How the WEC works
Porsche LMP Team
- The FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is the second highest ranked in world championship car racing, placing second only to Formula 1.
- The WEC features various classes of cars competing in joint endurance races. The classes are: LMP1-H (for hybrids), LMP1, LMP2, LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am (the Pro and Am categories are for professional and amateur teams in the GT class).
- Generally: Vehicles in the LMP classes are prototypes that are not based on series-production vehicles. The designs of these vehicles are based solely on the technical regulations. In normal circumstances, only LMP1 vehicles (class 1 Le Mans prototypes) have a chance of overall victory. In the LMP1 category, factory teams - or ‘works’ cars - must be hybrids. In 2017, the Porsche 919 Hybrid and the LMP1-H from Toyota will be the works cars on the starting grid. The GT-class vehicles, on the other hand, must be based on a road-approved series-production car, although the regulations do permit extensive changes to the specification.
- In the LMP1 class, the cars compete for the official title of the Manufacturers’ World Endurance Champion and Drivers’ World Champion. The drivers’ title is shared by the drivers who won it in a single car. A new addition to the program for the 2017 season is that a world champion title will also be on offer for manufacturers and drivers in the GTE class.
- The points system basically works in the same way as in Formula 1. The first ten to finish are awarded points: 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1.
Half a point is awarded to any finisher outside the top ten.
Double points are awarded at Le Mans, and achieving pole position in any race is rewarded with an extra point.
- The race at Le Mans lasts 24 hours; the other eight world championship races last six hours. Parts of the races take place in the dark.
- The joint qualifying for LMP1 and LMP2 vehicles lasts just 20 minutes. Two drivers take part in the qualifying round. An average is calculated of the two best lap times (the best time from each driver).
- For the races, the regulations stipulate a minimum and maximum driving time for each driver. In six-hour races, the minimum driving time is 40 minutes, and the maximum time is four and a half hours. In Le Mans, each driver must spend at least six hours behind the wheel. However, no individual driver may drive for more than four hours in any six-hour period or for more than 14 hours over the entire course of the race. If the outside temperature on the day of the race exceeds 32 degrees Celsius, no individual driver may drive for longer than 80 minutes at a time if the car is not fitted with an air-conditioning system. A rest break of at least 30 minutes must be taken between stints behind the wheel on any such days.
- The pit stop procedures are complex. Unlike in Formula 1, the crew and equipment permitted at pit stops are subject to strict limitations. The regulations set out a number of rules, including that the engine must be switched off during a pit stop, only two persons may be involved in refuelling, the vehicle must not be jacked up during refuelling, tyres may only be changed after refuelling, only four mechanics may work on the vehicle at any one time and only one wheel gun may be used on the vehicle at a time.
- Access to the pit lane is limited to a small group of persons appointed to carry out specific tasks. All persons present must wear flame-retardant overalls and a helmet; this rule also applies to photographers and camera crews.
- In the event of an accident or other problems on the track during the race, the WEC uses “full course yellow” (FCY) phases as an alternative to the deployment of a safety car. If a full course yellow is issued, all drivers must slow to 80 km/h (50 mph) and maintain the distance between their vehicle and the driver in front. Pit stops are permitted. Action may be taken to neutralise the race only on specific sections of the track. In such cases, the speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph) applies only in the “slow zones”. If the safety car does need to be deployed in spite of these measures, the pit lane is closed for three laps. During this period, the pit lane may only be accessed in an emergency – for example to spend five seconds refuelling or to change a damaged tyre.
- The number of rain tyres is unlimited for LMP1, but a limited number of slicks is available. In six-hour races, the limit is three sets (12 tyres) for the free practice sessions and four sets (16 tyres) for qualifying and the race itself. These figures represent an overall reduction of three sets compared to 2016. As in previous years, two single tyres are also available for use in the event of damage.
- For cost control reasons, vehicles in the LMP1-H class are subject to a limit of five new engines per vehicle per season (including Le Mans). The engines must be of the same type; this regulation prevents any engines being developed specifically for individual circuits.
- Since 2015, the regulations have assumed an average weight of 80 kilograms per driver in full race clothing. Teams must compensate for driver weights below this figure using ballast. In spite of this rule, lighter drivers still retain some level of advantage, but the measure aims to prevent teams from favouring particularly lightweight drivers and to remove the incentive for drivers to starve themselves in order to lose weight.
- Drivers must be able to demonstrate – in spite of the limited space available in the cockpit of a closed LMP1 racing car – that they can exit the car in full race clothing within seven seconds through the driver side door and within nine seconds through the passenger side door. As a further measure to protect drivers, the cockpit temperature is constantly monitored.
- Test days for LMP1 are subject to the following limitations: Teams may conduct private tests on a maximum of seven days per calendar year. Subject to the provision of 30 days’ notice, teams may conduct tests “in public” on a further ten days. The largest portion of the permitted test days – a further 23 days – must be announced 90 days in advance and must be open to competitors. A test day consists of a maximum of nine hours’ driving in a single vehicle. Continuous driving for a period of 24 hours is permitted only during endurance testing. If two vehicles are tested on the same test day, the team is deemed to have used two test days. The official joint tests (the Prologue, the Le Mans pre-test and the Rookie Test at the end of the season) count towards the test day allocation. A maximum of 1,376 tyres (slicks and rain tyres) are available per calendar year and works team for the entire test program. In addition, a maximum of 40 private function tests (roll-out) are permitted. In these tests, no individual car may be driven for longer than one hour a day, and the tests must be conducted using transport tyres.
- Detailed specifications are also in place for wind tunnel tests; these tests are monitored and, as of 2017, are limited to 800 hours.
- Furthermore, for cost control purposes, the maximum number of on-location team members for races after Le Mans is limited to 65 persons for a two-car team.
- Press conferences: After qualifying, the two pole-position drivers for each class are available. After each race, the top-three driver crews in the overall classification and the class winners participate in the press conference.
- The WEC is an audience-friendly event: The paddock is open to holders of standard entry tickets, which are sold at reasonable prices; there are ample autograph sessions and teams are strictly forbidden from obscuring the public’s view of the vehicles in any way during the official public pit walks. The 2017 regulations have been tightened up even further: The rules now explicitly state that neither team members nor vehicle parts may be positioned around the racing car in a way that obstructs the public’s view of it.