Aston Martin will race a detuned Valkyrie at Le Mans in the new Hypercar class
The Automobile Club de l'Ouest has announced a new top class for the Le Mans endurance race – a "hypercar" class that will begin in 2020-21, designed to entice some of the world's most extreme streetcars to throw down and prove themselves. And one we'll definitely see on track is the awesome Aston Martin Valkyrie.
The new Le Mans regulations will allow manufacturers either to enter hypercar-style prototypes, or develop racing machines based on homologated road-going hypercars with a minimum of 20 units produced over a two-year period. Weight will be kept around 1,100 kg (2,425 lb), and the powertrain's "average total output" to 550 kW (750 hp), with a view to keeping average lap times somewhere in the region of 3:30 at Le Mans.
While aerodynamic safety criteria will be imposed, underbody and body design will be free, allowing wild designs like the Valkyrie to push forward with aerodynamic ideas far too extreme for Formula One. And while hybrid powertrains are not mandatory, any electric assistance will be limited to a 200-kW (270-hp) contribution.
There will be limits on how much regenerative braking will be allowed, in the form of speed limits above which cars can't recoup power. This is to help two-wheel drive machines compete. Power curves will be regulated, there will be a single fuel for all competitors and a single tire supplier.
A number of manufacturers, including McLaren, have expressed their enthusiasm for the new class, and Aston Martin has confirmed it'll be putting together a multi-year racing program, including two factory Valkyries to race in the 2020/21 World Endurance Championships, including the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In order to run, the Valkyrie will have to tone its monstrous hybrid powertrain down significantly. Its naturally aspirated 6.5-liter V12 is set to make more than 1,000 hp, and that's not including several hundred more horses that the hybrid powertrain is due to add.
Mind you, Aston Martin won't be alone in this endeavor. Despite what the racing regulations might say, it's more or less accepted by the motorhead community these days that you need to make at least 1,000 hp to call your wheels a hypercar. But since that's about what the F1 machines are making these days, it does make sense to tone things down for modified production car racing.
"We have always said that we would one day bring Aston Martin back to Le Mans with the intention of going for the outright win when the time was right – now is that time," says Aston Martin Lagonda President and Group CEO. "David Brown came here in 1959, with a car and a team of drivers capable of winning. We intend to do the same in 2021. The Aston Martin Valkyrie is primed for such a challenge and sits perfectly within the ACO's new 'hypercar' rule framework. Bringing to bear all of our previous experience and knowledge of competing at the top levels of motorsport, we embark on this most ambitious project with the necessary ingredients for success. What could be more evocative than the wail of an Aston Martin V12 leading the charge into the night on the Mulsanne straight?"
What indeed? We look forward to watching this class unfold, and are hopeful that it'll flush out a healthy range of the world's most desirable vehicles for some head-to-head competition.
Source: Aston Martin
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We have reached something of a plateau beyond which further development, while interesting to observe, is so extreme that most of it is doomed to remain outside the bounds of general use. Enjoy the spectacle.