Ever wondered what the differences are between LMP1 and F1? Well we did so we thought we would share our findings with you! Let’s first of all point out that this is an exercise in comparison and not a scientific study, and we will put aside the open / closed wheel layouts…
So first a little history; LMP as a class was first seen at the 1992 24h Le Mans when the ACO was trying to increase the field of Group C cars that the World Sportscar Championship had to offer. During the next 10 years the class was re-named several times. By the start of the 2004 season we saw the birth of LMP1 and LMP2, classes familiar with today’s racegoers.
Various iterations of LMP1 cars have been seen; in 2000 the first diesel engine was seen in a prototype with a Caterpillar engined Lola competing in the LMP900 class and then in 2003 the first closed cockpit came from Bentley.
As for F1, this has been running under FIA sanction since 1950 and has long been seen as the pinnacle of motorsport. The cars, in appearance, remain mainly true to what you would expect a F1 car to look like – a wing at the front and rear and an engine in the middle with the wheels and driver exposed – maybe a simplification but you understand what we mean.
So what are the differences??
Let’s start with the distance covered during a season of racing (not qualifying, testing or practice, just racing!). A typical F1 season will cover some 5600 kms, and the races will have a time limit of 2hrs whereas a season of FIA WEC covers some 13,000 kms with races lasting 6hrs (apart from Le Mans 24hr where some 5400 kms are covered alone!).
Next, how about cost… and remember the race distances here! The top 4 F1 teams, Red Bull, Ferrari etc. will spend in the region of £350M per year for 2 cars. The LMP1 teams of Audi, Toyota, etc. have a budget of around £60M per year for 2 cars.
Ok, so F1 is more expensive and less racing so you must be thinking the LMP1 cars must be slower, less powerful, less advanced than F1. Our table below shows the main specifications for comparison.
Right, you are thinking there must be a catch somewhere? Why are more people not watching the WEC? It must be more expensive to get into the circuits? Well… a ticket to F1 Grand Prix at Silverstone this year will cost £155 for the weekend, general admission only with no grandstand (race length approx. 1hr 31 mins). If you want to go to the WEC at Silverstone, a weekend ticket, which includes roving grandstands, will set you back a whole £40 (race length 6hrs).
OK so I’ll watch it live on tv then; in the UK Sky Sports will cost you £25 per month for F1 coverage, whereas you can watch the entire WEC season online for free.
So there you have a very quick rough comparison between LMP1 and F1. One last stat to leave you with; the closest winning gap in a 6hr WEC race in 2015 was 4.6 seconds!
60 cars will take the start of the 24hrs of Le Mans this June – we know where we’ll be!!!