Category Archives: Le Mans News

Peugeot Unveils Its 9X8 Hypercar

The rumours were true, Peugeot Sport has not just opted to join the FIA World Endurance Championship with a standard Le mans Hypercar, it’s gone radical too!

The brand new hybrid, twin-turbo V6-powered 9X8, launched today, is set to stun fans around the world. It features plenty of nods and styling cues to the Peugeot brand, and a radical aerodynamic design that features no rear wing and a rear-diffuser capable of producing the majority of the car’s downforce.

“The new Le Mans Hypercar regulations were drawn up to level out the importance of conventional performance-boosting systems,” explains Olivier Jansonnie, Peugeot Sport’s WEC Programme Technical Director.

“Designing the 9X8 has been a passionate experience because we had the freedom to invent, innovate and explore off-the-wall ways to optimise the car’s performance, and more especially its aerodynamics. The regulations stipulate that only one adjustable aerodynamic device is permitted, without specifying the rear wing. Our calculation work and simulations revealed that high performance was effectively possible without one.”

“The absence of a rear wing on the Peugeot 9X8 is a major innovative step,” adds Stellantis Motorsport Director Jean-Marc Finot. “We have achieved a degree of aerodynamic efficiency that allows us to do away with this feature. Don’t ask how, though! We have every intention of keeping that a secret as long as we possibly can!”

The drivers all appear to approve. Travel Destinations understands that the entire roster has played a part in helping develop both the simulator and the cockpit. Work has been ongoing for months, with drivers and members of the design team interacting and working hard in the build up to the testing phase.

“The 9X8’s lines are very different to those that have been unveiled or hinted at in recent months. It will be a historic moment if we succeed in winning with this car because nothing in this style has ever been attempted before,” said Mikkel Jensen.

Loic Duval added: “There are cars that you look at and say they’re nice from the three-quarters front view, say, or from the side, from the front or from the back. The 9X8 looks terrific from every angle!”

As for the car’s powertrain, the engine has been tested on the dyno, and TotalEnergies is understood to be in the thick of the planning stage surrounding the car’s batter. Parts for the car are already being manufactured and stress-tested too, with the car still on track to begin testing in December.

What does the 9X8 monikor refer too?  ‘9’ is a nod to Peugeot’s previous topflight sportscars, ‘X’ refers to its all-wheel-drive technology and hybrid powertrain and ‘8’, the suffixed used for all of Peugeot’s current models.

The theme of brand references and nods to the past can be found across the car. The 9X8’s front and rear lights take the form of ‘three claw-like strokes’, linked to Peugeot trademarks, while the brand’s new logo features in backlit form at the front and on the sides of the car. The colour scheme too, ‘Selenium Grey’ and contrasting ‘Kryptonite’ acid green/yellow mirrors the colours selected for the new 508 and 508 SW road cars.

“Since the 9X8 is a Peugeot, the original sketch that steered our work portrayed a big cat ready to pounce, a stance which we have suggested by the slightly forward-tilting cockpit”, said Design Director Mattias Hossann. “The overall lines of the Peugeot 9X8 express the brand’s styling cues, while its sleek, racy, elegant forms inspire emotion and dynamism.”

The Peugeot is set to make its race debut during the 2022 season, though Peugeot hasn’t confirmed to the full season with its pair of 9X8s just yet. Travel Destinations understands that the leaders of this effort and keen to ensure the car is fully ready before it takes on Toyota and Glickenhaus for the first time. Whether or not it will be seen at Sebring, Spa and Le Mans early in the year remains to be seen.

What is clear is that Peugeot still sees value in sportscar racing and Le Mans, and is incredibly excited to return to the front-end at Le Mans very soon.

“There’s more to Peugeot’s involvement in endurance racing than the sporting aspect,” said Peugeot CEO Linda Jackson. “Endurance racing is a form of motorsport that provides us with an extreme laboratory, which explains why our association with Le Mans is so strong. More significant perhaps than the results we obtain on the race track are the opportunities it provides to prove our technology and the fruit of our research work in a race that throws extreme conditions at you for 24 hours.

“Le Mans gives us a competitive environment to validate the hybrid systems and technologies we are currently developing to reduce the fuel consumption – and therefore CO2 emissions – of our road cars. The teams at Peugeot Sport are proud when they see their research carried over to our production models. For our customers, Le Mans is a laboratory that testifies to the quality of our cars.”

Stephen Kilbey

If you want to be trackside at Le Mans next year call us on 01707 329 988 today and book your space. Camping spaces, hotels and certain ticket types are already limited for 2022.

Images courtesy of Peugeot Sport

Hydrogen Is Coming… Part 2

This is the second part of Travel Destinations’ deep dive into hydrogen technology at the Le Mans 24 Hours and the ongoing Mission H24 project. If you missed Part 1 you can read it by clicking HERE.

Looking beyond the immediate future of the H24 project, 2024 and the implementation of the new hydrogen class in ACO racing is looming.

Working out how this will all shake out is perhaps a more complex task than understanding the fuel cell technology itself. How will the cars look? What performance level will they achieve? Which manufacturers will sign up? These are just some of the questions that will remain unanswered for a while yet.

