Cutting Through The (SR2 / LMP2) Confusion

It's hard to understand why the complete regulations for ACO prototypes in 2004 were not available weeks ago: had the ACO made them available, or provided a statement of intent, they would have cleared up much of the confusion that is prevalent out there - even among the teams. No, especially among the teams!

Here are three misconceptions that have actually existed in entrants' minds:

"I have a carbon-tubbed 675 car, which I can ballast up to 750 kg and run in the LMP2 class." Wrong.

"I have an aluminium-tubbed SR2 car which I can simply polish and then run in LMP2." Wrong.

"I can order an LMP2 and take on the 900 class cars for overall wins." Almost certainly wrong.

"Wrong" however, is a statement based on an accurate assessment of what the ACO is about to announce. We do not yet know exactly what the ACO intends (specifically for current SR2 cars), but we do know a man who needs an even better understanding of what is about to happen than even the teams - Julian Cooper, Chief Engineer at the Lola Group.

Julian enjoyed a lengthy meeting with the ACO's Monsieurs Perdrix and Poissenot at Le Mans on November 7, and based on what he was told, is prepared to make these judgements on what is about to become clear - we hope. Please note, these cannot be regarded as definite statements of fact, until confirmed in writing. [“What they told me is consistent with what they have told others,” says Julian – that is Michael/Andrew Cotton]

"The carbon-tubbed 675s will race in the same category as the 900 class cars: that is the LMP 900s, GTPs and so far unbuilt LMP1s.

"There is currently no written regulation regarding running an SR2 car in 2004 or 2005, but this should become clear soon.

"It has been stated that aluminium-tubbed 675 (SR2) chassis will be allowed to race in 2004 and 2005, using 2003 LMP675 regs., which will allow constructors time to design and build LMP2 cars.

"Lola's LMP2 has just been announced."The ACO will adjust any equivalency formula between SR2s (and current aluminium-tubbed 675s) and LMP2s, using narrower rear wing, overall weight, smaller restrictors to 2003 spec and smaller fuel tank volume.

"It is expected that existing aluminium cars will have their rear wings reduced from 2000mm to 1800mm, and will run with the smaller restrictors from this year, rather than the 2002 restrictors, which LMP2s will be able to use in 2004.

"Logically, an SR2 chassis must have already passed the crash test related to its original design and regulations."

Are we all clear so far? Julian Cooper was prepared to explain what he feels will be the best options to teams with varying budgets next year.

(1) "The least expensive option will be to run a modified (only the rear wing width and fuel tank) SR2 or aluminium-tubbed 675 car. You could even run an existing 3.0 engine, with smaller restrictors than a 3.2 or 3.4 engine. However, AER will produce an upgraded 3.2 engine, based on the Nissan World Series engine, and we believe that will be more competitive than a 3.0.

(2) "Looking a little further ahead, the owner of a B2K / 40 will be able to purchase a B04/40 tub and bodywork and carry over some of his existing running gear - allowing him to race a genuine LMP2, at still modest cost.

(3) "Of course a better alternative would be to upgrade fully to the B 04/40, but the alternatives will exist, depending on budget available. An LMP2 such as the B04/40, with its bigger restrictors and a wider wing than option (1) will be quicker than the cheapest alternative.

(4) "The B4 / 04 can be powered by any of the current 675 engines (AER turbo, Zytek V8, Judd V8)."

So why should an entrant consider going racing in LMP2?"It's very accessible to privateers, much more so than the 675 carbon cars are. LMP2 will specifically appeal to privateers. The current 675 MG-Lolas really need 900 class budgets to run them competitively. Until now, less well funded privateers in 675 have been racing against the ultimate sports prototypes, the MG-Lola and the DBA - which themselves have been racing against the Audis, effectively for overall wins, as Dyson has managed.

"The new regs. will offer a great opportunity to the privateers: they can race in LMP2, while the operations with big budgets will all be in LMP1.

"But with the chassis dimensions and crash regulations so specifically defined, we're actually looking at sharing costs with other chassis manufacturers, so that we can all offer the same tub, but we'll each develop our own suspension and bodywork. There's an innovation!"

Last topic then Julian (and not really related to the above): is the 'Audi factor' actually putting people off racing in SR1 / 900 / LMP1? That is, does the prospect of a new Audi LMP1 in 2005 put people off racing against them?

"No, I don't think so. There will always be people / operations such as Dome, Pescarolo, Lister and Ian Dawson (Taurus) who will try to take them on. But with the LMP1 regulations as closely defined as LMP2, our B04 / 04 chassis is the same as our potential LMP1 car, so we will offer a car for the top class which privateers can race in 2005."

Thank you Julian Cooper. We hope these comments to help to clear up any confusion, and perhaps even stimulate potential entrants to call Julian (or Mike Pilbeam at the rival UK manufacturer) to discuss their options for the future.

"2004 is going to be a great opportunity for someone to go racing in LMP2 with an existing car and end up as a class winner," concludes Julian Cooper.


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