Automobile Club de l’Ouest has announced changes to the sporting regulations for the European Le Mans Series in 2018.
The races will still be run over 4 hours, but there are changes to the minimum driving times for the various categories of drivers.
It’s possible to enter two or three drivers in the LMP2 category. If a team enter two drivers only, the bronze or silver driver in the car at least has to do 2 hours and 15 minutes compared to 2 hours and 20 minutes previously. If the team consists of 3 drivers, the minimum driving time will be an hour and ten minutes instead of an hour and a half for silver and bronze. The gold or platinum ranked drivers will be allowed to driver for ten more minutes in the car, so now they will be allowed to do 40 minutes of the race.
In the LMP3 category, each bronze driver has to drive at least 50 minutes each, no matter if there are two or three bronze drivers in the same car. A 3-drivers team, consisting of at least two bronze drivers, will be able to cut 10 minutes off the minimum driving time of the bronze drivers.
The GTE category goes the opposite way and raises the minimum drive times for bronze ranked drivers from 45 to 90 minutes.
That was all the news regarding driving times.
But the pitstops will be reduced in time too. From the coming season onwards, it will be allowed to refuel and change the tires at the same time, and two wheel guns will be allowed. That will reduce the pitstop times massively, since it previously haven’t been allowed to touch the car during refueling, and teams were only allowed to use one wheel gun at a time. That is a slightly controversial rule change, since a complete pitstop with fuel and tires will be reduced from around 1 minute to about 25 seconds. That is the same way that IMSA does regarding pitstops, and there has been many examples of drivers leaving the pits with seatbelts not tightened, which actually isn’t allowed. It is yet to be seen how the stewards will regulate that. One option could be having in car cams pointing on the driver all the time, so the stewards can see if the belts are tightened before the car moves. But only time will tell.
A new LMP2 trophy will be awarded, which will be for cars with maximum a silver ranked driver and at least one bronze driver in the line-up. We have seen examples of LMP2 teams entering two silver drivers, which is perfectly legal according to the rules, and beat many competitors by laps. A good example is SMP Racing #27, who entered the two silver drivers Matevos Isaakyan and Egor Orudzhev, who both were able to do constant laptimes, while teams like DragonSpeed #21 or High Class Racing #49 had a drop in laptimes, when the bronze driver was in the car.
Other than the Prologue, which will be run at Paul Ricard in the week leading up to the season start, the organizers will have a private test day for all teams at Monza, Red Bull Ring, Spa Francorchamps and Portimao on the Wednesday of race week.
As one final thing, the LMP3 teams will be allowed an extra joker set of tires. There still is a 3-sets dry tires limit for each weekend, but now the teams will be allowed to use one extra set once during the season, to their own choice.
The ELMS series will have their first round on Sunday 15 April, at the Paul Ricard near Marseille.