What would a open-check Garage 56 Le Mans racer look like?

Next year, a Chevrolet NASCAR will launch in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the Garage 56 invite slot, and it made me think what would I do if I had an unlimited budget to design and build a clean racer that broke the rules. rule book.

Le Mans is probably the biggest challenge for a car because it requires such a high energy density, so battery electric powertrains won’t make sense here until battery capacity is massively increased. I was racing at Le Mans in 2014 when Nissan brought in the Garage 56 project ZEOD RC, which completed the first lap of the Circuit de la Sarthe with electric power in the warm-up but was retired at the 23rd minute of the race due to gearbox problems.

We have to follow the principles of engineering and physics, and that leads me to a biofuel turbine with highly autonomous controls.

Turbines have been used in motorsports before and have undoubtedly had mixed success. STP-Paxton Turbocar came close to winning the 1967 Indianapolis 500 with Parnelli Jones, but the organizing body then placed restrictions on turbine engines. At Le Mans, the Rover-BRM Turbine finished in 1963 and 1965 but was nowhere near the leading speed and the US-built Howmet TX suffered a disaster in 1968. My idea was to basically use a turbine, but the concept would be very different

The biggest advantage of turbines is that they are very small; They are the lightest power supplies available. Nothing else has a comparable power-to-weight ratio. For example, a helicopter turbine is about 2 feet in size and can produce 1000 horsepower.

The downside is that a turbine needs constant RPM because it doesn’t like accelerating and decelerating. Therefore, it would need a super or hyper capacitor to store energy from the turbine and drive the wheels. Still, with one motor at each wheel, as well as a fifth motor generating electricity from the turbine, it would be quite simple mechanically, have fewer moving parts than a reciprocating engine, and save hundreds of pounds of weight that would normally be taken up by batteries.

The Howmet TX turbine racer had a rough ride at Le Mans in 1968 – but technology has improved significantly over the past 50 years

Photo: Motorsport Pictures

The turbines also generate dynamic airflow that can be used for aerodynamic purposes, just as the McMurtry fan car did at the Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​to create any level of downforce you need. That way you don’t need wings and you can have an efficient design that generates less drag so you can go faster on the straights – that’s what you need at Le Mans. It could follow the same principle as McMurtry, but instead use biofuel in the turbine. The soy-based biofuel is currently being tested on airplanes in the US and is carbon neutral.

Also, besides moving aerodynamic devices, we can add autonomous systems and a very interesting algorithm to control the energy flow between the turbine and the electric motor. This will also manage the four-wheel torque steering and all-wheel steering capability.

For critics pointing to the racing results of turbine cars of the past, imagine how far technology has advanced since the 1960s! As with F1 cars from that era to the present, there would be no comparisons.

While perfect for airplanes, helicopters or anything that requires light and high power, turbines don’t fit in the commercial vehicle agenda mainly because of their noise and airflow. This perceived disinterest for car manufacturers perhaps explains why it isn’t used so much in racing. But from a pure engineering and physics perspective, it’s hardly wise in terms of power density and efficiency.

Turbines are the most efficient way to extract chemical energy from combustion and will be as efficient as a Formula 1 engine but much cheaper and lighter. For critics pointing to the racing results of turbine cars of the past, imagine how far technology has advanced since the 1960s! As with F1 cars from that era to the present, there is no comparison.

Finally, as for who will drive it… it would be great to reunite with my LMP1 teammates Oliver Jarvis and Loic Duval. Oliver won the IMSA SportsCar Championship this year and Loic is racing for Peugeot in the World Endurance Championship, so again I’m the least experienced!

Dynamic airflow from the turbine can be used with sleek aero to boost top speed on the straights, as WM did in 1988.

Dynamic airflow from the turbine can be used with sleek aero to boost top speed on the straights, as WM did in 1988.

Photo: Motorsport Pictures

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