Le Mans Lops Hybrid Power for 2021

In a bid to reduce costs for race teams, the iconic Le Mans endurance race will demand lower performance from hybrid powertrains.

Its new regulations will see a downgrade of the electric systems in hybrids, allowing them to produce only 250bhp of the total potential of 750bhp. The race will also go back to its roots by allowing road-going cars to enter the race in 2021Alongside these hypercars, bespoke racing prototypes, styled after a manufacturer’s roadcars, will also be eligible to race in the world’s most famous 24-hour endurance competition.

The current rules, which previously saw Audi, Porsche and Toyota duke it out for overall win at Circuit de la Sarthe, allow for up to eight megajoules of energy to be deployed per lap via the hybrid system – roughly 600bhp. This runs alongside an internal combustion engine developing the same amount of power, meaning the drivers had around 1,000bhp to play with.

However, costs have become prohibitive for all but the likes of Audi and Porsche who were spending upwards of $200M a year on their programs before pulling out in 2016 and 2017 in the wake of Dieselgate, leaving Toyota and its TS 050 as the only hybrid in the LMP1 class.

Because the new class also allows non-hybridshybrid-powered cars will only be able to deploy their electrical energy at speeds above 75mph on slicks. On wet tires, this will rise to between 87mph and 100mph, with a fixed value still to be determined.

This removes the advantage the hybrid cars currently have against the non-hybrid cars of Rebellion Racing and SMP Racing, where the Toyotas can simply ‘boost’ out of slow corners and get to top speeds quicker, or around traffic from the slower classes also competing in the race.

This rules package mirrors the developments in the road car world. Manufacturers are striving to reduce power and range from BEVs in small, compact cars, while also attempting to dumb down the tech and use ‘mild hybrid’ powertrains in vehicles, as well as developing plug-in hybrids for longer range use while generating less emissions.

Manufacturers will be hoping they can use racing to develop their hybrid and electric powertrains even further, acquiring more efficiency and range from their technology and increasing energy regeneration from the brakes.

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