The FIA’s 2020 Hypercar Class, bringing homologation prototypes back to Le Mans, just got a new set of changes. The main focus is that everyone is already trying to fight what killed the series last time: costs and builds getting out of control.
The changes come in the form of a prospectus sent out to manufacturers involved (Toyota, McLaren, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Ford, and recently BMW), as Motorsport.com reports. The big takeaway is that the teams’ proposed budgets have already been cut, from a maximum allowed 25-30 million euros down to a cap at 20.
What I find interesting is that there is already a good deal of minutiae involved in these cars, which will be prototyp-style builds that have to follow road car designs. Exactly how that will play out isn’t totally solid yet. We could be looking at a modified Ferrari prototype with a 488 face grafted onto it, or we could be looking at Ferrari selling a handful of absolute pure prototype for street use and thus homologating its design for the track. The recent crop of road-going hypercars from Mercedes, Aston, and Toyota make the latter seem plausible, if still surprising.
Anyway, look at how fine these details are getting, per Motorsport.com:
The new rules are based on the principle of setting performance targets for each area of the car that cannot be exceeded: there will, for example, be maximum downforce and minimum drag numbers prescribed in the rules.
By making these more easily obtainable, the FIA and the ACO believe that the cost of entry can be reduced.
One of the key tenets of the hypercar rules on their announcement in June was the requirement of manufacturers to make their front-axle hybrid systems available to other competitors at what was described as reasonable cost.
A €2m lease figure for a two-car team has now been laid down.
I hate to say that this worries me greatly, particularly another line included by Motorsport.com:
They have consistently stressed that there will be nothing to prevent manufacturers from spending more, but the strict prescriptions of the regulations will prevent them from gaining an advantage by doing so.
This sounds like rather than people getting away with making big, cheap changes to speed, they’ll have to look for performance gains in tiny, incremental (and extremely time-intensive and expensive) cheats, like what we see in F1. But going fully free with the regulations is what killed Can Am back in the 1970s and sort of what killed GT1 back in the 1990s. Too much freedom means one team gets everyone else into an arms race and it all explodes.