The first domino

Manufacturer confidence will be a huge and ultimately decisive factor in the formation of this (and any) new category. As a project, Mission H24 is taking real, tangible, strides on a regular basis, but is the progress fast enough to convince manufacturers that race-winning pace at the Le Mans 24 Hours is achievable for a hydrogen prototype by 2024?

The targets set by the ACO and all its project stakeholders are incredibly ambitious, as noted in Part 1. This self-imposed pressure to deliver could result in stratospheric progress, or lead to delays and U-turns that may make manufacturers cautious and risk-averse when it comes to making the final decision on green-lighting a programme.

For now there appears to be an appetite for hydrogen-powered prototypes to compete at Le Mans, among a cabal of OEMs. Travel Destinations understands that eight marques are currently involved in the technical working group and that of those, at least one is relatively close to confirming a programme.

Is just one enough to make this a viable formula? That’s a tough question to answer.

What is undeniable though, is that a manufacturer running with hydrogen power up against Le Mans Hypercars and LMDh entries would steal lots of headlines.

By 2024 Toyota, Audi, Porsche, Peugeot, Ferrari and potentially Acura will all be present at Le Mans and gunning for the overall win, and that’s without any more manufacturers signing up to LMDh or Hypercar. Therefore, there will be multiple factories that don’t win or make the podium, and therefore miss out on crucial coverage.

Anyone racing with a Hydrogen Prototype in 2024 will generate a lot of noise, simply because of the technology being showcased. A real-world example of this is the Nissan Deltawing that ran at Le Mans in 2012, outside of the regulations in a class of its own.

The promise of huge amounts of publicity will surely have a real appeal to some of the decision-makers from OEMs.

It’s all about the stack

There was an interesting reaction to the news that the spec chassis for the 2024 hydrogen formula is being created in partnership with two major companies: ORECA and Red Bull Advanced Technologies. Many fans and keen observers took this as a sign that the Hydrogen category will be ‘spec’, like Formula E was when it first launched and expressed disappointment.

However, once you dig deeper, it’s clear that this isn’t the case. The decision to get two extremely capable organisations, with a reputation of producing high quality chassis, involved in this initiative, is a smart move. It gives the entire project credibility.

As for the cars being ‘spec’, while it’s not strictly true, the decision to make some elements spec has been made for a reason. While certain aspects of the cars, like the chassis, gearbox and battery will be controlled, this will allow more resources to be placed in the area that matters most, the hydrogen stack, which can be freely developed by each manufacturer.

What are hydrogen stacks, you ask? They make up the fuel cell, in which dihydrogen and oxygen atoms combine to form the water molecules that the car will omit. The reaction within the cell produces heat and electricity that powers the car’s motor.

An industry source close to the Hydrogen movement explained to Travel Destinations that the manufacturers will have freedom to develop their own fuel cell. Green GT meanwhile, will provide the electric engine, the batteries and the gearbox.

The heart of the car is the fuel cell and manufacturers can develop their own. And that is the area that needs the most development so it makes sense. The ACO clearly wants the costs to be kept under control, by forcing OEMs to focus on the new technology, and negate the need to spend huge amounts on aero, the gearbox, the chassis.

Beyond Le Mans

Travel Destinations understands that the final timing for the fielding of the Hydrogen category at the Le Mans 24 Hours will be made imminently, ACO President Pierre Fillon telling the Editor of dailysportscar.com, Graham Goodwin that  “we will make a decision at the end of June about timing.”

The 2024 timeline is still on the table but the longer-than-expected impacts of COVID have potentially taken their toll.

Either way the proposal is that in year-one a fuel cell car would race likely at Le Mans only, with other FIA WEC races only set to be added the following season.

It seems clear that from the eight manufacturers around the table defining the regulations likely just one will emerge to pick up the baton of a challenging timeframe. How far the hydrogen class progresses beyond that will depend on two things: how many manufacturers sign up and how the filling technology from TotalEnergies’ side progresses.

As mentioned in the first part of this feature, TotalEnergies has developed a portable filling station which it is using at circuits around Europe with the Mission H24 project. However, the station needs to become more mobile therefore more environmentally friendly before it is a sustainable option for a grid of cars racing around the world.

If it turns into smash hit, then there is no reason why these cars won’t be seen beyond the races at Le Mans. Manufacturer commitment is needed before this becomes anything more than a Le Mans-only proposition.

And as Pierre Fillon himself has commented, the technological challenge is enormous: “at this time, I think in the world there is only maybe three brands able to build a powerful and high performance Hydrogen car.”

To have such a cutting-edge car competing at Le Mans top class pace would be a headline generator.

We hope to hear more very soon.

Stephen Kilbey

Do you want to be trackside at Le Mans in 2022 or 2023 for the 24 Hours? Call our offices today on 01707 329 988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a booking.

Images: TotalEnergies, NISSAN, ACO & Hyundai

Hydrogen Is Coming… Part 1

The automotive sector is undergoing major change. With manufacturers around the world scrambling to find more sustainable solutions for motoring and spending billions on R&D, it’s becoming clear that the cars we drive in a decade or two’s time will be radically different to the ICU-based machines we’ve been using since the inception of the mass market motor car in the early 20th century.

At present, the talk is electric, electric, electric, with most major brands committed to replacing part of, or all of, their entire ranges with electric-or part-electric models. But behind the scenes, Hydrogen fuel cell power is another movement and while it is still in arguably in its infancy, the technology behind it is progressing apace.

