Arguably one of the highlights from last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans was the off-track announcement for the new era of sportscar racing regulations.
From 2020 we will see the introduction of the hypercars.
Having been mulled over since the departure of automotive heavyweights Porsche and Audi from the top tier of the World Endurance Championship, the sport’s governing body in the FIA along with the ACO confirmed that the hypercar will take over from the long-standing Le Mans Prototype.
Instead of merely track-bred, space-age prototype racers, manufacturers will from 2020 be able to homologate their road going hypercars to race in the World Endurance Championship and the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour.
Immediately, British sportscar maker Aston Martin committed to the regulations and will contest the overhauled championship with their Valkyrie hypercar, which was developed for the road in conjunction with chief Red Bull Formula One designer Adrian Newey.
Toyota, whom sealed back-to-back victories at Le Mans, also have committed to staying in the series and will exploit the ‘prototype’ part of the regulations, to create a strict racer within the confine of the rules – rather than adapt a road-going model in their range.
A combination of attractive dream cars that could easily be a poster on your wall from marques globally known, and bespoke racing prototypes should make for a salivating grid for the French endurance classic in the future.
With strict regulations to keep a level playing field and the divisive ‘Balance of Performance’ being enforced as it is in the GTE categories, to ensure parity amongst the competition – the hypercar prototypes are set to invoke Le Mans racers of the past, but with the advanced technology of today such as hybrid.
That is the notion or concept which is most appealing about the future of the World Endurance Championship and what is now making attractive for manufacturers such as Aston Martin, Toyota and potentially McLaren commit to the series. While comparing sportscars to Formula One is always a chalk and cheese type debate – what WEC has done conceptually should be what Formula One should’ve already committed to for it’s watershed 2021 season.
Again, another delay from the teams and sport’s owners over the cementing of the 2021 regulations leaves little optimism that Formula One may open its door to a new era like their sportscar cousins have and see the status quo in the championship maintained.
Conceptually the desire is to see Formula One maintain its technological push and simplification of the current hybrid systems, as well as creating a cap on spending to ensure privateer and non-manufacturer teams aren’t so adrift from the likes of Mercedes and Ferrari.
This in turn ought to bring back the ‘excitement’ on-track as many have lamented the lack of in the current championship.
Formula One aside though, what WEC is set to embrace has to be one of the most anticipated regulation shifts in top-flight motorsport going into the future.
Despite there still being another season under the current rulebook to go, commencing in September and once again concluded at Le Mans in June of 2020 – the attention is very much on the latest revolution in sportscar racing.