Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus managed a very respectable though not stellar 24 Hours of Le Mans debut. The SCG 007s, its Hypercar-class contenders designed to fight for overall victory, finished four and seven laps behind the race-winning #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid. They also finished behind the lone Alpine, a tweaked LMP1 car that was grandfathered in for this year’s event. The gap between the Alpine and the faster of the two Glickenhaus machines was about 2 minutes and 30 seconds by the end of the race.
None of that is probably what the team hoped for, but the goalposts are different at Le Mans. Finishing the race is an achievement in its own right, especially when you’re building your own cars and you’ve never contested it before. Glickenhaus has attracted a fervent fanbase as the David sticking it to Toyota, the remaining Goliath of Le Mans after every other automaker canceled its factory-backed, top-class program. There’s a lot to root for in SCG and a lot for the team to be proud of.
Boss James Glickenhaus, though — he’s not pleased. On Friday, he took issue with the FIA (which sanctions the World Endurance Championship) and the ACO (which sanctions Le Mans) for not adequately balancing performance between his cars and the Toyotas. From Motorsport.com:
“The fact that they had issues and still finished miles ahead isn’t right,” Glickenhaus told Motorsport.com.
“The balance between us and the Alpine was incredibly good, but Toyota was on a different planet.
“We were we told we would be racing in a BoP category, that everyone was meant to have a fair chance, but what I saw in the race didn’t look like a BoP class.”
This is the first year that Hypercars have run in the WEC or at Le Mans. Balance of performance is a tricky thing to engineer. On one hand, you’ve got to allow teams to reap their deserved rewards for being innovative and finding technical solutions to complex problems; basically, they need to be able to build a better race car than their competitors. But you’ve also got to keep the gaps within reason, while accounting for potentially massive budgetary differences (as is the case between Toyota and SCG) to keep the racing relatively close and exciting.
It takes time, trial and error to work out an effective BoP formula, and Hypercar hasn’t had enough of either yet. Hell, the LMDh class that’s going to be balanced along with it won’t arrive in earnest until 2023, and chances are that’s going to turn everything upside down again.
It’s a razor’s edge that regulators have to walk. But SCG is a privateer, running a rear-wheel-drive car powered by a V8, while their main rival uses a complex all-wheel-drive hybrid system. It’s doing things the old-fashioned way, partially out of financial necessity and maybe — I suspect, anyway — for the glory of letting a V8 loose on the Mulsanne. Let’s be honest: Even with more years of development, it may never pose a threat to Toyota and all of the other constructors that have the resources it doesn’t.
I’m not saying that means Glickenhaus should roll over and accept defeat. Anyone who’s watched so much as 15 minutes of motorsport knows politicking for an edge in the rules comes with the territory. But that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to expect or deserve everyone else be brought down to your level after one underwhelming race, especially when that race is Le Mans with all its variables.
Glickenhaus expanded upon his particular issue — the advantage of AWD over RWD in the top class — further down in the story:
The BoP also needs to reflect the advantage that comes with running a front-axle hybrid system in adverse track conditions, according to Glickenhaus.
The LMH rules preclude a four-wheel-drive car such as the Toyota deploying hybrid power through the front wheels at speeds of less than 120 km/h (75 mph) when dry and 150 km/h (93 mph) when the car is not on slicks.
“A four-wheel-drive car may not have an advantage in the wet, but the track was disastrous in terms of grip for a long time after it stopped raining and everyone was on slicks,” explained Glickenhaus.
“That has to be factored into the BoP: this race showed that there is a huge difference between all-wheel-drive and two-wheel-drive. Period.
The SCG 007 is the only rear-wheel-drive machine in the Hypercar class. Where the Alpine falls within that isn’t entirely relevant, because the Alpine is a holdover that will not exist after next season. If there was another RWD Hypercar that was also equally uncompetitive against Toyota, perhaps there’s an argument to be made here. But there isn’t, so the integrity of the BoP can’t really be proved or disproved. It’s an empty complaint to make.
I’ve spoken to a number of people over the months leading up to Le Mans that have been truly inspired by SCG’s ambition. It’s an admirable pursuit, and one that harkens back to a bygone era of motorsport. But you can’t simultaneously coast on that goodwill while also conducting “approximately two hours of wet-weather” testing and showing up in your first year with an antiquated concept and a fraction of the budget, just to cry foul. It’s not a good look. After throwing barbs at sim racers completely unprovoked and starting Twitter beef with other sports car makers for copying you when you’re both just copying the same archetypes, it might do Glickenhaus some good to leave the talking for the track.