbers for the new 911 GT3 cup car, as well as supplying suspension parts for the 919 EVO, which went on a ‘farewell tour’ of Europe after the Stuttgart marque last withdrew from WEC, setting fastest laps in 2019 at the Nürburgring and Spa-Francorchamps. Additionally, Multimatic also supplies suspension components for the 99X Formula E car and Porsche 911 RSR, which is used in both WEC and IMSA.

Penske have long been masters at getting the best out of ‘spec’ machinery, having won a multitude of championship titles and race wins in IndyCar, NASCAR and IMSA.

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Porsche has now confirmed two of its drivers for the LMDh programme: 2018 and 2021 IMSA DPi champion and former Sauber F1 driver Felipe Nasr has been signed up for one of the berths, with Dane Cameron – 2016 and 2019 title-winner in the same class – joining him.

André Lotterer, now part of the Porsche’s Formula E effort, has won Le Mans three times for Audi in ‘11, ‘12 and ‘14, as rumoured as the most likely driver to be revealed next.  New Porsche FE driver Pascal Wehrlein is likely also to have designs on racing at the highest level of sports cars, after having his route to the top of F1 blocked at Mercedes.

Neel Jani has been confirmed again as a factory driver, whilst other candidates could include their recently promoted Porsche Young Professional Thomas Preining or their only female factory driver Simona de Silvestro.

The ACO dreams of the large fields of the ’80s and ’90s, when 956s widely populated packed grids. Stuttgart appears to be on board with this idea, with Porsche saying it intends to supply customer LMDh cars after 2023.

As far as the other seats go, could Porsche bring back Nico Hülkenberg? The German was allowed by his then-F1 team Force India to take part in Le Mans ‘15 for Porsche, and duly won it at first attempt, making up for some of his unfulfilled potential in grand prix racing. With F1 2020’s supersub looking to left out in the cold once again, perhaps he could seek redemption at La Sarthe once more.

The line-up might have a more American bent now that Penske is involved. Josef Newgarden is the obvious US candidate, whilst South Americans Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya could well fancy it – the latter would be clinch the fabled ‘Triple Crown’ of Monaco, Indy 500 and Le Mans were he to win.

 

Audi – paused

Audi Le Mans 2016

Audi took 13 Le Mans win between 2000 and 2014

DPPI

Audi announced in November 2020 that it was pulling out of Formula E and, according to its own motorsport boss Julias Seebach, was “intensively preparing to enter LMDh with its highlight races, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours” in 2023.

In unison with Porsche, Audi had plans to run chassis produced by Multimatic. It is the second-most successful manufacturer in Le Mans history after Porsche, with 13 wins between 200 and 2014.

It was due to renew its rivalry with the sister Stuttgart brand next year but has repeatedly changed its plans. The German marque reduced its ambitions to WEC only, and has now paused its programme, amid suggestions that it is looking to transfer its efforts to Formula 1.

 

Alpine – confirmed

Alpine 3

Alpine has confirmed it will enter WEC under the LMDh regulations from 2024

Alpine

Alpine has finally made the long-expected announcement that it will build its own LMDh machine, entering the Hypercar class with two cars in WEC from 2024.

The French challenger will be based on an Oreca chassis, with an engine developed in-house at Alpine.

The cars will be run by the Signatech team, which has taken LMP2 class honours at Le Mans in ’16,’18 and ’19.

Alpine currently runs in the Hypercar class with a grandfathered LMP1 car, but looks most likely to just compete in LMP2 for 2023 before it steps up with its LMDh car.

The current Alpine line-up includes André Negrão, four-time Le Mans LMP2 class winner Nicolas Lapierre – whose CV also boasts two wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring – and Le Mans LMP2 podium finisher Matthieu Vaxiviere.

The Richard Mille team, which has been set up as a gateway for female drivers and is also run by Signatech, could perhaps run an LMDh car in the future. It currently fields 2021 LMP2 WEC / Le Mans champion Charles Milesi, young female racer Lilou Wadoux and seven-time WRC champion Sébastien Ogier.

Alpine has heavily implied it intends to supply customer teams with its LMDh car also.

