With just four weeks to go until the 2013 Le Mans 24H race, we take a look at the lap times and performance figures of some of the top class performers over the last few years.
Criticism has been levelled from several quarters at the Balance of Performance (BoP) waivers that are allocated or given to a manufacturer in order to bring the contenders in a class up to a common level of performance. These BoP waivers have been described by one top manufacturer as ‘having no place in professional motorsport’, and this is a very mature and wise opinion to have, as there are other ways of levelling the playing field that are less subjective.
In the past the ACO and FIA regulators have employed a range of measures with which to group cars in a certain class and to ensure a certain level of performance and power output. For instance, the Group C cars of the 1980s are an excellent example of how the manufacturers and the regulators can work together, as this group sought in the late ‘70s to replace the outdated Group 5 and Group 6 race cars. Group C came into existence in 1982 and essentially gave the manufacturers freedom with the chassis and engine, but the engine had to be sourced from an existing production car. The competing cars also had to adhere to a fuel consumption formula which forced teams to develop a race car that would reach the end of the race within the allotted fuel allowance for their class. This allowed manufacturers to develop race cars that resulted in the most exciting decade of racing the public have ever seen, and it did wonders for the sale of road cars produced by those manufacturers.
Today’s racers though have their power output limited through a chocking air intake restrictor which can be increased at the discretion of the regulators, and the aero elements can also be moved upon request by the manufacturers, and at the discretion of the regulators. This subjective approach is dependent on the strength of the team’s presentation to the authorities and this opens the door to inconsistencies. The same false situation exists in the Touring Car world where the winning car must carry a weight ballast in the next race forgetting the fact that the car won the race because it was the fastest on the track that day – I thought that was the whole idea of going racing, not to penalise the fastest car after it has won, and then put it at the back of the pack.
So, looking back at the lap times of the LM P1, LM P2, GTE Pro and GTE Am cars, how have they fared year-on-year? Taking the class winning cars, let’s take a look:
|LM 24H||LM 24H||LM 24H|
|#9 Audi R15 TDI Plus||3.22:282|
|#2 Audi R18 TDI||3.25:289|
|#1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro||3.25:706|
|#42 HPD ARX 01||3.33:742|
|#41 Zytek Nissan||3.43:883|
|#44 HPD ARX 03b Honda||3.41:024|
|#50 Saleen S7R||3.56:469|
|#77 Porsche 997 GT3 RSR||3.59:542|
|#73 Corvette C6 ZR1||4.00:553|
|#51 Ferrari 458 Italia||3.56:953|
|#50 Corvette C6 ZR1||4.06:478|
|#50 Corvette C6 ZR1||3.58:534|
Audi technical comparisons (2010-2013):
|2010 R15||2011 R18||2012 R18||2013 R18|
|Details/Car||TDI Plus||TDI||e-tron quattro||e-tron quattro|
|Engine||90º V10||120º V6||120º V6||120º V6|
|Capacity||5,500 cc||3,700 cc||3,700 cc||3,700 cc|
|Turbocharger||2x Garrett||1x Garrett||1x Garrett||1x Garrett|
|Turbo pressure||2.59 bar||3.0 bar||2.8 bar||2.8 bar|
|Air intakes (mm)||2x 37.5||1x 47.5||1x 45.8||1x 45.1|
|Power (more than)||440 kW||397 kW||375 kW||360 kW|
|Weight||930 kg||900 kg||900 kg||915 kg|
(Source: Audi Motorsport Press)
Porsche 911 (Type 997 & 991) technical comparisons (2010-2013):
|2010 997||2011 997||2012 997||2013 991|
|Details/Car||GT3 RSR||GT3 RSR||GT3 RSR*||RSR**|
|Engine||6-cyl boxer||6-cyl boxer||6-cyl boxer||6-cyl boxer|
|Capacity||3,795 cc||3,996 cc||3,996 cc||3,996 cc|
|Air intakes (mm)||2x 29.5||2x 28.6||2x 28.6||2x 29.3|
|Power (around)||331 kW||335 kW||338 kW||338 kW|
|Weight||1,245 kg||1,245 kg||1,245 kg||1,245 kg|
*2012 997 GT3 RSR was 48 mm wider than its predecessor.
**2013 991 RSR is 100 mm longer than its predecessor.
(Source: Porsche Motorsport Press)
In some ways it is very difficult to make a comment on the comparative lap times of the Audi LM P1 class winners because the cars are so different from one another, but it can be seen that despite the increasingly restrictive regulations, the times for 2011 and 2012 are very similar. Worth noting though for 2013 is the fact that power is down yet again and the cars’ weight is up, but with some clever aero upgrades, the times this year are likely to be very similar once again.
The LM P2 class is pretty much a lost cause at the moment, because the whole class is cost capped and so no development can really take place. Besides, of the 22 class competitors, 15 of the teams run a 4.5-litre V8 Nissan engine (there are only five different engines in the whole class) and seven of the teams have the same chassis (Oreca). The cars all look the same as a result and are differentiated only by their sponsors’ logos.
Some say that the setup in the GTE Pro and Am classes is a healthy one in that the Am class is always assured of having adequate spares and expertise available with which to run a car in that class, as the technology is handed down from the previous year’s Pro class and is therefore at most a year old. While this might be true, I am not convinced by this view because unless the Pro class is constantly attracting new entrants, the Am class won’t be fed by a healthy crop of ‘new’ 12-month old technology from last year’s competitors. It is therefore crucial for the survival of the sport that the authorities are constantly attracting manufacturing teams into the Pro class, and a set of regulations needs to be written that ensures new blood comes into the top GTE class for the whole WEC season, and not just for Le Mans.