The Le Mans 24hr, probably the most prestigious and majestic motor racing event on the calendar. It’s home to some of the world’s greatest drivers and showcases some of the fastest racing cars pushing extremely high top speeds.
Lately though, it’s also been home to the pioneering of blending racing technology and efficiency. Not only are the engines outright powerful but also greener and more fuel-efficient compared with conventional racing cars, thanks to diesel technology. Since it is an endurance event, fuel economy has always played a significant part in team strategy.
This year’s event will host an all-new, more efficient world-first in motor racing though, as a small Swiss team called Hope Racing will be entering a hybrid powertrain into Le Mans for the first time ever. The car will be driven by previous Le Mans winner (1988) Jan Lammers, as well as Casper Elgaard from Denmark and Steve Zacchia from Switzerland.
Using a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with a KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) developed by Flybrid England, the Hope Racing Oreca chassis will be a truly competitive package during this year’s event. Fuel stops usually hinder how many laps a team can do within the 24 hours, thus also hindering the team’s chances of winning. With help from the KERS, Hope will be able to race for longer in between pit stops.
Hope Racing engineer Benoit Morand spoke about the project in a recent report. He said,
“We wanted to do something different. For a small team like ours, getting funding, getting sponsorship for a normal car is difficult, especially in Switzerland.”
Hope Racing is aiming to sell the idea to other motor racing teams as well, and even to other motor racing forms and eventually into road cars. Managing partner of the team, Jon Hilton, said in a recent report,
“We think the technology we’re trying at Le Mans will end up being the lower cost, mass production solution for small road cars. That’s a segment of the market which has been relatively untapped so far. Most hybrids are quite big, expensive cars – so we see a big opportunity there.”
Hope already has contracts with big companies such as Volvo and Jaguar, and is hoping to move the technology into more industrial and commercial areas with buses and trucks. It will be interesting to see how the technology goes on its debut event.
This year’s Le Mans race will be held this weekend at the usual 13.6km Circuit de la Sarthe road circuit in France.