Motorsport wise, hydrogen’s presence has been rather small thus far, but sportscar racing is on the cusp of adopting it and projecting it to a mass audience. If everything goes to plan, before we know it, hydrogen powered cars will be running up front at Le Mans. The ACO believes that from 2024 onwards the technology will be mature enough for major OEMs to use endurance racing as a test bed and platform to market the new technology to consumers and pit it up against hybrid-powered Le Mans Hypercars and LMDh entries.

With such significant change incoming, Travel Destinations has been speaking to numerous people in the industry, most notably, Romain Aubry, the technical manager of the H24 Hydrogen project at TotalEnergies (formerly Total Motorsport), to gain insight.

So to help you get ahead of the curve, we’ll take a look at the Mission H24 project and its role in moving hydrogen technology forward in motorsport. Then in the second part of this feature we’ll delve into the 2024 regulations, which manufacturers are likely to feature and how everything will work.

On a mission

So, Mission H24. What is it, and why should you care? Mission H24 is an ACO-backed project (in partnership with GreenGT, TotalEnergies, Michelin and Adess) that for the past few years has focused on moving hydrogen-powered prototypes from being a concept, to a reality ahead of the new ruleset making its debut. It’s hugely important, the successes of the Adess LMP3-based H24 hydrogen prototype that has been developed and tested extensively in recent years will go a long way in proving that the technology is viable.

Few have seen the H24 car run on-track to this point. Much of its mileage until now has been behind closed doors or in practice sessions at low-key European Le Mans Series events. However, we are on the precipice of finally seeing H24 in a competitive environment, in what promises to be a major milestone for the programme and the technology. TotalEnergies has revealed to Travel Destinations that it will compete for the first time in the Le Mans Cup at Monza next month and from then on in the remaining rounds on the calendar. The car was due to compete in the Le Mans Cup race at Paul Ricard this weekend, but a decision was made on short notice to go testing instead.

You may think: ‘how on earth will hydrogen powered prototypes go from a Le Mans Cup (LMP3/GT3) level of pace to fighting for wins in the FIA WEC in just three years?’ It’s a valid question. There is no denying that the target of having major OEMs fight for overall Le Mans wins by 2024 is incredibly ambitious, but the technology is moving fast.

The development curve of the H24 prototype has been on a steep, upward trajectory since it first lapped Spa-Francorchamps back in 2019 (below). In just a couple of years it’s gone from struggling to coast around Spa to producing respectable, competitive lap times. And the only way is up from here, who knows what the next two years will bring?

The target this year is to be able to run at the same pace as the GT cars at the back of the field in the Le Mans Cup. At Portimao in 2019 the first generation prototype was a few seconds off, now the expectation is be mixing in with the GT3 entries.

Lighter, better, faster, cooler

There are three major obstacles for H24 to overcome before the performance levels hit the ultimate target of front-running pace in an FIA WEC race: weight, cooling and range.

The H24 car is a lot heavier than the other prototypes that race in ACO-sanctioned series each year, because it houses weighty electric motors, a battery, fuel cell and hydrogen tank.

Extensive developmental work has already been done to combat this. The car that will be seen by the public in the Le Mans Cup this year is the second second-generation H24 prototype. It’s radically different aerodynamically to the original chassis that was first seen back in 2018, and crucially, 150kg lighter, making the performance targets appear more achievable. This has been achieved by utilising a new battery that stores more energy and produces more power, reducing the number of motors from four to two and installing a more compact gearbox. Yes, it’s still heavier than an average GT3 car, but the progress is undeniable.

As for cooling, look no further than the huge air-box over the cockpit, it’s needed to ensure the temperature stays manageable when it’s pushed to the limits. The heat created by the process of electrolysis that occurs in hydrogen fuel cell devices, that generates the electricity to power the battery, (and the car) is significant. It’s why the original LMPH2G featured a huge front grill that effectively acted as an enormous oxygen vacuum cleaner.

Then there’s range. Range anxiety is a phrase used all too often when discussing modern EVs. Put simply: can the car get from A to B without having to stop for a lengthy battery charge? While the H24 prototype doesn’t need a lengthy recharge, it still has range challenges of its own. The crux of the problem is whether or not the car run at the desired performance level long enough in racing conditions to match the stint lengths of its petrol-powered counterparts, and thus compete over the course of a full race? (You can see how this challenge translates to directly to lengthy drives in an everyday setting…)

“An objective is to do 10 laps at Le Mans between stops,” said Aubry. “And it is feasible, the manufacturers feel it’s reachable.”

Once the car is out of gas stored from its initial fill-up it needs to be re-filled in a similar way to a car with a combustion engine. And this is perhaps where the benefits of hydrogen power over EVs is most clear, since the tank can be filled in just a few minutes. And lest we forget that the car will only omit water out of its exhaust(s), and the hydrogen used will – theoretically – be produced in industrial quantities using a greener process than the process used to manufacture the lithium batteries used in EVs in the future.

Now, this writer will admit that the last part is the base of a hugely complex aspect to sustainability in mobility, and one that really warrants a deep-dive of its own. So for the purposes of this piece, we will leave that aside and focus on the racing. The solution is clear, if the range of a hydrogen prototype is long enough that it can outlast a petrol/hybrid-powered challenger, then the additional minutes needed in the pits at the end of each stint can be balanced over a long race because fewer stops will be needed.

