If you are confused about all the new WEC regulations and the new teams entering the championship, this post will explain to you what are LMH and LMDh as well as who is going to enter WEC and when.
After the ACO introducing the new Le Mans Hypercar regulations last year, the first 2021 competitors will battle on track for the first time on the first of May, at Spa. You have probably heard a lot recently about big names of the endurance world like Ferrari, Porsche, or Peugeot and you might also be a bit confused about what is happening in endurance: where are the LMP1, why are suddenly so many people launching their endurance programs and… what is a Hypercar? I will try answering these questions today, in this article, in the hope of giving you a clearer view of the bright future the WEC has in perspective.
First of all, the most important question of all: What is a Hypercar? And why did I hear the word LMH and LMDh? The Hypercar category is the new peak category of the WEC. There are two sub-categories in Hypercar, namely LMH or Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh or Le Mans Daytona hybrid which is the IMSA category of the Hypercar revolution.
The main difference between these cars is that for one of them, the LMH, constructors have a free choice in terms of chassis and car body, whereas the LMDh is built on the existing chassis of an LMP2. This makes the production of an LMDh way cheaper than an LMH.
To make the LMH still attractive for manufacturers, as it is more expensive to produce, LMH can run an engine and a hybrid system running up to 785 hp while LMDh is being capped at 680 hp, both type of cars having minimum weights of 1030kg.
Another aspect we should not overlook is the hybrid systems of these cars. There is no obligation for an LMH to run a hybrid system but if you run one, the combined power of the hybrid system should not produce over 585 kilowatts (784 hp). However, the LMPh must run a standardized hybrid system producing an additional 50hp when activated.
To prevent LMH cars not running a hybrid system from being at a disadvantage when running against a hybrid LMH or LMDh, it is now forbidden to use the electric power of the car as it is running under 120 kph or 75 mph in dry conditions and under 140 kph or 85 mph under wet conditions.
To also ensure competitivity from all cars throughout endurance races, a balance of performance (BoP) might be applied if some cars are simply too fast for the others. However, the relevance is BoP is questionable as the best cars could voluntarily lower their performances to make sure they will not get penalized by the balance of performance. This is what you will often hear being called “Sandbagging”.
Hypercar is not even an evolution of LMP1 cars, it is a totally new category with so many new and exciting rules. The purpose of these cars is to allow closer racing throughout races as long as the 24h of Le Mans or Daytona and better accessibility and visibility for manufacturers entering WEC. In the following years, if the new rules are applied like they are aimed to be, we should see very close battles until the very last lap of endurance races, just like we have seen it this year in the dramatic last lap of the 24h of Daytona or at the 12h of Sebring.
Another purpose of Hypercars is to bring back more “Real-looking” race cars in the highest category of WEC. Indeed, as a manufacturer in LMH, you have to build at least 20 copies of your car, some of them could be road versions of the Hypercar if you are willing to. However, the teams are allowed to adapt an already existing car of theirs into a racing model, fitted for the Hypercar regulations like Toyota is doing with their GR super sport concept.
Now that you know what a Hypercar is and what differences there are between an LMH and an LMPh, let’s talk about who’s joining WEC and when. This year, we will not see LMDh cars, as three manufacturers have committed to registering a car in LMDh, but the three of them will only enter in 2023. The LMDh three musketeers are no other than Porsche, Audi, and Acura.
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, two manufacturers have already registered for the 2021 WEC season, namely Toyota, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus. Alpine will also be racing this year in the same category as Toyota and Glickenhaus but in an old model of a privateer LMP1 car, that is still allowed to race this year. It remains unclear if Alpine is going to engage a self-built Hypercar after 2021. However, Peugeot and ByKolles have already started building their own Hypercars, planning to take part in races in 2022. If you’re an F1 fan, you’ll probably be happy to hear that Kevin Magnussen is part of Peugeot’s endurance program for the 2022 season.
Last but not least, Ferrari also announced that they will take part in the 2023 WEC season, aligning an LMH. Charles Leclerc, the Monegasque prodigy even expressed his envy to take part in Ferrari’s endurance program, dreaming to race at the 24h of Le Mans.
The future of WEC and Le Mans is definitely brighter than it has ever been. Just imagine the 2023 starting grid of Le Mans that will include Porsche Audi and Ferrari and might also include Acura, Peugeot, Alpine, Glickenhaus, Toyota, and ByKolles, battling in the same category for 24h to seize the ultimate endurance title. After a few years of struggle especially after Volkswagen’s Dieselgate, forcing Porsche and Audi to give an end to their respective endurance programs, and three years of racing with a single manufacturer in LMP1 being Toyota, we can now finally dream again of breathtaking battles in the peak category of endurance.
The first race of the season will take place at Spa, in two weeks. Glickenhaus recently officialized that they will not take part in Spa’s event, even after the WEC calendar was reshuffled. They are, however, registered for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.