Are hybrids still the future for endurance racing?
With the 24 Hours of Le Mans returning this weekend for their 89th edition, racing regulations are changing in the World Endurance Championship in 2021. LMP1 prototypes are out the doors, and rules are set for the new ‘Hypercar’ category. This year, only Toyota is running a hybrid car, but Peugeot, Ferrari, Porsche, Audi, and BMW have plans for the future.
This weekend, the 24 Hours of Le Mans return with a few changes. Compared to last year’s edition, which took place behind closed doors, the public is welcomed back in 2021, with a maximum of 50 000 spectators.
Race categories are also changing, with LMP1 prototypes out the door and new, closer to road cars LMH (Le Mans Hypercar) coming in. With this regulation changes, the number of hybrid race cars on the grid has dropped to one, the Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid Hypercar.
As of next year, other competitors will use the hybrid technology once again. As a reminder, Audi, Porsche, and Toyota have been running hybrid racecars in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) for more than five years with their R18 e-tron, 919, and TS040 Hybrid.
Starting next year, the scene of hybrid race cars is set to grow with the development of the LMDh category. Derived to the new Hypercar regulation, all cars will have to share a common spine, composed of everything, including the hybrid system except the engine. Porsche, Audi, BMW, and HPD (Honda’s American branch) have already announced their interest.
Hybrids or EV
Today, gasoline is still dominant in the endurance-racing world. And it’s easy to understand why. Formula E races only last 45 minutes, while WEC races range from 6 to 24 hours. The vision of an electric Le Man’s race car is still a conceptual one at the moment.
Since 2018, Mission H24 has been developing a hydrogen-powered race car intending to participate in the 2024 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was taken to the track, but it’s not fully ripe yet.
“There is, I think, the fact that we have made a new regulation that is extremely attractive and that has met the expectations of many manufacturers,” declared Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and organizer of the 24 Hours, in an interview with the AFP.
“We will now have cars whose fans can identify the brand and a design that makes people dream, which was no longer quite the case with our LMP1s, where aerodynamic efficiency was paramount and which were, therefore, designed more by computers. These will be hybrid cars because reducing CO2 emissions is fundamental and will cost much less, between four and five times less.”