Fill me up

This piece could not be written without mentioning the TOTAL filling station that fills the Mission H24 prototype. It’s a colossally important piece to this puzzle and deserves your attention. It’s a bespoke portable station that has been developed by TotalEnergies, and it works! It may not look flashy, but its significance cannot be overstated. The container that TotalEnergies now takes trackside solves the underlying issues surrounding infrastructure at circuits. Hypothetically, without the need for major investment in permanent purpose-built hydrogen filling stations at each track, hydrogen is viable and has a future in this sport.

“We are working with the ACO about what infrastructure could be needed if at Le Mans we have 6-10 cars in a few years time all powered by hydrogen,” Aubry said.

“What will the paddock look like is being discussed. The objective is not to have a permanent station at each track, it’s to develop something that is as mobile as possible, because it’s hard to get circuits to invest at this stage. We want something more mobile than we have today. The technology will evolve and have a reduced footprint.”

Up close it’s also a proof of concept for the future of filling stations in consumer motoring. Hypothetically, a regular petrol station could be converted (or part-converted) to accommodate hydrogen in the future if it becomes the dominant technology used to power consumer cars using some of the technology within TotalEnergies’s station.

How likely a future scenario where every petrol station slowly evolves into a hydrogen station is unclear, as the road-map to a more sustainable future for the automotive industry is inherently political. TotalEnergies believes in its invention though, and expects that hydrogen is still on track to find a place in society.

“We see passenger cars as moving to electricity,” Aubry stated. “That’s a political decision in Europe, we think because the technology is more mature. But hydrogen should appear in heavy mobility so buses, trains, trucks in a decade or a little more. For aviation, that could be an option too.

“It’s going to be an interesting few years ahead of us, that’s for sure.”

Stephen Kilbey

Do you want to be trackside at Le Mans in 2022 or 2023 for the 24 Hours? Call our offices today on 01707 329 988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a booking.

Images: Green GT & Mission H24

Exclusive Discount On Signed Copies Of Tom Kristensen’s New Memoir

Travel Destinations customers have been given the chance to buy signed copies of Tom Kristensen’s brand new memoir ‘Mr Le Mans’ at a reduced price, courtesy of our friends at Evro Publishing.

Mr Le Mans is a personal reflection on the astonishing career of Danish racing driver Tom Kristensen, who has a record nine overall Le Mans 24 Hours victories to his name. It’s a 432-page hardback packed with personal anecdotes and photographs from Tom (and Dan Pilipsen), in amongst a wider narrative written by Nils Finderup, Charles Bradley and Gary Watkins.

In addition to the detailed sections on his successes in sportscar racing with Porsche, Audi and Bentley, Tom Kristensen’s early years in karting and single seaters, DTM career and time spent testing in Formula 1 are all covered. Full of emotion and fascinating tales from inside and outside the cockpit, this simply a must-read for anyone interested in sportscar racing.

Signed copies of Mr Le Mans for Travel Destinations customers are available at a reduced rate of £40.00, and can be purchased at evropublishing.com. Quote the discount code TDTK at the checkout to make use of this exclusive offer.

For more information on the book and this offer, please click below:

2021 Le Mans 24 Hours Pushed Back To August

The ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) announced yesterday that the 2021 running of the Le Mans 24 Hours has been postponed for the second year running, from its traditional mid-June date to August 21st – 22nd. This will be the first time that the race has been held in the month of August

The ACO has said that by moving the race to later in the year, it hopes to be able to run the race with fans trackside. This is primarily the reason for the ACO making this decision. Further information regarding capacity for the new dates will be provided by the ACO in April. 

The official statement reads: “The decision has been made early in the season to give competitors, partners and spectators as much visibility as possible and to maintain the current FIA WEC calendar. The dates of the other races and events to be held at the Le Mans Circuit remain unchanged at the present time. The ACO is working closely with the organisers of the various events that could be impacted by this change.”

Pierre Fillon, President of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest said: “Although it was a tough decision to make, it is the right one. Holding the 24 Hours of Le Mans behind closed doors for the second year running would be unthinkable.

“We are therefore doing all we can to avoid that happening and to give competitors a clear view of the whole season. We are working very hard to put on a safe event, with all the necessary health precautions in place. This year’s race promises to be another thriller as the new Hypercar class makes its debut.”

Anyone who has a booking with Travel Destinations for the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours will be contacted individually in due course by email and phone to discuss options. For your peace of mind, we will not be collecting any balance payments at this time but we will be offering free transfers to August, the new dates in 2022, or a full refund for those that request it.

The Travel Destinations team would like to thank you for your patience, loyalty and understanding and we look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Ferrari Commits To Le Mans Hypercar, This Changes Everything…

Toyota, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Alpine, Audi, Porsche, Acura… Just when you thought the flow of positive sportscar racing news was slowing down, Ferrari announces that it is committed to the Le Mans Hypercar category from 2023 onwards, as a full factory.

News of this magnitude doesn’t come around often, but when it does, it makes an impact not just on the championship in question, but in the industry as a whole. All eyes will be on Ferrari, the FIA WEC and the Le Mans 24 Hours now. The Le Mans Hypercar formula can be lauded a true success already, as we can confidently say that it has more than enough committed manufacturers to make it viable in the short and medium term, and enough buzz to propel international sportscar racing into the mainstream.

