Tell Me About: Prototype Racing

The Ginetta LMP3 car is one of many 'baby' prototypes and was the first to take LMP3 24 hour racing.

The big boys of the race track, performance wise anyway, the Prototypes are supposed to be the high tech halo cars of racing. They tend to do long distance races, limited either by distance or time, with 4-6 hours the general rule of thumb.

 

Lets take a look at the five different types of prototype:

 

LMP1-H and LMP1-L

LMP1-H and LMP1-L:

 

LMP1 is the top class of Le Mans Prototypes and is split into two sub-classes. The LMP1-L is for privateers and tends to be a little lower in technology and performance than the LMP1-H cars. P1-H cars are the preserve of the major motor manufacturers, the H standing for Hybrid.

 

The eyes of the world are on the P1-H field which currently includes the Porsche 919-Hybrid, the current world champions, the Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro and the Toyota TS050 Hybrid. The class is the proof that there are many answers to the question of speed.

 

The Porsche is a V4, the Toyota a V8, both are turboed and use petrol. The Audi is a diesel as has been their way for many years. All use energy harvesting to power electric motors making them 4 wheel drive when electrical power is being used.

LMP2 and Daytona Prototype

LMP2:

 

LMP2 has just had a rule change which restricts the field to a few chassis and just a single engine, thats in World Endurance. In the American WeatherTech Championship there are the same chassis choices but teams are free to put a range of engines in the cars and customise the bodywork to better fit their engine suppliers image.

 

The class is significantly cheaper than a season in LMP1, but it is also quite a bit slower. There are advantages to an LMP2 car though. P1 cars can only run in the FIA WEC. P2 is the top class in all the continental championships.

 

Daytona Prototypes are a confusion which is slowly being phased out. They are hold-overs from the merger between the American Le Mans Series who used P2 cars and the Grand-Am championship who had their own prototype rule book. They are a lot lower tech but compensate with more power and impressive performance on American road courses and Infield + Oval race tracks.

LMPC

LMPC:

 

The LM has been dropped now as the PC cars are only run in the States but they are effectively an old Oreca P1 car, which was detuned to P2 and then detuend further. They are a spec championship within a championship so everyone runs the same bodywork, the same engine and the same tyres. The same rules used to apply to a class in the European Le Mans Series but that has been replaced by our next class.

LMP3

LMP3:

 

LMP3 is the newest parvenu in the prototype paddock and is an entry level to Le Mans Racing. There are four chassis suppliers with a range of engines which allows the cars to compete in the European Le Mans Series. The American series has yet to allow these cars in.

 

There are other places you can go too. VdeV will take a P3 car as will Britcar. While there are no official P3 24 Hour races, Team LNT made the first 24 Hour race start for an LMP3 car at the 24 Hours of Silverstone in 2015.

Other Prototypes

Cars like Radicals and Sports2000 cars are also sometimes referred to as Prototypes though they are anything but. Series produced, they often start life in single make championships before owners look for other places to race them. The headliners in modern times are the Radical RXC and the Ginetta G57.

The lines are blurred though. The Ginetta started life as an LMP3 car but the engine that the Yorkshire manufacturer wanted to use isn’t eligable under P3 rules. So they make the P3 car with a Nissan powerplant and the G57 with a stonking great V8. The Radical meanwhile follows almost exactly the same pattern but is also produced as a road car, which means that it qualifies for GT rules and is homologated as a GT3 car.

 

They race in a number of places, the VdeV Championship is the historic home but Britcar have recently launched a Dunlop Prototype Series aimed squarely at these cars.