Rules & Regulations
And Their Implementation

Here’s a double irony to consider:

At the end of this, the first week of December, Dr. Ulrich Bez, CEO of Aston Martin commented: "We are keen to see new regulations for 2004 that will allow true production-based sports cars to compete on a level playing field. The new rules from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) clearly provide this; we hope other sporting organisations will follow their route and encourage sports car racing to grow in importance and profile."

During the same week, Zytek has announced that it is constructing two new Zytek 02S Evo lls (the formerly named DBA etc. chassis design, the 2002 675 car that has run so well in John Nielsen’s charge), for two new customers. What good value they are too, at £320,000 each.

During the same week, the ACO has also released its 2004 Technical Regulations for prototypes (see a news item dated yesterday, December 3), with this interesting addition:

“Cars built before 01/01/2004 and completely complying with the ACO technical regulations for LMP and LM GTP cars above, are admitted until 31/12/2005.
However, the ACO wish to ensure the competitiveness of the cars built in compliance with the 2004 ACO technical regulations for Prototype. Consequently, the ACO, in addition to the measures already applied and after the first results of the new cars in racing conditions, will enforce in 2005 for the car built before 01/01/2004 a part or all the following modifications :
- Minimum weight : 950 kg (LMP900), 720 kg (LMP675) ;
- Addition of a skid block : thickness 10 mm ;
- Reduction of the restrictor area by 5% ;
If necessary, additional measures could be applied.“

So, had we missed something (while in Australia for two weeks)? Were the last four lines (above), something that those really ‘in the know’ already knew about? No, they definitely weren’t.

Based on enquiries during the last 24 hours (since exploring the new Prototype Regulations), it would appear that the fourth line, above, is the really unsettling one. The 45 (675) and 50 (900) kilo penalties, the skid block and smaller restrictors – OK, they are definite statements, something current runners can possibly accept and ‘live with’. But the last line – that seems to be the one that is creating yet more uncertainty in the prototype market.

Let’s add another irony: it was earlier today that we posted a likely list of 20 or so prototypes that will make up the front of the LMES grids in 2004. Despite all of the above, the organising club will probably be patting itself on its collective back for the success of its ‘vision’.

But the reality is that the uncertainty that still abounds is holding back any movement in LMP1 and LMP2 construction. “Additional measures could be applied” to slow down the current cars (even more) in relation to ….. what? We still have no evidence that anyone has so far laid down one piece of carbon fibre of an LMP1 or 2, and in fact, as Zytek has shown, the current activity is still in relation to sales of existing designs.

What are recent buyers of 2001-2-3 cars supposed to think when the chassis they have just bought now only have one year of racing ahead of them, before penalties (specified and unspecified) start to apply? What about current entrants who have been developing cars with such fervour, on the understanding that they still had a two year life ahead of them?

Early December was anyway very late for the release of the 2004 Regulations, rules governing an area of sportscar racing that was already “reeling with uncertainty”.

On a positive note, it can be argued that 2004 will now see a degree of stability – if only because it’s too late for new cars to be produced (certainly until mid-season, at the earliest). Perhaps that last line (above) will see potential buyers gathering together to persuade prototype manufacturers to build new chassis for 2005?

But the real irony is that all the prototype customer interest that the LMES has created will simply lead to large European grids of 2003 (and older) cars, and no new ones.
Malcolm Cracknell

 

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