 

Acura/Honda – confirmed

Acura-LMDh-front

The new Acura ARX-06 LMDh prototype

Acura

Honda confirmed its Acura-branded LMDh entry into IMSA, where it currently races the ARX-05, with a single-sentence press release, but has since revealed renders of its ARX-06 prototype, keeping its familiar nose design from the DPi era.

“The process we used in creating the exterior design for the Acura ARX-06 is exactly the same as how we create a new Acura passenger vehicle,” commented Acura Executive Creative Director Dave Marek.

“The same world-class stylists that lead Acura production car design created initial sketches, then pared those down to several potential designs. Next we created a scale model, did aero and wind tunnel model testing, and brought HPD and our partner teams in for their feedback.”

Both Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing will run a car each for Acura, with the ARX-06 expected to be ready for 2023. Wayne Taylor confirmed to Motor Sport that the firm will use an Oreca chassis, which will also be taken to Le Mans in the same year.

Would we see Jenson Button make a Le Mans return for Honda? The 2009 F1 champ won the 2018 Super GT title for the Japanese marque, and has said he favours a Le Mans return in the future.

His highly rated Super GT partner Naoki Yamamoto could be another candidate, after he was given a Honda-powered Toro Rosso Free Practice outing at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. The evergreen Takuma Sato, this year’s Honda-backed winner of the Indy 500, is another option.

Drivers currently run by both the above mentioned IMSA teams will also be in contention – Filipe Albuquerque, Ricky Taylor, Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis could all be in the frame.

 

BMW – confirmed

BMW LMDh car

BMW has taken the wraps off its M Hybrid V8

BMW

An Instagram post by BMW M CEO Markus Flasch indicated the Munich marque was on its way back to Daytona and IMSA, which was followed by official confirmation, before images were then also released.

“My team’s job was to make the BMW M Hybrid V8 look like a BMW, and embrace every opportunity to make it also perform like one on the race track,” BMW Designworks Global Automotive Director Michael Scully said.

“The design is rooted in BMW’s DNA of purposeful, efficient performance, and the exterior’s bold, determined character invokes BMW’s frontiersmanship of turbo power, now united with an optimized hybrid electric powertrain.

“The camouflage livery celebrates the 50 Years of M by commemorating the great cars of BMW’s storied history in IMSA racing while uniquely cloaking the BMW M Hybrid V8’s future-facing exterior geometry and technologies during the critical on-track development phase of the project.”

Whilst the German manufacturer has intimated that it may run at Le Mans and possibly in WEC also, it has not yet confirmed this.

BMW will utilise a 4-litre V8 Hybrid (along with the electric motor as specified by LMDh rules) derived from its old P66 DTM PU coupled with a Dallara chassis

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will operate the team. The outfit, run by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, already campaigns BMW GT cars in IMSA, in addition to running its own IndyCar team.

 

Cadillac

Cadillac's new LMDh challenger – the Project GTP Hypercar

Cadillac’s new LMDh challenger – the Project GTP Hypercar

Cadillac

Cadillac has now revealed its new LMDh car, with the company stating it intends to enter Le Mans, WEC and IMSA, after a twenty year-plus absence in the top class at La Sarthe.

The Cadillac Project GTP Hypercar will use a Dallara chassis, the American/Italian combination creating the DPi-V.R which won the Daytona 24 Hours four times consecutively between 2017 and 2020.

An all-new V8 5.5-litre engine, along with the spec hybrid system, will power the car.

Chip Ganassi Racing and Action Express Racing will run the cars, with the debut slated for Daytona 2023.

In anticipation of its LMDh debut, Ganassi has now announced it will run two DPi cars in IMSA for 2022, with four drivers confirmed also. It’s widely anticipated that ’22 will be a preparatory year, with these pilots then carrying over into the LMDh project.

The American team has confirmed that four-time Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais, two-time Le Mans winner Earl Bamber, former Formula E driver and Le Mans GTEPRO winner Alex Lynn and two-time Daytona winner Renger van der Zande will compete for the team in IMSA next year, with all likely to compete at some point in LMDh for the brand.

