Le Mans has only ever paused for war and civil unrest and 2020 appears to be included on both counts as society is at war with a virus but also itself in its response to the aforementioned. Hence the 24-hour classic moves from its traditional date in Mid-June to September 18-19th and given the questionable safety of mass gathering will proceed behind closed doors, potentially robbing the Grand Dame of a large proportion of her distinguishing features.
So bearing all of that in mind SportscarGlobal will report from a distance, we are fortunate to have photographers on the ground and will bring you the usual high quality images of the theatre that Circuit de la Sarthe provides, but please don’t be surprised by a somewhat candid view of goings-on.
Briefly we have known for some time that the category is well past its heyday, of the grandee marques only Toyota remain, and despite the lack of honest competition, and desire to display progress with their emerging Hypercar programme, they circulate comfortably and remain undisputed victors in the FIA-World Endurance Championship (WEC).
We see little likelihood of the above routine changing, and whilst we would love to see Toyota granted an Ultimate status, with a gloves off, white knuckle, flat-out 24-hour run that will not be happening, the Equivalence of Technology (EoT) has been published. So we will have to sit back and marvel at the TS050 hybridised capabilities that allow it to run faster for longer on less, indeed stint capacity is now capped at 35 litres of carbon-based fuel, less than filling your typical family car.
So which Toyota TS050 Hybrid for the overall win? Well the #7 of Conway / Kobayashi / Lopez has been hard done by in the past (Alonso) age, and it would be wonderful in our opinion if the final TS050 Sayōnara was a 1-2 in numerical order.
Of course Le Mans can be a cruel mistress, and has metered out plenty of pain to Toyota, and given its 2020 there is no reason to suspect that both cars taking each other out at Dunlop on the first lap is not highly likely! So if it is not Toyota, then…
Our expectation is that the #1 Rebellion Racing R13 would be favoured over the #3 as it is the full-season entry, and Le Mans brings double WEC points… Romain Dumas (in the #3) brings spades full of experience with his twentieth consecutive Le Mans participation.
The sole remaining (fifth) LMP1 entry scheduled to actually start is the dusted off historic entrant from ByKolles with the venerable ENSO CLM now powered by the latest Gibson Technology GK458 also found in the Rebellion Racing R13s. Whilst at the Spa 6-hours a tyre pressure issue on the #1 Rebellion made for a competitive stint for the ByKolles, it sadly did not quite endure the full 6-hours. Also allegedly ByKolles has had its test programme at Spa thwarted by local noise concerns, a finish on the tail of the LMP1 field would be a fair and just result, and provide substantial data for the team who are expected to present their own Hypercar category entry in due course..
All this is in the context of the late breaking news that the much heralded return (1st race since Bahrain 2019) of the Ginetta G60-LT-P1 has been delayed. On this occasion due to recent Covid-19 developments and their impact on Team-LNT’s staff/operations being Ginetta factory based. As an aside the Ginetta statement makes mention of the 2020-21 season so we wait with bated breath to welcome the youngest grandfathered car to that future season…
The initial Equivalence of Technology (EoT) for the LMP1 category has been published, and is unlikely to change. This represents the organisers attempts to both permit a diversity of technologies ostensibly to power the LMP1 pack, but to manage that diversity to still deliver a category race. A similar system will be utilised to manage the Hypercar/LMDH future category convergence, and hence it is worth understanding a little about it.
The key EoT points to note are as follows –
- Dry Weights
- The Toyota TS050 (hybrid-cars) gain 7kg over the previous year up to 895kg dry weight
- The naturally-aspirated(NA) LMP1s (non-hybrid) or Gibson-powered Rebellions and ByKolles remain at the same dry weight level 816kg
- The turbo column can be ignored
- Fuel Loads –
- As mentioned Toyota run with a maximum capacity of just 35.1kgs of carbon based fuel, the car generates the remainder of the energy required to complete its stints
- For the NA-runners, Rebellion and ByKolles capacity is up to 55.4kgs, almost 5kgs more than in 2019 (50.8kg). This should deliver an equal stint length to Toyota, but obviously with the additional weight penalty..
- Fuel Rig Restrictors
- As the stint length are now expected to be equalised the speed of refuelling and hence stop duration if not changing tyres/driver is being addressed, reducing the Toyota advantage. Their restrictor remains at 19mm
- For the NA-cars it is a substantial (almost) 10% increase to 24.1mm
All of the above, plus the metered flow etc.. are detailed in the issued table below –
Solely for Le Mans the WEC “weight for points” handicap system is suspended/withdrawn, so it is a bit of a game-changer for the engineers and teams involved (Toyota & Rebellion Racing) and hence their set-ups may require careful revision.