“In over 70 years of racing, on tracks all over the world, we led our closed-wheel cars to victory by exploring cutting-edge technological solutions: innovations that arise from the track and make every road car produced in Maranello extraordinary,” said John Elkann, Ferrari President. “With the new Le Mans Hypercar programme, Ferrari once again asserts its sporting commitment and determination to be a protagonist in the major global motorsport events.”

So what do we know about Ferrari’s programme; its first in top class endurance racing since 1973? Well Travel Destinations believes that it’s a full-factory effort, rather than a semi-works or customer programme run by AF Corse, meaning it should get a huge amount of resources thrown at it. Ferrari has never pushed hard to market its successes in GTE competition over the years, even after class wins at Le Mans, but we should see a far more creative, public-facing approach now. And that will only benefit the FIA WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours in the long run.

As of yet there are no details about the car or who might drive it, but Travel Destinations understands that work has been going on behind the scenes for a while now, with members of the programme believed to be using another major manufacturers’ wind tunnel facility, privately, to complete early work on the project. As for drivers, there’s no confirmation yet, but prospective talent will certainly be circling to see what potential there is for drivers beyond its existing stable to join in. Multiple drivers were known by Travel Destinations to have been meeting with Ferrari as far back as Le Mans last year, so the race is on to secure a seat for what looks to be a landmark programme.

Perhaps the biggest news here will come from outside Ferrari’s castle walls, as its committal may prompt other manufacturers to also jump aboard. Will manufacturers such as Ford or McLaren; which are ‘rivals’ in motorsport with Ferrari, be able to resist? How about Renault, which to this point is only committed to the Hypercar category for 2021 with Alpine?

Toyota has already reacted to this news. “We warmly welcome Ferrari to the top class of the FIA World Endurance Championship and we are honoured to compete against them in Hypercar,” it said in a statement. “This is exciting news for endurance racing fans and for the WEC. We welcome the competition and look forward to being part of a very strong Hypercar grid.”

This may also prompt a decision from IMSA on the eligibility of Hypercars in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. To this point LMDh class cars have been accepted by the ACO to compete in the FIA WEC, but not the other way round. Could the allure of Ferrari prove to be the tipping point and ensure top class parity in both premier sportscar championships?

But even if nobody else comes to play, what we already have is far and away the strongest top class we’ve had in sportscar racing for decades. Just picture it: Audi, Porsche, Toyota, Peugeot, Ferrari, Glickenhaus and Honda (Acura) all lining up on the grid at Le Mans in two years time.

“Alongside Ferrari, in 2023, many manufacturers who have already joined us are sure to pull out all the stops to win the race in its centenary year,” ACO President Pierre Fillon said in reaction to the news. “This is excellent news for a discipline whose rule base forms a solid foundation on which to build a bright future.”

The 100th anniversary of the inaugural LeMans 24 Hours in 2023 is going to be a massive event, and you are going to want to be there.

Stephen Kilbey

If you do want to be there, then you can pre-register your interest for tickets and travel packages with Travel Destinations today by calling 01707 329988 or emailing info@traveldestinations.co.uk. We are also on sale for Le Mans 2022, so call or email us to book now.

Toyota Fires The Starting Gun For The Le Mans Hypercar Era

Toyota Gazoo Racing has officially kicked off the Le Mans Hypercar era by formally unveiling its brand new GR010 HYBRID challenger, which will make its global race debut in the opening race of the 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship season at Sebring in March.

After years of planning, designing, developing and more recently, manufacturing and testing, the wait is almost over for Toyota. The Japanese marque, which has won the last three Le Mans 24 Hours, has moved into a new era of sportscar racing and become the first marque to make the leap with a new car. Following multiple evolutions to its 2016 TS050 HYBRID over the past four years, it is refreshing to see a brand new car emerge from TGR’s headquarters in Cologne.

The GR010 HYBRID is a prototype racer based on the forthcoming GR Super Sports concept car which completed demo laps at Le Mans last September. While elements of the design feature nods to Toyota’s hybrid LMP1 cars of recent years, under the skin, it’s a very different animal to its predecessors, as it shares fundamental DNA with its road-legal counterpart.

The car will be powered by a four-wheel drive hybrid powertrain, with a 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo engine, providing 680hp to the rear wheels, combining with a 272hp motor generator unit. With the total power output of the car capped at 680hp by regulation, the hybrid system, is being used to reduce the amount of power used by the engine through boosts of hybrid power each lap during a race.

Toyota has been hard at work on this project since it announced its foray into the Le Mans Hypercar class back in 2019 at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Using its Cologne base to design the car itself and its team of experts at Higashi-Fuji in Japan to develop the hybrid powertrain, the countless lessons learned through its eight-year WEC programme to this point have helped it create a car which it expects to be a winner from Day 1.

While it will have to wait another year to pit the GR010 HYBRID against Peugeot Sport’s new LMH chariot, this season will not be without its challenges. Competing with a brand new car is never a simple, trouble-free task, as Toyota knows from years of near-misses at Le Mans with new machinery which it expected to go the distance after gruelling test programmes. But the Toyota Gazoo Racing outfit appears to be as ready as it has ever been. As a team it has matured nicely with age and knows precisely what it takes to create and run a championship-winning car.