 

Lamborghini – confirmed

Teaser image of Lamborghini's LMDh car

Lamborghini’s teaser image of its 2024 LMDh car

Lamborghini

Lamborghini has now confirmed it will run an LMDh programme from 2024, intending to enter both WEC and IMSA.

This will be the first time a Lamborghini has vied for top honours at any of the endurance classics.

“This step up into the highest echelon of sports car racing marks an important milestone for our company,” commented Stephan Winkelmann, Lamborghini chairman and CEO. “We will be measuring ourselves against the very best, on the most demanding proving grounds.

“On one hand, this will give our successful motorsports program even more visibility, but it will also allow us to test future technologies: our LMDh prototypes will become our most sophisticated open laboratory on four wheels.”

Without officially confirming it, the Italian firm has implied it will make use of customer teams, as it does in its GT3 exploits, instead of running a works outfit.

“LMDh will play a special role in Lamborghini’s motor sports strategy, giving us the unique opportunity to expand our customer racing activities to new platforms and enforce our long-term partnership with customer teams and drivers,” the company’s head of motor sport, Giorgio Sanna, said.

This would be the second Volkswagen Group company represented in WEC’s top tier, with Porsche confirmed but with Audi pausing its project.

 

McLaren – rumoured

McLaren F1 GTR 1995

McLaren F1 GTR took a shock win in 1995

DPPI

McLaren shocked the motorsport world by taking overall 1995 Le Mans victory with their F1 GTR – run in the LM GT1 category and technically the third fastest class that year.

Could McLaren return to the endurance fold at the highest level?

The current F1 and IndyCar team has said that it’s “very happy” with the latest LMDh regs, with boss Zak Brown declaring “We’re very interested in sportscars. I think it’s a great fit for the McLaren brand and we like it a lot.”

The brand wants assurances of parity with LMH though. “One car can be four-wheel-drive and another [LMDh] is not, so it’s one thing to balance two cars in the dry with new tires.” Brown notes, “But how do you balance them at 2am in the wet at Le Mans?”

 

Hyundai – rumoured

2020 Monza Rally Ott Tanak Hyundai

Hyundai could soon be trading mud for the Mulsanne

DPPI

Hyundai is hardly the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of sports car glory.

However, the Korean marque has become frustrated with the FIA’s determination to implement hybrid regulations in the new generation Rally1 cars next year.

Unwilling to be rushed in the development of its hybrid technology, a 2023 move to sportscars with either a Hypercar or LMDh challenger could be on the cards instead, with its Motorsport director Andrea Adamo saying “Any sort of motorsport that can show the capability, the technology and the things Hyundai can do in the world are welcome.”

 

Mazda – programme terminated

Mazda Le Mans 1991

Mazda stunned the Le Mans field by taking overall victory in 1991

DPPI

Entering its iconic rotary-powered 787B, Mazda became the first Japanese team to win Le Mans in 1991 with Johnny Herbert at the wheel, shocking heavyweight entrant Toyota which had ambitious designs on the same achievement.

Did the Japanese marque fancy another upset? The convergence of WEC/IMSA rules was described by Mazda North America motorsport director Nelson Cosgrove as “really cool”.

However, after some consideration a statement was released saying that after “internal assessment of the current DPi series and the future LMDh series”, Mazda would not be carrying on its elite-level sportscar programme after 2021, and that any LMDh or Hypercar programme was off the cards.

 

Ford – has chosen GT over LMDh

Ford Le Mans 2019

Ford pulled out of Le Mans competition in 2019 but has hinted at a Hypercar or LMDh future

DPPI

Ford has previously expressed interest in building a Hypercar, before the LMDh regulations then offered a more cost-effective entry.

The Detroit-based brand was involved in the development of the Hypercar rules, where it pushed for a convergence of rules across WEC and IMSA. It has finally got its wish, but then decided instead to go down the GT route, committing its new Mustang to the GT3 rules for IMSA’s GTD Pro class in 2024, instead of an LMDh programme.

“For us, having something that is more relevant or tied to a production car is what put our decision in favour of Mustang and GT3,” said head of Ford Performance Mark Rushbrook.

“It’s [LMDh] not the right programme for us at this time.”