World Endurance Championship Round 2. Official Test Day, Le Mans, France. Test Day June 3rd 2018. Image: Nick Holland for SportscarGlobal

To start a series on the elements that make up a successful Le Mans campaign we are taking a look at Engines with the help of Gibson Technology which power 23 of the in our opinion potential victors come Sunday.  Cars are nothing without “Pooowwweeer” as Jeremy Clarkson would have it, and as part of Sportscar Global’s look behind the on-track action at this year’s Le Mans 24-hours, Nick Holland stepped into the Gibson Technology trailer to discuss a number of aspects of what it takes to make a dependable power unit.  What is more how do you take a successful LMP2 specified power unit and transform it into something that appeals to chassis manufacturers in LMP1.

Sitting down with Ian Lovett, Technical Director at Gibson Technology (IL).

SCG – The lovingly named Gibson GK428 was introduced to the world at Le Mans in 2016 after a procurement process by the FIA/ACO, Ian did you expect the success that the engine has subsequently acheived?

IL – We hoped it would yes, obviously, we were basing the engine on some technology that we developed for elsewhere, so we knew what we had and where we wanted to be. Then as we test things come out of the woodwork, unexpected issues, which is why we have extensive testing on the dyno and then on-track. There is no substitute for puting the unit in a car, and the clever FIA tender & subsequent introduction processes allowed for that and from August 2016, well prior to the 2017 season we were on-track with all four of the chassis manufacturers. We were able to work on the mapping and fine tune before manufacture of the fleet of 50 engines.

SCG –  With regards to the commercial arrangements, how are the engines then allocated and charged to the customer teams?

IL – The customer teams are allocated engines from a pool of some 50 units, and charged at a rate of 1250 Euro/hour of use purchased in a 25-hour time block. One physical unit is specified to last 50-hours. 

SCG – So across the many series plus hours upon hours of testing what sort of failure rate have you seen from the GK428

IL – We have had a couple of issues  unrelated to the engines, things like consequences of crash damage, we have seen issues related to contamination of fuel but generally it has been remarkably reliable.

SCG – From the trackside observer perspective the cars appear bullet-proof, and we should remember this time last year we came within two hours of a Gibson Technology engined Oreca in the hands of JCDC Racing run by JotaSport winning Overall

IL – Indeed at the end of the race we were just one lap, 8.5miles short

SCG – Absolutely denied by a Porsche Hybrid 919 that had an hours service mid-race!

IL – Ha Ha Yes!

SCG – Just to step away, below are the vital stats for the GK428 in its current spec as the engine supplied to all LMP2 teams competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the Le Mans 24 Hours, and both the LMEM / ACO run European (ELMS) and the Asian(AsLMS) Series (from 2019 onwards). The GK428 has been specifically developed for endurance racing and is one of the most technically advanced engines that Gibson has ever produced, incorporating the latest design, manufacturing and development techniques available.

LMP2 – GK428 Technical Data

Configuration                          90 degree V8 NA (normally apsirated)
Capacity                                  4200cc
Weight                                     135 kg
Max Torque                            410 lbft / 555Nm
Max Power                            450 kW / 600BHP


SCG – So progressing to the next level

The GL458 engine is the latest development from Gibson Technology.  It is used exclusively in LMP1 competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), including the Le Mans 24-hour Race.

The new GL458 is based on the highly successful GK428 LMP2 engine and is the most sophisticated engine that Gibson has produced to date. It has been developed utilising advanced design and manufacturing technology and incorporates cutting edge material and component technology.
 

LMP1 – GL457 Technical Data

Configuration                          90 degree V8 NA (normally apsirated)
Capacity                                  4500cc
Weight                                     127 kg
Max Torque                            Unavailable
Max Power                            Undisclosed

IL – We feel the LMP2 market is great, it is for us a single make (engine, ours[JM2]  [JM2]Not sure what this means ) category where cost effectiveness & consistency is key but we also enjoy being involved in the competive market too as it is good for the business it helps us to generate new technologies and new ideas so one potential use for the LMP2 engine is as an LMP1 engine with the fuel-flow limitation. We built up a test unit to try out some of our ideas and given the fuel-flow it looked like it could be quite competitive. So we took it to a few competitors and have ended up with the two car Rebellion entry and the Dragonspeed BR1.

SCG – So how precisely do you take a 4.2litre engine increase its capacity to 4.5litre but also improve on its weight, down in excess of 5kgs

IL – We are using a number of different internals, the main castings are the same carried over from LMP2 but most of the internals are different. I would rather not discuss the specifics…

SCG – Understandably, whilst the unit is large capacity, it is actually lighter

IL – The engine has had some work in quite a few different areas to lose both weight and inertia

SCG – So it revs a little easier

IL – Theoretically yes, it has ended up with th current fuel-flow restrictions to run to the same engine speeds around 9,000 rpm

SCG – How does the fuel-flow restriction impact upon the design

IL – We measure the fuel-flow so the restriction is to the amount of fuel supplied rather than a physical restriction & we balance both the rate, amount used per hour (or second) and the total amount used per lap

SCG – All part of the wonderful world & magic of Equivalence of Technology (EoT), we can say that as observers, we guess you can’t!  So externally we have an engine that fits the same mounts etc as LMP2 but fits to a car that complies to the LMP1 regulations.  If we reflect on the 6-hours of Spa the Rebellion R13 ran well but then dropped off later in the race as in the earlier days of the hybrids… Was that in any way related to the power unit

IL –  No categorically not, the engine performed consistently throughout and delivering the same performance at the end as it was at the beginning.

SCG – As an indicator of its performance over 24-hours that is good to hear, what have you learnt year to-date from the testing and that race

IL – LMP1 and the fuel-flow metering puts a lot more loading on certain areas of the engine, we are making more power from a lot less fuel so we working many aspects of the engine a lot harder than we do in LMP2. Hence the life of the LMP1 engine is a lot shorter, the cost of some internal components is a lot higher. 

SCG – Thank you for your time today Ian, it has been a pleasure to gain a small insight into what you do.

We are taking the view that the Toyota entries with the High Technology are a kind of  Garage56 two-car entry, and as such we can kind of ignore..  So that leaves 8 LMP1s and 20 LMP2s to muscle it out for victory and we obviously look forward to seeing Gibson Technology powered cars right up there.

Bon Chance Mes Amises!

Ps. More on the distinctions between LMP1 & LMP2 can be found on 24-Hours of Le Mans YouTube Channel @
https://youtu.be/dQ2LvPkt9JQ

#10 Dragonspeed BR Engineering BR1 – Gibson