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LOGGERHEADS But Vasselon disagrees with Audi’s engineers, and claims the four-wheel drive system of the R18 is not better than the rear-drive system of the TS030. ‘I heard Dr Ulrich saying that a four-wheel-drive car is inherently better, but I would not agree with that as the front motor cannot be used below 120km/h. This negates the main benefit of a four-wheel-drive car, and that benefit is traction. In principle, it’s possible for us to go back to the front motor but I do not think we will.’ The four-wheel-drive

layout also leaves a number of unanswered questions about the tyres. It would be logical to assume that the fronts would wear faster than on a rear-drive- only car, but this has not yet been tried or tested. ‘We looked at the front tyres and we assume that tyre life will be shorter than on the non-hybrid car, but not everything has been calculated yet. Both Ultra (2WD) and Quattro (4WD) run the same tyres all round. To be honest, we do not really know what the results will be yet,’ admits Reinke. Lola too has investigated

the use of KERS on its LMP1s and has changed the design to accommodate it. ‘We have allowed on our designs a volume between the gearbox and the back of the engine where you can install a flywheel KERS system off the shelf,’ reveals Sole. ‘Having this volume has meant


Le Mans Prototypes are unique in that they are purpose-built racecars that pitch customer teams against full works operations. This has a significant impact on the design of the cars. Whilst there are those designed purely as works cars – Toyota, Lola and Dome – there are also those that are purely for customer teams, notably Lola and ORECA. But there is also a sort of half-way house for cars that are not quite either, such as the Pescarolo and HPD. ‘We are designing a car for

customers to buy and win Le Mans with and that restricts what we can do to an extent,’

admits Lola’s Julian Sole. ‘If you spend Audi or Toyota’s budget on R and D, you cannot recoup that when you are selling cars, so it does not make sense to spend that much. We have to think about R and D from a business point of view, so our budget is restricted in terms of how many cars we can sell and what our customers can afford. ‘In any customer car, or strict,

budget-restricted formula, you have to focus on the areas that give the biggest gains. Working out where your money is better spent is critical.’ Nowhere is this more critical than in the LMP2 category,

which is reserved for customer teams only and cost capped. Cars are allowed just one body kit for the season and one update for a low drag Le Mans package, costing no more than €10,000. How this figure is enforced remains to be seen. If a car wins Le Mans with the kit, it then follows that demand for the car and the associated aero kit will increase, thereby reducing the cost of the kit. Also with Lola, HPD/ORECA

and Pescarolo running identical chassis in both LMP1 and LMP2, what is to stop the LMP1 development programme influencing that of the LMP2?

‘Some lessons and trends can be applied to both,’ says Sole, ‘but because of the tyres and the [different] power levels you are looking at, you simply have different targets. LMP2 is a cost-capped class, so your base car has to cover all track types, from a high-speed track like Le Mans to the twisty street circuits of the ALMS. The only thing in LMP2 you can change race to race is to remove the two front dive planes, so within those parts you need a very wide range. With LMP1 you can have a much bigger kit of parts, so that’s the real difference between LMP1 and LMP2.’

July 2012 • 13

The front wing shape of the Lola (pictured) and the Pescarolo 01 follow the same convex trend, and it seems likely others will follow

we have had to make some other structural changes. The suspension pick-ups have moved as a result, not for geometry reasons but for structural reasons around that volume. It then was a case of looking at how you put those loadings into the bellhousing and into the main case. We’ve worked closely with Flybrid to make sure it could all go together comparatively easily.’ Le Mans Prototypes are

certain to have a hybrid future. With gains in both fuel consumption and power output,

it will not be long before the weight penalty of the systems is overcome. When that happens, hybrids will have a clear advantage. Right now, looking at Audi, which uses an identical chassis on its hybrid and pure ICE R18 (see p80), it has a slightly more aerodynamically efficient ICE car and a slightly more powerful hybrid. The net result is both are fairly evenly matched. Perhaps that is why few teams have taken up the option? ‘At the moment nobody has signed up to take advantage of

the capability our cars have to run as hybrids,’ explains Sole, ‘but it’s there ready for them. To install KERS is an expensive thing to do and if your chassis is not ready for it then you have an even greater expense. Our customers at least have a chassis that is ready for it, which saves expense further down the line.’ Most of the cars will receive

heavy updates ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours and next month we will look at how those designs changed for the race, and how well those changes worked.

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