The World Endurance Championship has already entered the new era, that of the Hypercars, which we will see competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend, but continues to look to the future.
The Automobile Club de l’Ouest, organizer of the Sarthe, has declared that starting from 2025 there will be a new category based on a single-make chassis, jointly developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies and Oreca, has been designed to exploit hydrogen propulsion at starting in 2025. Performance will be put on a par with the Hypercar class.
“With the regulations that we will have, on paper it will be possible to do something like this,” said the president of the ACO, Pierre Fillon. “After that we will have to talk to the constructors. Maybe they will need some time to be able to compete.”
Fillon pointed to Audi’s 2006 Le Mans victory with an R10 TDI LMP1 turbodiesel car as proof that new technologies can be immediately successful. He also revealed that there were 8 houses around the table that discussed the regulation for the hydrogen class.
“We are working with 8 manufacturers and expect to have three already in the first year of the category”, Fillon continued. The manufacturers that will enter the hydrogen class will have to use a specific chassis and an electric powertrain developed by the Franco-Swiss group GreenGT, but will have the freedom to develop fuel cell technology.
Fillon revealed that the COVID pandemic meant that the introduction of the hydrogen class was postponed for a year, and also explained that this caused delays in the joint venture program between ACO and GreenGT to develop a great deal of technology for the class under the banner of the mission H24.
“COVID has created a lot of problems for us and we have lost a year of development with the H24 program,” he said. “We talked with the manufacturers and the supplier and decided to reduce the class.”
FIllon revealed that a second GreenGT test car had only completed 500 kilometers since it was first shown at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
He said that was the plan for the car, based on an LMP3 chassis. That is to take part in the free practice of the last two rounds of the Michelin-sponsored Le Mans Cup for the LMP3 and GT3 cars.
The hope is that the car, which is lighter than its progenitor and has a revised powertrain and cooling, will be ready for the September round of Spa for the ELMS.
Fillon said that if all goes according to plan, the car will start racing by invitation next year. The original test car, the LMPH2G, launched in 2018, will take a demonstration lap before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend. Leading it will be Stéphane Richelmi, one of the three test drivers of the project together with Stoffel Vandoorne and Norman Nato.
TotalEnergies, a fuel supplier for the WEC, is developing what has been described as a fully renewable biofuel for use in the series next year. This will be derived from agricultural waste and the wine industry.
FIA President Jean Todt said: “Endurance racing, by its very nature, has always been an excellent platform for research and development and it is an important milestone for the WEC to move to 100% sustainable fuel.”
“The main objective of the FIA is to implement sustainable energy sources in all its motorsport disciplines, thus paving the way for the reduction of CO2 emissions, perfectly reflecting our racing strategy, on the road.”