Le Mans update: The 24 Hours looks to the future

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Into the never-ceasing debate about how much car technology trickles down from the highest echelons you can add this year’s Le Mans race.

Endurance racers featuring new technologies — hybrids and electric — are being highlighted during next month’s 24-hour race.

Here’s Le Mans’ spin on it, which I think is pretty interesting:

Since the creation of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1923, the event has always been a technological laboratory for constructors and manufacturers. The motor car has begun an energy revolution and new projects could appear in racing in the near future. The ACO and the Le Mans 24 Hours feel honour-bound to supply the arena in which tomorrow’s technologies can prove themselves. With this in mind, the ACO is providing manufacturers with an opportunity to showcase their savoir faire before the 78e Le Mans 24 Hours.

10 avant-garde cars with sporting tendencies will put on a demonstration on the big Le Mans 24-Hours circuit on Saturday 12th June at 12h10. They will then be on display in the 24-Hours support paddock from 14h00 on Saturday to 16h00 on Sunday.

The following cars will take part: the PORSCHE 911 GT3 R Hybrid, the AUDI e-Tron, the PEUGEOT RCZ HYbrid4, the electric FERRARI 599XX HPDC, the electric TESLA, the hydrogen MAZDA RX-8 RE, the hydrogen BMW, the natural gas VOLKSWAGEN Scirocco, the electric SECMA F16 and the electric ANDROS. These cars, in the hands of well-known drivers, will do two laps of the 13,629-km big circuit before going to the 24-Hours support paddock.

As we all know, that Porsche has a version of Williams’ spinning ninja fly-wheels of death inside.

Honestly, I swing back and forth pretty wildly about how Formula 1 should be using new technologies. Part of me says that until we find a fuel source with as much pure power as oil/gasoline, that has to remain the basis for a sport that is all about harnessing and unleashing power. When I’m thinking that, I do also think that F1 needs to do everything else it can to become energy-conscious and “green.” Run hybrid trucks, get solar panels on the paddock — basically offset all the carbon from the cars. (And, yes, I know that just flying to the races is among the single biggest polluting activities in F1. So figure something out there, too, maybe starting by more strategically managing the calendar to limit the miles of travel.)

The other part of me says that F1 needs to embrace and push our new technologies ahead, so we all benefit. But I’m still not sure that’s the right fit.

But at Le Mans? It seems a better fit. Perhaps it’s the 24-hour nature of the event that more obviously demands fuel efficiency and other smart technological advancements. (I know those all would help in F1, too. But it seems more central to Le Mans.)

Heck, it may just be because I could, theoretically, buy a car not unlike that Porsche or Ferrari. Maybe that makes the connection to new technologies in road cars just that much more easy to picture.

It certainly, from this release, sounds like the Le Mans people think they are the right venue for developing new technologies. The event’s always “been a technological laboratory.” True enough.

Does it seem like an appropriate place to showcase these cars?


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