Written by Evan Veer, Edited by Ishani Aziz
As the long awaited 2023 endurance racing season looms closer, let’s go take a deep dive into the Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) and Le Mans Daytona H (LMDh). In this three-part series, we’ll discuss the rules and regulations of the season, the 2023 competitors, and the newcomers and leavers of the season. We’ll take a look at the controversial Balance of Performance system, an integral part of this new era which will certainly shape the cars.
LMH or LMDh, what’s the difference?
Both these terms refer to separate sets of rules to which a manufacturer adheres to build their car. There is a choice between these rules, and each has their respective advantages and disadvantages. LMH is the set of regulations created in 2018 by ACO and the FIA, and is the successor to the LMP1 class (Le Mans Prototype 1, which was being dominated bz Toyota after the departure of Audi and Porsche). The LMH regulations give more design freedom to the manufacturers, and lets them create their own chassis and hybrid system. LMH rules also allow more freedom regarding the overall shape of the car, which is the reason why it was possible for Peugeot to not use a rear wing (which would not be allowed under LMDh regulations). This extra creative space obviously comes at a cost when compared to LMDh. However, LMH manufacturing is still cheap compared to an F1 car. In fact the FIA estimates it to be about 80% lower than the LMP1 predecessors. Each LMH is allowed to have one adjustable aerodynamic part such as a rear wing or front splitter and minor updates to the car are allowed through the so-called joker system (similar to F1’s token system) which was used to limit development between 2020 and 2021.
LMDh is less clear, and a clear definition is debated among fans. Some claim the “h” denotes: hybrid, while others interpret it as hypercar. Official documents define it as: “Le Mans Daytona h”. In order to build an LMDh a manufacturer has to use a chassis from one of four selected manufacturers (Oreca, Ligier, Multimatic and Dallara), which will also be used for each of these manufacturer’s next-gen LMP2 cars (currently set to debut in 2025).
Each LMDh will be fitted with a spec hybrid system combined with the manufacturer’s own engine and bodywork, and since it’s relatively easy to reach the required performance window for the Balance of Performance system (which will be explained below) these manufacturers can make stylistic choices to reflect the aesthetic of their brand without always having to worry about performance, leading to more variety in the looks of these cars.
This ruleset is a continuation of the philosophy of the current DPi cars which also use LMP2 cars with each manufacturer using their own engines and making changes to the bodywork, although LMDh has more unique looking designs compared to the current DPi’s by Cadillac (as shown below) and Acura who both only slightly changed their looks from the LMP2’s they were based on.
Both LMH and LMDh will be allowed to run in the WEC’s Hypercar class and IMSA’s GTP class where they will be competing for the overall win in some of the most prestigious endurance races, including the 24 hours of Daytona, the 12 hours of Sebring and, of course the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Balance of Performance
Perhaps the most controversial part of this new era of top class prototype racing has been the introduction of Balance of Performance (BoP). In this system all of the teams have to make sure their cars fit within a certain performance window, after which tweaks to things such as maximum power and minimum weight will be adjusted for each of the competitors in order to make their cars as closely matched as possible.
Balance of Performance lowers costs dramatically as teams will no longer get stuck in a technological arms race which would cost millions and put any new entrants far behind on development, and the guarantee that your car can be competitive if it is reliable makes these classes a much more attractive prospect for new entrants compared to ones without.
Not everyone is a fan of this system being implemented though, as it is often said that all BoP does is bring faster cars down to the level of a slower competitor and that good design is no longer being rewarded.
Another frequently brought up criticism is the fact that BoP has a margin of error meaning it will not always actually result in all cars being equal. This fact often gets exploited by teams and drivers alike by sandbagging and complaining to the media about how unfair their BoP is, although this complaining can occasionally backfire in cases where the team really does have a disadvantage but isn’t being listened to because of previous sandbagging.
While these criticisms are understandable, it’s all about the question of what’s more important to the sport with competition and variety on one side and outright speed and development on the other.
Throughout all of motorsports it seems the preference is shifting towards the former as BoP becomes more prevalent and the nature of regulations like those in F1 are starting to focus more on closer racing and cost reduction than they have before. Aside from this the current economic situation means that for the vast majority of manufacturers it simply isn’t attractive to spend hundreds of millions on a car that may or may not be able to challenge for wins. An entry into a class with BoP is simply a far safer investment for those who don’t have unlimited funds or to those who come in later than their competition.
Join us in the next part of this series for a closer look at the cars of each of the 2023 Hypercar competitors, as well as an overview of where & how many of them can be found in each championship together with other interesting information relating to these projects.