Daniel Poissenot and Daniel Perdrix, the technical chiefs of the ACO, are in
charge of the new regulations that will govern prototype racing on both sides of the
Atlantic in the Le Mans Endurance Series in Europe, and the American Le Mans
Series in the US. They are working with the FIA on safety issues, but beyond that,
they are taking their own path into the future of prototype racing at Le Mans.
The new cars are slow in coming on the scene, probably because the ACO has so
far failed to produce a comprehensive set of regulations for the new cars for 2006
and beyond. Small manufacturers looking to build LMP2 cars, eligible from next
year, have sought clarification from the ACO.
What the ACO would reveal to me was:
For 2004 and 2005
LMP1 = LMP900, LM-GTP, LMP675 (carbon chassis), LMP1, SR1, 900kg
LMP2 = LMP675 (aluminium chassis converted from SR2), LMP2, 750kg
For 2006 onwards
LMP1 = LMP1 carbon chassis cars
LMP2 = LMP2 carbon chassis cars
While Poissenot explained that all prototypes built to the new regulations would
need to be carbon, Perdrix disagreed. The crash test may be too stringent for
anything other than carbon, but an aluminium chassis car built to the necessary
strength would probably be miles over the weight limit, which is to be reset at
750kg next year.
Is it still the wish of the ACO that the LMP2 category is to be seen as an entry-level
prototype class? Yes. How will the ACO keep the costs of the new formula down?
Through technology and electronics. No real answers there.
Running with the Big Dogs
What we did establish was what would happen to the current LMP675 cars. The
ACO has decided that, as the MG Lola and the DBA Zytek was capable of winning
against the LMP900 and SR1 cars in the ALMS and FIA SCC respectively, there is
no reason why they should not be in the same category next year. Sounds fair, but
for men like Rob Dyson who bought an MG Lola this year, and the money he has
spent developing the car to run against the Audi, he might just as well have bought
The LMP2 class will incorporate as many 'little' prototypes as the ACO can muster,
and that includes the SR2 aluminium chassis cars, such as the Pilbeam, which
have already passed the ACO's homologation for the LMP675 class. The Pilbeam
is expected by the ACO to be quicker than the new SR2 cars, so the French
organisation has decreed that it will run with a smaller fuel tank (80 litres), 2003
restrictors (10 per cent smaller than the new cars, running to 2002 size
restrictors), a smaller rear wing and ballasted from 730kg to 750.
The general plan is to have the engine regulations remaining stable. "We do not
want to change the engine regulations," said Perdrix. They are therefore expected
to continue with two litre, turbocharged engines, 3.4 litre normally aspirated
engines, and 4-litre road-car based engines which can be sleeved or bored,
unlike the regulations of the FIA which prevents modification.
For those teams waiting for a clear set of rules before pressing the green button,
you will have to wait a little longer. The ACO is trying to get the regulations out as
soon as possible. "December" says Poissenot. "No, sooner than that!" says