By Stefan Kristensen
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June 1, 2022
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The Le Mans Hypercar Class (What You Need to Know)

The next Le Mans Hypercar class competition is just around the corner, with some of the biggest names returning to the race after years of sitting on the sideline. This significant change in participation comes after some much-needed transformations to the way the hypercar class was run in the past.

In this article, we will go over what the Le Mans Hypercar class is, why it was introduced to the FIA World Endurance Championship, and how it was able to improve and re-establish an expensive competition making way for new competitors, sportscar prototypes, and how the race is officiated.

What is the Le Mans Hypercar Class?

Le Mans' Hypercar class race is a competition between sportscar prototypes in the FIA World Endurance Championship, introduced by the FIA and the ACO. These race cars are created to mimic the design of the manufacturer's signature roadside vehicle look while using the power and force of a racecar.

The LMP1 class had been the standard race in place of the Le Mans Hypercar but was removed and renamed after the Voltzwagon emission scandal in 2016 and 2017 and the increasing cost to design the best car. 

While the new rules make the LMH vehicles a lot less power compared to those racing in the past, it has improved the competition tremendously.

Why was the Le Mans Hypercar Class Introduced?

This Hypercar class has been in the works since 2018, replacing the old LMP1 class and the rules and regulations in terms of how each car is built. This after many manufacturers bowed out one by one over the previous years, with Nissan withdrawing from the race in 2015, Audi in 2016, and Porcha not too long after that. 

The reason so many competitors were dropping out of the LMP1 race was due to how much it costs to build each prototype; these companies simply couldn't afford it anymore, leaving only Toyota still standing. While hashing out the rule book, Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) made big changes to lower the costs associated with the compitition.

In 2021, the first Le Mans Hypercar race took place with the new rules and 62 cars in the competition, making it a big success compared to races in the recent past. These changes also reduced the season's budget by around 75% overall. 

Changes in Rules

This class of racing was introduced to give manufacturers a more cost-effective approach to building their vehicles, giving them the ability to create cars that look similar to those you see on the road while still having enough performance and power to win a race. 

The changes are pretty significant with movement in categories such as performance, cost-saving measures, and safety changes.

Performance

Performance parameters have widened significantly with a decrease in regulations when it comes to construction, especially when you are talking about the engine. Aside from the requirement of a four-stroke petrol engine, manufacturers have no restrictions in this area. 

Other rules in this category include:

  • limited about 670 horsepower
  • Minimum car weight 2270 pounds
  • An electric motor and energy recovery system are optional
  • Can use front wheels for all-wheel drive, but can not exceed 268 horsepower.

Cost-Saving Measures

As mentioned, the cost is the main reason for the Le Mans Hyper class series entrance into the FIA World Endurance Championship races, with many adjustments made to the rules in order to avoid excessive spending.

Limited use of expensive materials: The minimum weight for the gearbox is about 165lbs, and aluminum or magnesium casings and bell housing is required. All tires will come from Michelin, and only a single aero kit will be permitted.

Suspension changes: The rules now state that it is forbidden to have a design with aids, including mass dampers and active systems.

Safety Precautions

Making the race more cost-efficient for manufacturers is one key goal coming from the new Le Mans Hypercar class; another key factor is increasing safety for the racers. 

  • Aerodynamics must remain stable within changes in car attitudes (limits are set at different critical speeds)
  • The seating position must be in a more upright setting in order to prevent spinal damage.
  • Additional seat belt anchorage load tests have been included during the testing phase.
  • Leg padding is now mandated
  • There is an increase in headrest coverage
  • There was an upgrade to the fuel tank bladder regulations

Which Teams Are Competing in This Class?

With the changes to regulations making the competition more accessible to competitors, there are more teams competing in this class. With the Hypercar class being open to not only specialized prototypes but road-going vehicle designs as well as permitting these competitors to now run against LMD cars which are in the US-based IMSA series, the teams jumping on board have multiplied.

In the upcoming Les Man Hypercar class series, you can look forward to awesome new designs from fantastic manufacturers such as Ferrari, Audi, Toyota, Peugeot, and quite a few others still waiting to get on the list. 

TeamsCarsDrivers
Toyota Gazoo Racing  Toyota GR010 Hybrid   Mike Conway  Kamui Kobayashi  Jose Maria Lopez
 Toyota Gazoo Racing  Toyota GR010 Hybrid    Sebastien Buemi  Brendon Hartley  Ryo Hirakawa
  Alpine Elf Matmut  Alpine A480-Gibson   Andre Negrao  Matthieu Vaxiviere  Nicolas Lapierre
 Glickenhaus Racing   Glickenhaus 007 LMH       Olivier Pla  Romain Dumas  Pipo Derani  
 Glickenhaus Racing Glickenhaus 007 LMH       Ryan Briscoe  Richard Westbrook  Franck Mailleux

The latest news states that Ferrari is working with AF Corsec to compete in the championship as "Ferrari – AF Corse," already constructing their top-class LMH car. 

Summing Things Up

Le Mans Hypercar class competitions are the newest addition to the FIA World Endurance Championship races; the change to the rules and regulations for this portion of the competition has given car manufacturers of all sizes the ability to compete in the class while having the ability to win, with the change in the cost to construct their vehicle and an upgrade in their rules for performance.

(Cover photo source: Tokumeigakarinoaoshima, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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