Ferrari has confirmed that in 2023 it will return to the highest category of sports car prototypes and the legendary 24h Le Mans race in the new Le Mans Hypercar category which will debut in the WEC Championship this year.

To reduce the cost of the extremely expensive LPM1 category the 2021 World Endurance Racing Championship (WEC) has established the Le Mans Hypercar category which is the new highest category of the championship.

In 2023, for the first time since 1973, Ferrari will compete for the overall 24h victory at Le Mans as a factory team, and participation in the championship in the highest category has so far been confirmed by Toyota, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, ByKolles (from 2021) and Peugeot (from 2022).

In addition to cars under LMH rules, which allow freedom in car design, there is an alternative, cheaper entry into the Hypercar category from 2022 through LMDh rules with cars sharing technology with LMP2 prototypes (choice between four chassis manufacturers), and for the competitiveness of all participants will be specially developed performance balancing system (BoP).

Audi, Porsche and Acura (Honda) have also confirmed entry into the 2023 LHM category with their LMDh prototypes.

Ferrari 488 Le Mans 24h 2019 Photo Ferrari
Ferrari 488 on 24h Le Mans in 2019 (Photo: Ferrari)

Following a period of study and analysis, Ferrari has kicked off the development of the new LMH car to include in recent weeks the design and simulation phases. The track testing programme, the name of the car and the drivers who will make up the official crews, will be part  of future announcements.

Fifty years after its last official participation in the premier class of the World Sports Car Championship in 1973, Ferrari will take to the track in the Hypercar class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, which it proactively helped to establish. It has a respectable record in closed-wheel competition with 24 world titles (most recently in 2017) and 36 victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ferrari President John Elkann commented: “In over 70 years of racing, on tracks all over the world, we led our closed-wheel cars to victory by exploring cutting-edge technological solutions: innovations that arise from the track and make every road car produced in Maranello extraordinary.”

“With the new Le Mans Hypercar programme, Ferrari once again asserts its sporting commitment and determination to be a protagonist in the major global motorsport events.”

LMH CATEGORY

The first cars built to the 2021 Le Mans Hypercar regulations have already broken cover, others are in advanced stages of development, and the first FIA World Endurance Championship race featuring the new breed of cars is approaching fast, reports the official FIA WEC website.

The incoming LMH ruleset represents a major shift in philosophy compared with the LMP1 class it is replacing. It allows for a greater variety both in terms of technical approaches as well as the aesthetics of the cars, at the same time ensuring sporting equality and preventing cost escalation through the concept of performance windows.

Technical Regulations are focused on controlling performance outcome instead of setting design or geometrical restrictions, allowing manufacturers to choose cost-effective solutions as significant expenditures will not bring performance gains.

The autonomy also allows them not only to replicate brand identity and genuine architecture, maintaining the spirit of the brand and remaining relevant to their road car philosophy, but also to express true potential in terms of creativity and innovation. Less rigid aerodynamic constraints established for the cars give them the option to incorporate styling elements to the design.

Similarly to the LMP1 class, both hybrid or non-hybrid power units with transmission to either rear or both axles are allowed.

The principle of performance windows is a new regulatory approach to the top category of the FIA WEC. It has been made possible by the application of a precise and modern methodology for measuring performance parameters, combined with the experience of efficient data acquisition and analysis processes.

Instead of constraining the design process with geometric requirements, the FIA and the ACO are overseeing the outcome. This is possible owing to the concept of performance windows, where the minimum and maximum values were set for areas such as power unit and aerodynamic performance, with each of the cars having to fit into those windows. Power is set at 500kW, while minimum weight at 1030kg.

During the homologation process, the cars are measured in the wind tunnel, the bodywork is scanned, while the engine performance is measured live on track with the use of torque meters. This is to ensure that the cars fit into the performance windows.

The design of the cars is then “frozen” for their homologation cycle (five years for cars developed for the 2021 season), ensuring they will remain unchanged thorough their life span. Exceptions will be considered only on specific occasions, such as reliability issues or proven performance deficits.

As the performance targets are clearly defined, manufacturers can choose the most cost-effective technical solution without the additional burden of ultimate optimization around regulatory constraints.

TAILOR-MADE BOP

In order to ensure sporting equality, the FIA and the ACO rely on the Balance of Performance formula developed jointly by the two parties. The Hypercar BoP has been tailored specifically for the needs of the new category, leaning of the knowledge and experience gained over the years.

Both the FIA and the ACO have a long history of using BoP. The FIA started balancing out cars in GT racing the mid-2000s, and is constantly improving the process. Each year there are over 40 FIA-sanctioned events with BoP in use, varying from the FIA Cross-Country World Cups, through the FIA World Touring Car Cup to GT racing, including GT3 and LMGTE categories. The best practices and learnings were taken into account in developing the Hypercar BoP.

One of the most innovative solutions is the use of torque meters, allowing for better control of powertrain parameters on track. These sensors, resistant to electromagnetic field and heat, are implemented onto the driveshafts of the cars to measure and limit the BoP-allocated power. This recently developed technology is effective in limiting development costs.

This year grandfathered non-hybrid LMP1s are permitted to race alongside LMH cars in the top category, with their performance balanced out. In 2022 the regulations will allow LMDh cars, developed jointly by the ACO and IMSA and sharing some components with the next generation of LMP2 cars, to race in the Hypercar class of the FIA WEC with the LMH machinery.

COST-SAVING MEASURES

As avoiding cost escalation is one of the key targets behind the LMH concept, several other cost-saving measures have been undertaken.

With the 2021 season being the first one in the LMH homologation cycle, testing is supervised. The use of expensive materials and technology is greatly limited. The minimum weight for gearbox is set at 75kg, with the use of magnesium or aluminium casing and bellhousing mandatory.

The suspension is also simplified, with a double-wishbone design compulsory and aids such as active systems and mass dampers forbidden.

There is also a single aero kit permitted, without the distinction for Le Mans and the other races. In order to avoid development costs, the tyres are exclusively supplied by Michelin with different dimensions dedicated to rear- and four-wheel-drive cars. Furthermore, lower power output results in lower power unit development costs.

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