The Hypercar category, a joint project of the FIA and the ACO, which in 2018 was envisioned as the new top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship, made its debut in 2021, but it wasn't until this year that this ruleset really came of age, attracting a slew of manufacturers. In 2018 the Hypercar category was envisioned as the new top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is the premier endurance racing series in the world, and its 11th season features an impressive number of full-season Hypercar entries from seven different manufacturers. This highlights the series' ongoing expansion and demonstrates that the Hypercar technical platform is appealing to manufacturers.
SHIFT IN REGULATORY APPROACH
So, what exactly is it about the Hypercar class that makes it so popular? As compared to the LMP1 class that it superseded, the new ruleset, which allows for the construction of vehicles that adhere to both the LMH and LMDh technical requirements, constitutes a significant philosophical departure. It allows for a much greater variety of technical approaches as well as the aesthetics of the cars, while simultaneously ensuring sporting equality and preventing cost escalation through the concept of performance windows. These benefits can be attributed to the fact that it allows for far greater variety.
As a result of the focus of Technical Regulations on controlling performance outcome rather than setting design or geometrical restrictions, it is possible for manufacturers to select solutions that are both cost-effective and efficient. This is because significant expenditures do not translate to performance gains.
The manufacturers are able to preserve the ethos of the brand and continue to be relevant to their road vehicle philosophy thanks to this autonomy. Also, they are able to exhibit their potential in terms of creativity and innovation. The teams are given the opportunity to add style aspects into their designs thanks to the less stringent aerodynamic limits that have been created for them.
It is permitted to use either hybrid or non-hybrid power units, and the transmission can go to either the rear or both axles. This is analogous to the LMP1 class.
The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) has recently implemented a new regulation strategy known as the notion of performance windows. It has been feasible thanks to the utilisation of accurate contemporary methodologies for measuring performance metrics, which, when paired with the know-how of effective data collecting and analysis procedures, has made this accomplishment conceivable.
The FIA and the ACO are not placing restrictions on the design process by imposing geometric constraints; rather, they are monitoring the outcome. This is made possible thanks to the idea of performance windows, in which minimum and maximum values were established for aspects such as a car's weight, power, and aerodynamic performance, and each vehicle was required to fit within those windows. This made it possible for each vehicle to achieve their optimal level of performance. The minimum weight requirement is 1030 kilogrammes, while the maximum power output is 520 kilowatts.
During the homologation procedure, the vehicles are tested in the wind tunnel, the bodywork is scanned, and the engine performance is measured live on the track using torque sensors. All of these measurements take place simultaneously. This is done so that the automobiles can be guaranteed to fit inside the performance windows.
After then, the design of the vehicles is "frozen" for the duration of its homologation cycle, which ensures that it will not alter at any point throughout their lifespan.
Since the performance goals have been articulated in detail, manufacturers are free to select the technological approach that will yield the best results at the lowest possible cost, relieving them of the additional burden of achieving ultimate optimisation within the confines of regulatory requirements.
TAILOR-MADE BALANCE OF PERFORMANCE
The FIA and the ACO rely on a formula called the Balance of Performance, which is controlled jointly by the two organisations, so that there is equality in the athletic world. The Hypercar Balance of Performance has been adapted expressly to meet the requirements of the newly created category by drawing on the expertise and experience that has been accumulated over the years.
The BoP has a lengthy history of use within the FIA as well as within the ACO. In the middle of the 2000s, the FIA began the process of balancing out the vehicles used in GT racing, and they are continually working to improve it. Around forty different types of competitions, ranging from cross-country to GT racing, are sanctioned by the FIA every year and employ the BoP. In the process of building the Hypercar Balance of Performance (BoP), the best practises and lessons learned were taken into consideration.
The utilisation of torque sensors is one of the most cutting-edge options, as it enables improved management of powertrain parameters while driving on the track. These sensors, which can withstand both electromagnetic fields and heat, are attached to the driveshafts of the vehicles, enabling real-time computation and monitoring of the amount of energy that is allocated to BoP for each stint. This technique is useful in reducing the expenses associated with the development process.
In the process of calculating the BoP for the year 2023, a new technique was implemented. Instead of the lap times, simulations and data from telemetry were given the most weight in the decision-making process. AVL was chosen to be a technical partner so that it could give improved simulation capabilities. This was done so that the approach could be strengthened. The fundamental idea is to judge each Hypercar in comparison to the others using the same methodology, which involves cataloguing all of the quantifiable aspects of each vehicle.
After the 24 Hours of Le Mans, there will be one and only one adjustment to the BoP made using the same strategy for the entirety of the season. Before to that race, there may also be an attempt made to bring the LMH and LMDh platforms into better equilibrium.
ACTIONS TO REDUCE OPERATING COSTS
In light of the fact that one of the primary goals of the Hypercar idea is to prevent an increase in costs, a number of other cost-cutting methods have been included.
To begin, the testing is conducted under supervision. There is a significant reduction in the utilisation of pricey materials and technologies. The gearbox must have a minimum weight of 75 kilogrammes, and its casing and bellhousing must be made of either magnesium or aluminium as required by regulation. In addition to this, a lower power output leads in cheaper costs associated with the creation of power units.
In addition, the suspension has been made more straightforward by making the use of a double-wishbone design mandatory and prohibiting the use of active systems and mass dampers.
There is just one type of aero package that may be used, and this rule does not differentiate between Le Mans and the other races. Michelin is the exclusive provider of the tyres, which helps the company save money on research and development.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) places an emphasis on safety in all of their projects, and its standards for hypercars include several noteworthy safety advancements.
Since vehicles are capable of such high levels of performance, all competitors are required to demonstrate, as part of the homologation process, that their aerodynamics remain stable in a variety of driving attitudes while adhering to the constraints imposed by a table of critical speeds.
The safety criteria for the LMP1 cockpit have been brought up to date. Because of the more upright seating posture, there is less of a chance of spinal injuries occurring in the event of a severe accident. This is the outcome of considerable study carried out after a number of incidents that took place in the real world, in addition to accident simulations that were carried out using the THUMS virtual human body model. In addition to the seat load testing that were already in place, seat belt anchoring load tests were also implemented.
Padding for the legs is now required, and there is a new stress test for the inboard leg protection panel that was recently implemented. The covering of the headrest has been enhanced so that it is able to absorb more of the impact's energy whether it comes from a frontal or side-on direction. Also, the specifications of the fuel tank bladder have been raised to a higher level.