There is only one series on earth where the largest car manufactures do battle with one another, and that is WEC. Sure F1 has brands like Ferrari, Mercedes, and Renault, but the big two only do battle in the realm of endurance. I am, of course, talking about Toyota and the VW group, who each have teams in the top category of the WEC, LMP1HY. That and it’s also different than F1 due to the freedom that the teams have in choosing how they make and deliver power. I’ll fill you in after the jump for the rest of the picture.
You see, the major factor in LMP1 construction is the mandates on closed cockpits and a shark fin to try to keep the cars from flipping if they end up sideways. Combine that with a some of the best aero in the world, and all manner of engines, and you have cars that look similar, but are actually more different then you would ever think.
For instance, lets look at the Toyota Gazoo Racing TS040 Hybrid. That currently has a high revving V8, mated to two electric motors on the front and rear axles, which both collect and deploy energy through a super capacitor. Fucking cool right? This is the car’s 4th consecutive season, again, unlike F1, where a car is usually only used for a single season. These WEC cars are rolling prototypes and labs for the future, if they started from scratch each year any benefit the companies would get would be null. Oh, and did I mention that this TS040 is a championship winning car? It dominated the 2014 season, with both cars taking the top two spots for the season.
They were, however, denied the win at LeMans by the Audi Team Joest, and their R18 ETron Quattro. Only through rock solid reliability, and the Audi Sport nature of perfection did they defend the 2014 Le Mans race. The Audi method of things is probably the most radical in terms of how different it is. Now, their diesel division might be in a tad trouble, but the R18’s Turbo V6 Diesel Hybrid has enough power and energy to run fast, hard, and mostly silent. That’s right, one of the most powerful race cars of all time races along the track like a ghost. A vague whisper of a car, with you hearing most of the air that is displaced rather than the car itself. This program has pushed Audi’s sportscar and diesel technology well into the future.
And joining in the VW group assault, there is the winningest team in the history of the 24 Hours of LeMans, Porsche Motorsport, who this last year defeated the mighty Audi’s, and showed why they are the all time LeMans greats. This in a car with two guest drivers no less. F1 driver Nico Hulkenburg and Earl Bamber, who races in the TUSC series, teamed up for Porsche along iwth regular LMP1 driver, Nick Tandy. In their number 19 Porsche 919, they beat all comers to take the win. The 919 is a petrol hybrid like the Toyota, but it has a V4 which is turbocharged andmated to an 8MJ class hybrid system.
Now, you must be asking me, “But Patrick, I thought F1 was the pinnacle of racing technology” and you would be right in assuming that, except that when it really comes down to it, endurance racing has given us pretty much every advancement we have had in cars in the last hundred years. Fuel injection, ABS, disc brakes, even rear view mirrors are courtesy of Le Mans. Toyota hybrids aren’t usually sexy talk, but look at the TS040! That will influence battery development, power delivery, and maybe ever new hybrid sports cars. And for Porsche, just look at the Mission E concept they just announced. That tech is coming from racing in a big way. And of course, the diesel push from Audi has been strong since they started racing with the fuel in the early 2000’s. It’s lead to some amazing gains in power.
The WEC racing that we have today will influence your next road car, whether it be a hybrid, a sports car, or some mix of the two. WEC is the rolling test lab that has been going on for generations, through the R&D battle of endurance racing. It’s almost a bonus that the racing is as good as it is. And if you want to get in on this test lab, the next event is the home race for Toyota. The WEC treks to the Fuji International Circuit in Japan. It all starts on the 11th of October, and I hope you can catch it.
WEC is the Battle of the Future, Today.