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Rules for sportscar prototype getting closer

May 13, 2020

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During late January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, opening race for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, that sanctioning body, together with the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO, sanction for the 24 Hours of Le Mans) announced the formation of a single class to govern WEC and IMSA prototype competition.

bottom Pierre Fillon, Jim France; top Gerard Neveu, John Doonan, Ed Bennett

The LMDh category, standing for Le Mans Daytona hybrid, is just beginning to come together, with regard to its rules, as there needed to be distinct rules and technical regulations formulated to interest automotive manufacturers and chassis constructors. This week, on May 6, a draft of initial technical regulations was released by all three governing entities, recognizing that this is a starting point for the class and understanding that, with current and exceptional conditions around the globe, steps need to be taken carefully.

The three entities revealed more than a dozen vehicle manufacturers and the four nominated chassis constructors – Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and Oreca – are collaborating in this formation of regulations. The unveiling of new regulations was intended to occur during SuperSebring, a gathering of both WEC and IMSA competitors at Sebring International Raceway. Due to the novel coronavirus, that extraordinary race meeting never occurred.

Meeting through the use of remote group software that allowed the interested parties to work together, the LMDh platform has evolved to the point where all three sanctioning groups have decided the prototype will be a common car created by ACO and IMSA, with the capability to race in both WEC and IMSA. LMDh is a cost-capped prototype that has the common spine as the next  generation of LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2), no matter the constructor or engine manufacturer, which means it’s a complete car without bodywork, engine and hybrid system.

The LMDh prototypes, at this time scheduled for introduction in both WEC and IMSA’s 2022 racing seasons, will only be homologated by a mainstream automotive manufacturer who is associated with one of the four chassis builders. Cars will feature manufacturer-branded and stylized bodywork, a manufacturer-branded engine, a common, single-source rear-wheel-drive hybrid system and a minimum homologation period of five years, which will allow proper development and to add to cost containment.

The joint regulations governing the new LMDh prototype category allow a minimum car weight of 1030 kg (2270.76 pounds), with peak combined power of 500kW from both an internal combustion engine and the common hybrid system. There will be a single bodywork package with identical aerodynamic performance, a single tire provider and global balance of performance (BOP) to, as the ACO and IMSA put it, “harmonize the overall performance of the LMDh and LMH (Le Mans Hyper) cars.”

It’s expected that the top category of WEC competition, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans as its cornerstone event, will integrate the LMDh and LMH race cars to lead to similar performance parameters. IMSA will welcome WEC-based LMDh cars while being open to LMH participation from mainstream automotive manufacturers. This would result from performance at IMSA circuits being validated for acceptance by ACO and WEC.

While the timeline states a start date in 2022 for LMDh racecars, the ACO, WEC and IMSA are keeping their eyes on the current medical crisis exacerbated by the novel coronavirus, which has created the COVID-19 pandemic. A delay in introduction could become necessary. Even so, final regulations are anticipated to be release prior to, or during the September 2020 postponed running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit

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