Toyota isn’t ready to go into too much detail about its test programme with the GR010 yet, though it has given Travel Destinations some indications of how the car has performed over the past few months. No mileage stats are available, but we know from the past that Toyota is not afraid to push a new car to its limits with lengthy endurance tests that often feature more than 24 hours of continuous running.

Over the course of Toyota’s pair of three-day tests to this point – one of which was at Paul Ricard, the other at Algarve – no major issues have been reported and driver feedback has been encouraging. The only real hiccup thus far is lost track time due to its third planned test at Aragon getting cancelled, due to heavy snow.

Those of us trackside may not notice the stark differences between the GR010 and the TS050 immediately. But over time the shift in philosophy will become clear.

The car is 162kg heavier and produces 32% less power than its TS050 HYBRID predecessor, meaning lap times are set to be significantly slower (as per the new set of regulations curbing the performance levels to mitigate rising cost). This means the days of sub 3:20 lap-times at Le Mans are over, at least for the time being, with the GR010 expected to produce times around 10 seconds slower than the outgoing LMP1 model at La Sarthe.

For the drivers behind the wheel too, there are major differences. The fighter-pilot level of multi-tasking that its selection of drivers were forced to adapt to in the LMP1 Hybrid era – which included intense management of fuel flow and hybrid boost throughout each lap – has been eased with this new machine. What we have instead is a more efficient car, which will suit the pure racers among Toyota’s roster.

“I was not expecting it to be as fun to drive as it is; I thought it would feel like a GT car,” Sebastien Buemi explains. “But we learned a lot during our LMP1 era and we used that knowledge to improve the new car, so it feels like a prototype.”

Perhaps the most important aspect from the driver feedback to this point is the drivability of the GR010. “I already feel at home,” Mike Conway adds. Though not every driver has been able to get a feel for the new car just yet, as Travel Destinations understands that neither of Toyota’s Japanese drivers: Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima, have been out testing.

It remains to be seen how the GR010 will stack up against its competition in Year 1 of the programme, but the expectations are (deservedly) high, even with the new Balance of Performance system governing the class with the aim of creating parity.

This year Toyota’s main competition could well come from France as it competes against Alpine’s (multiple Le Mans class and WEC title-winning) factory team, running a grandfathered Rebellion R-13 LMP1 car (below), which is a proven race winner.

There will be other Hypercars on the grid in 2021 though, which may give us more of an idea of how sophisticated the GR010 is up against cars developed to the same ruleset.

US manufacturer Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus’ new car is being assembled and readied for its first test as we speak. James Glickenhaus himself has told media members in the past two weeks that he doesn’t expect to be at Sebring to debut the car, but he has nevertheless thrown down the gauntlet by hiring 15-time Le Mans winning outfit Joest to run its effort. Anyone who witnessed the dominance of Audi Sport’s programme between 2006 and 2016 in particular, will not need reminding just how impressive Reinhold Joest’s crew are when facing monumental challenges from rival teams.

Then there’s ByKolles, which is developing its own hypercar too for 2021. The current status of the new car is unknown at present, though the Austrian team is often very secretive about its racing operations behind the scenes, so the radio silence shouldn’t be considered too much of a concern yet.

We will find out more very soon. With th full FIA WEC entry list set to be revealed next week, we’ll only need to wait a handful more days to see exactly what the field that Toyota’s new toy will be a part of looks like.

Stephen Kilbey

Want to be at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year? Act fast as availability is becoming limited for many of Travel Destinations’ accomodation options. Travel Destinations is also selling packages to FIA WEC races beyond Le Mans. You can contact our office by calling 01707 329988 or emailing info@traveldestinations.co.uk to get your next motorsport holiday booked.

Images courtesy of Toyota

Travel Destinations Now Open For Business In 2021

With 2020 in the rear-view mirror, the Travel Destinations office has now reopened for 2021. To our loyal customers, we wish all of you a happy and safe new year and look forward to seeing you all soon.

Last year was incredibly challenging, but we are now fully focused on the coming months and excited to restart doing what we do best: sending thousands of fans to the Le Mans 24 Hours and Le Mans Classic for unforgettable experiences.

The new year is only a handful of days old and we are are already taking bookings for both events, though spaces are now very limited for most accommodation options at this point.

Our refund guarantee policy is still in place for coronavirus cancelled events. So you can book with confidence and start planning your trip to Le Mans with confidence. We have also opened up bookings for the 2022 edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours, with identical prices to 2021.

If you have an existing booking for an event this year, then you can sit back and relax. We will contact you directly should there be any notable updates on the status of the Le Mans 24 Hours or Le Mans Classic.

Our office is open, as usual, from 09:00 – 17:30 UK time, Monday to Friday. Call us on 01707 329988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a booking.

Thank you again and stay safe.

Porsche’s LMDh Commitment Is A Huge Moment For Sportscar Racing

The dust has barely settled on Porsche’s withdrawl from IMSA’s GTLM category at the 2020 season finale in Sebring last month and already the German marque has announced its return to sportscar racing as a factory.

Let’s not beat around the bush here, last night’s news that Porsche will return to top-class sportscar racing and compete in both IMSA and the FIA WEC with a new LMDh prototype, is as significant as it gets.

