The Automobile Club de l'Ouest, the organizing body of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, introduced future regulations Thursday that will transform the LMP1 class from 2010 onward. The ACO will mandate starting in 2010 that cars in the top prototype class move to closed-top designs that will enable manufacturers to build prototypes that more closely mirror their showroom cars.
The move harkens back to the days of historic closed-top prototypes from Porsche, Jaguar, Ford and countless others that captured the imaginations of sports car fans around the world. The new regulations will go into effect beginning in 2010 and keep existing P1 cars (both open- and closed-top) eligible up to 2011. The prototype evolution also calls for wider windscreens than the current rules and a specified front that features a manufacturer badge and brand.
The ACO considers LMP1 to be a dream class of cars and hopes creating cars that represent a particular manufacturer will aid spectators in recognizing one marque from another and allow a greater marketing platform for the manufacturers through the world's greatest auto race.
"Today's announcement by the ACO reinforces and advances the strengths of the American Le Mans Series' platform," said Scott Atherton, Series President and CEO. "We have said many times that the relevance of our cars and their technology give us a position within motorsports that no other series can match. It is because spectators and the rest of the general public know they can purchase the same production-based car and technology that competes in the American Le Mans Series or the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"Today's announcement brings the same recognition into the top Le Mans Prototype class and will now allow our manufacturers to display even more of their leading-edge innovations and designs to our affluent consumer base," he added. "It is another significant advancement in the overall value and ROI represented by the American Le Mans Series."
The ACO also desires to reduce the costs of cars in the GT2 class to make them more in line with the corresponding road vehicle. The use of a factory engine and the reduction of on-board electronics, which should reduce engineering costs, will help accomplish the ACO's goal.
"We also applaud the ACO's move to reduce the costs of cars in the GT2 class, which will bring an even greater level of relevance between the race cars and their showroom counterparts," Atherton said. "By eliminating the costs associated with certain technologies in the on-track cars, the GT2 class will continue to thrive and be an extremely viable choice for teams – and manufacturers - in the American Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans."
In addition, Le Mans organizers also revealed that rules for bio fuels will be written into the regulations for 2008. The hope is that it will open the door to further alternative fuels including hydrogen and hybrid technology.
Audi made history in 2006 by becoming the first manufacturer to use diesel power to first win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and later at Le Mans. This year Audi is facing a challenge from Peugeot with a closed-top factory diesel prototype.
News used with permission from the American LeMans Series.
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