The FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup will introduce a few changes to their regulations in 2021.
Some of the things are common, while others are more championship specific.
The perhaps most important change is that the LMP2 category will have to race on Goodyear tires. ACO has chosen a single tire supplier, to keep the costs down. There has been a tire war between Goodyear/Dunlop and Michelin so far, with Michelin having the upper hand for some time, but with Goodyear finishing off 2020 with a victory in the FIA WEC in Bahrain.
The FIA WEC will ditch their 2-driver qualifying, which has been used for the last few seasons. The starting grid was set by an average of the two drivers, but that resulted in the qualifying being so long, and not always the fastest driver would be on Pole, in case the teammate wasn’t as fast. The new rules will have two 10 minutes sessions, with the GTE cars (Pro and Am) sharing the car, and Hypercar and LMP2 having the second part of qualifying to themselves. That system is well known from the ELMS, and has resulted in some highly dramatic qualifying sessions.
The LMP2 category will remain unchanged, despite was the FIA released a World Motorsport Council transcript stating otherwise. So the demand of at least one Bronze or Silver-rated driver will remain, and you have a free choice of two or three drivers for the shorter races, while there is a demand for three in the longer (FIA WEC). There will be a new classification for LMP2 Pro/Am drivers, where the line up consists of a Bronze rated driver. That is good news for teams like Racing Team Nederland with Frits van Eerd and High Class Racing with Dennis Andersen, who at times have real difficulties to follow the more or less professional line ups at teams like United Autosports and JOTA. Racing Team Nederland won the LMP2 category at Fuji 2019, but that is the only Bronze victory in the FIA WEC LMP2 category, since the introduction of the new cars in 2017.
The choice of car numbers will be opened up from 1 to 999. Number 1 is however reserved for the defending LMP, and in the future, Hypercar teams champions. The LMP numbers have been limited to 1-50, and GT numbers from 51-99 until now. The numbers are given out on first-come, first-serve basis.
The LMP3 teams in ELMS will be allowed to use one more set of tires per weekend. There has been a limitation of three new sets per weekend so far, and that has meant some teams were skipping either FP1 or FP2 to save tires for the race.
The GTE Bronze drivers in the ELMS will now have to do at least an hour and thirty minutes of the race. The minimum drive time so far was just forty-five minutes, with the Pro drivers being able to do the rest of the race at full speed.
The Michelin Le Mans Cup teams are no longer allowed to bring over tires to the weekend. They will have to use new tires every weekend, so there is no saving up tires throughout the season. All LMP3 teams will have three sets each for a weekend, while the GT3 teams will have four.
An unexpected problem appeared in the LMP3 category in 2020, with the introduction of the new engines. These engines were are bit thirstier than the older spec, so two mandatory pitstops were introduced to the Michelin Le Mans Cup races. The tracks will now be separated into high-consumption and low-consumption tracks. Two fuel stops will still be mandatory at the high-consumption tracks, whereas a single stop will be allowed for the others. The ELMS still has a demand of two pitstops with a minimum time, that varies from track to track. The other pitstops can be as fast as they like. The reason behind the ruling of two long stops is for the driver changes to happen safely, so there is no rush with the seat belts. A typical stand time in front of the garage is about 90 seconds.
The ACO has opened for entries from all three series now, but with different closing dates. The FIA WEC will close for entries on 14 January – about two months before the first race at Sebring. ELMS will close for entries on 8 February – also about two months prior to the start of the season in Barcelona, while LMC won’t accept full-season entries after the 22 February.
The entry lists are expected a maximum of two weeks following the closing dates. It’s especially critical for the FIA WEC teams, who have to be ready at Sebring in Florida on 12 March, for pre-season testing. The cars will most likely be shipped to Florida, like in previous season, to make it as cost-effective for teams as possible. The teams can, however, opt to do their own shipping, since some of the teams don’t like their cars being in sea ear (i.e. salt) for several weeks. Those teams will put their cars and equipment on a cargo plane instead.