Audi was technically the first marque to commit to LMDh, with its brief statement of intent to race at Le Mans and Daytona in LMDh as part of the fallout from its Formula E exit earlier this month. But Porsche’s bulletin is the first full confirmation for IMSA’s LMDh formula, which will replace DPi and be eligible to race alongside Le Mans Hypercars in the FIA WEC as part of top class convergence.

Better still, Porsche’s commitment to the new LMP2-based, hybrid-powered category will likely add two full-season factory cars to both IMSA and the WEC’s grids, and potentially, multiple customer cars too.

“The new LMDh category allows us to fight for overall victories with a hybrid system at the Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring classics – without breaking the bank. The project is extremely attractive for Porsche. Endurance racing is part of our brand’s DNA,” explains Oliver Blume, CEO at Porsche AG.

Michael Steiner, Board Member for Research and Development at Porsche AG, adds: “In the medium term, Porsche focuses on three different drive concepts: fully electric vehicles, efficient plug-in hybrids and emotional combustion engines. We want to represent this trilogy in both the development of our cutting-edge road cars and in motorsport.

“We use the all-electric drive to contest the FIA Formula E as part of our works commitment, and the highly efficient and emotional combustion unit in GT racing. Now, the LMDh class closes the gap for us. There, powerful hybrid drives – like the ones that are mounted in many of our brand’s models – go up against each other. If the regulations eventually allowed the use of synthetic fuels, then that would be an even greater incentive for me in terms of sustainability.”

The car, Dailysportscar.com says, is planned to be powered by a twin-turbo V8, while the engine used by fellow VAG-brand Audi, is tipped to be a four-cylinder turbocharged engine from its outgoing Class One DTM chassis.

From the teaser renders meanwhile, it appears that the next-generation Multimatic LMP2 chassis has been selected as the base for Porsche’s LMDh car. Travel Destinations understands that it will also used for Audi’s forthcoming challenger also.

A further similarity is that like Audi, Porsche’s new car will hit the track in 2023, the year which Travel Destinations believes will be the first for LMDh as a formula, with IMSA set to delay its inception by 12 months to allow manufacturers more time to prepare. Crucially, this coincides with a hugely significant year for the Le Mans 24 Hours, which will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the inaugural running of the race held back in 1923.

The 2023 edition of the ‘Grand Prix of Endurance’ is shaping up to be an extraordinary occasion, with the ACO planning a whole host of festivities in the build up to what should be one of the most hotly contested races ever at La Sarthe. As it stands now, Toyota, Peugeot, Audi and Porsche are all set to be on hand for the 2023 race, with the potential for Glickenhaus and ByKolles to join the fun running privately entered Le Mans Hypercars. And that’s without any additional marques or privateers committing to either LMH or LMDh.

Don’t expect the coming months to be quiet though; we’re likely to hear about more programmes very soon. Acura is believed to be close to confirming its LMDh participation with ORECA, McLaren and Mazda are still actively assessing options and rumours persist that Ferrari is working on something behind the scenes following its participation in the technical working group meetings.

After a heavily disrupted year for motorsport, and the world as a whole, this news comes as a real boost. The future of both IMSA and the FIA WEC’s top classes are is taking shape. Convergence looks increasingly likely exceed the expectations of the key industry stakeholders on hand back in January when IMSA and the ACO’s top brass made their historic announcement.

With Porsche now on board, even if nobody else pushes the button on an LMDh or LMH programme going forward, the grids for the big endurance races like Rolex 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans 24 Hours are all set to be blockbuster, with multiple major marques in wildly different cars battling for the overall wins. And that, as we sit here more than two years out from LMDh’s debut, may be the best news of all…

ACO President Pierre Fillon puts it best: “This eagerly anticipated announcement is excellent news for endurance racing. It proves that our regulations, boosted by a historic agreement with the USA, are an attractive proposition.”

Stephen Kilbey

Want to be trackside at Le Mans in 2021? Call our office today on 01707 329988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a booking…

LM24 Debrief: Toyota’s Triple

Well folks, the 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours went ahead, and it proved to be a huge success. The ACO deserves high praise for persevering and delivering an event that many thought wouldn’t happen at various points this year.

It was an event that featured much more than just a race too. It provided a look at the future, with news emerging about future regulations, calendars, which Travel Destinations took a look at back on Friday.

So with the 88th edition in the books, let’s revisit some of the key takeaways from the race itself:

*

Thanks for everything TS050, it’s been quite a ride

The LMP1 Hybrid era is now over, and it ended with Toyota scoring its third straight win at Le Mans with the No. 8 TS050 HYBRID. What a ride it’s been, an eight year roller-coaster that started back in 2012 with Audi Sport and Toyota pushing the boundaries at the inception of the FIA WEC and sparked off a ‘Golden Age’ for top level sportscars that fans will never forget.

Toyota’s commitment to endurance racing has been admirable through the years, and now it has been rewarded for its efforts with three Le Mans wins.

While it can be argued that Toyota’s victories have come against lesser competition, since the departure of Audi and Porsche, it can only beat the competition in front of it. It should also be applauded for sticking with the sport through peaks and troughs.

As a race, LMP1 this year was the most entertaining it’s been since Porsche withdrew from the class after 2019. Rebellion, on pace, were there or thereabouts with the TS050s and during the race actually managed to set the fastest lap with its No. 1 R-13.

Unfortunately, Rebellion didn’t risk pushing the limits of its cars for the entire race, and instead opted to run at a pace which didn’t put too much stress on the car’s components in order to get both cars to the finish.

In some ways, this worked, as neither of Toyota’s TS050 HYBRIDs had a clean race, and had the winning No. 8 suffered any further issues in the second half after its brake duct issue early in the race, then Rebellion would have been ready and waiting to steal the victory.

But fortunately for Toyota, the No. 8 held out and won by multiple laps. Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima, as you would expect, didn’t put a foot wrong and brought the car home, securing another big win for the Japanese marque.

Their teammates in the No. 7 must wonder what they have done to deserve such rotten luck, as Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez have come close so many times now, and this year more than ever they looked a sure bet to win.

With the No. 8 in trouble early with a puncture and brake duct fault, the No. 7 led the charge until nightfall, when a turbo-charger problem forced lengthy repairs that dropped the car outside the top three. They were lucky to get on the podium too; had Louis Deletraz not had an off at Indianapolis in the final hour in the No. 3 Rebellion and been forced into the pits for a change of front and rear bodywork then they would have finished fourth.

They’ll have to try again next year, when Toyota returns to Le Mans with its brand new Le Mans Hypercar….

**

Aston’s double win

The 2020 Le Mans 24 Hours was a huge success for Aston Martin, its Vantage AMR taking wins in the GTE Pro and Am classes, wrapping up the GTE Pro Manufacturers’ World Championship in the process. Was it the brand’s best ever Le Mans result? You could argue the 1959 overall win was more significant… But nevertheless, this was a truly momentous day for Aston Martin, and will come as a real positive for everyone at Prodrive (which runs the team) and the automotive arm of the business after a tough year financially.

Alex Lynn, Maxime Martin and Harry Tincknell won GTE Pro in the No. 97, and proved to be the class of the field after the opening hours. This year it quickly became a head-to-head battle between AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing after Porsche’s two 911 RSR 19s were quickly exposed as lacking pace and reliability.

In the end Aston Martin took the win, after a remarkably consistent and fault-free performance over the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra after a performance than on any other year may have been easily good enough to take the victory.

One of the most astonishing factors that led to victory for the No. 97 was how well the trio managed the car and conditions. All three found a way to extract race-winning pace while preserving the car, to the point where they could go the entire race without a brake change, something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

TF Sport meanwhile, delivered a similarly emphatic win in GTE Am, becoming the first Aston Martin customer team to get a class win at Le Mans in the modern era. Tom Ferrier’s team ran like clockwork, and Salih Yoluc, Jonny Adam and Charlie Eastwood all putting in the best drives of their careers to date.

GTE Am was somewhat of a lottery early in the race, as the varying strategies surrounding the use of gentlemen drivers caused a cycle of various contenders rising and falling up and down the order. It wasn’t until the night hours set in that the real contenders emerged, TF Sport’s Aston looking like a solid bet for the win along with the other Vantage AMR in the class from Aston Martin Racing. But reliability struck the AMR crew and eliminated them from contention before sunrise, leaving TF to fend off the challengers from Porsche and Ferrari solo. TF, to its credit, pushed on and produced a textbook faultless run.

In the end the battle for second proved to be the most thrilling, as a late safety car bunched up the field and produced a titanic scrap between three young rising stars in Nicklass Nielsen, Matteo Cairoli and Matt Campbell for the final two spots on the podium. It would be Campbell in the No. 77 Proton Porsche who would lead Nielsen in the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari home for silverware behind the TF Aston.

***

United’s dominance continues

****

The race for LMP2 glory was an unusual one, a real war of attrition, something we don’t often see in the current era, with spec prototypes that have proven to be on the whole bullet-proof since their debut season in 2017.

Racing Team Nederland’s ORECA, the Signatech Alpine, United’s No. 32 ORECA, both DragonSpeed’s ORECAs, the High Class Racing 07, both of the G-Drive Racing Aurus entries, Eurointernational and Inter Europol’s Ligier, Nielsen’s ORECA, the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA and the Cool Racing ORECA all suffered notable failures. There were so many issues, for so many teams, that no lead or strong position felt safe.

United Autosports however, bucked the trend and managed to get the No. 22 of Paul Di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque home without any issues, continuing its winning streak in the LMP2 classes of the ELMS and FIA WEC this year alive.

“To win the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours, on only our fourth appearance, and clinch the FIA LMP2 World Endurance Championship title for Drivers and Teams on our very first attempt with one race still to run, is just amazing,” a jubliant Zak Brown told Travel Destinations.

“Richard [Dean] (United co-owner) has built such a great team over the past 10 years since United started racing. Full credit to Phil, Filipe and Paul plus the entire team for earning United an awesome result.”

It comes as no surprise after studying the form pre-race, but it is nevertheless a remarkable achievement, especially considering the team had never raced the ORECA chassis (with its Le Mans joker aero package) at Le Mans before, up against a field of world-class teams and drivers.

United looks like it will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come…

Want to make the trip to Le Mans next year for the 24 Hours or Classic? We are already on sale for 2021 and demand is high! Give our office a call today to get yourself booked by calling 01707 32 99 88.