Glickenhaus Targets Le Mans Glory With Hypercar Program
Jim Glickenhaus’ team is developing a prototype that could bring the U.S. to the top of the podium at Le Mans for the first time in 50 yearsby Michael Fira, on
James Glickenhaus, owner of one of the most amazing car collections in the world and an avid racing fan, says his team’s latest creation, the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus SCG 007 built to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Hypercar category, can win the 24 Hours of Le Mans outright. The car will also spawn a road-going version of which some 20 to 30 units will be built depending on customer interest. Glickenhaus announced that the car will be powered only by its internal combustion engine although a hybrid system was on the table at the early stages of development. The SCG 007 is set to debut in 2020.
Ever since we first wrote about SCG’s ambition to take on the world’s best at Le Mans, all the way back in July of 2018, the American team/manufacturer has been using its Instagram profile as the main place to post updates on the development of both the 007 and the 004, a volume sports car that’s bound to be turned into a GT3-like race car, similar to SCG’s first car, the 003 that has competed in the VLN, the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring, the International GT Open Series, and the 24 Hours Series.
Glickenhaus will be up against Aston Martin, Toyota, and others
Barely three years ago, everything seemed to be going just fine in the FIA WEC’s camp. Its top class, LMP1, was drawing huge crowds on its own as juggernauts Audi, Porsche, and Toyota were goosing it out on the track race in and race out, spending in excess of $200 million per season. But, in an instant, the seemingly mighty world championship started to crumble as its main players sheepishly announced they’d jump ship. Hit hard by the Dieselgate scandal, the Volkswagen Group first announced the discontinuation of Audi’s long-standing program and, one year later, Porsche followed suit after the German company’s program was curtailed one year early citing a desire to focus on the burgeoning Formula E. Thus, the Toyotas were left to play among themselves as the sole works-backed outfit running a hybrid prototype.
The result was utterly disastrous, as vividly displayed throughout the 2018-2019 FIA WEC Super Season.
As the only big spender left to fight a host of under-funded privateers running non-hybrid cars that were also brand-new, Toyota swept the floor winning all but one of the eight races including the 2018 and the 2019 runnings of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Dismayed, many of the privateers, that chimed in on the promise of a level playing field that never materialized, left even before the 2019-2020 season kicked-off at Silverstone in September.
Before the meltdown, however, the FIA and the ACO, organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, decided to wake up from their slumber and act to save the championship as a whole. The costly and impossible to balance LMP1 class was ditched in favor of a new, more cost-effective ruleset that would see prototypes either based on road-going hypercars or similar to such cars compete in the redesigned top category. These cars would be slower than the P1 monsters but, on the flip side, factory teams would supposedly battle privateer teams on equal footing. Both hybrid and non-hybrid powertrains are allowed and the cars, due to their link to road cars, will look more like the late ’90s GT1 machines than the outgoing P1 spacecraft.
Hypercars Follow In the Footsteps of Le Mans Prototypes
As is the case with every new beginning, there was a flurry of interest around the new 'Hypercar' class but much of it seems to have fizzled out although some big names have already announced their participation: Aston Martin, for starters, will enter with a modified Valkyrie, that ludicrous 1,000 horsepower four-wheeled insanity co-engineered with Red Bull Racing of F1 fame.
Toyota, too, will continue to run past 2019 and into 2020, when the ’Hypercar’ rules come into effect, with a car previewed by the GR Super Sport prototype. Besides these two factory-backed efforts (although Aston Martin will also sell Valkyries to interested private outfits), there will also be some small boutique manufacturers involved. The Austrian ByKolles announced its intention to build a ’Hypercar’ and so did Jim Glickenhaus, co-owner, and co-founder of the Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus team.
The avid collector and racing fan, who owns prized classic cars such as the Ferrari Modulo and the Daytona-winning Ferrari 330 P3/4 Spyder, plans to bring the U.S. to the top of the rostrum at Le Mans for the first time in 50 years. It was in 1969 when an American car, albeit updated in all areas by John Wyer’s JW Automotive Engineering team based in Britain, won outright the gruelling race through the French countryside. In earnest, the last (and only) all-American effort that conquered the twice-around-the-clock race managed to do so in 1967. A.J. Foyt, a first-timer at Le Mans, and Dan Gurney piloted the Ford Mk. IV, built by Phil Remington and his team at Shelby American Inc., to victory beating Ferrari in the process for the second year on the trot.
The Ford vs. Ferrari war, that will come to the big picture in just a few weeks, essentially ended when the FIA decided, before the 1967 season came to a close that, for 1968, a prototype couldn’t be powered by an engine with a capacity that exceeded three liters. Ferrari was furious at the decision and exited stage followed suit by Ford.
However, the international governing body allowed big-engined sports prototypes to race in the Sports 5.0-liter class if at least 25 examples had been built of that respective model.
Three cars met that requirement at the beginning of 1968: Ford’s GT40 Mk. I, the Lola T70 Mk. III, and the archaic Ferrari 250 LM with its 3.3-liter V-12 engine. Former Aston Martin racing manager John Wyer secured funding from Gulf Oil and entered a pair of GT40s in the championship. The cars proved dominant in 1968 and that’s how the Blue Oval can now boast that its cars have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row.
But that was back in the ’60s when a privateer could beat the factory teams (Alpine, Porsche, and Alfa Romeo all fielded 3.0-liter prototypes) if he did his homework right. Nowadays, it’s not only about preparation when the rulebook itself gives an advantage to the works team as it’s been the case all throughout the 2018-2019 Super Season (for the 2019-2020 season, the Toyotas will be slowed down or sped up via the use of ballast following a rather tricky handicap system). So, how could Glickenhaus bring the American contingent back in the winner’s circle?
What facilitates An All-American Victory At Le Mans?
Well, as mentioned, the 'Hypercar' rules should allow for closer racing than we've ever had in the LMP1 era (2006-2020, granted, the name was also used before, in 2005, but those were still just LMP900 cars not even updated to 'Hybrid' P1 spec).
Ever since the P1 rules came about, works teams had a clear advantage. First, it was all about Diesel power with big spenders Audi and Peugeot hurdling along a while away from everybody else running gas-powered prototypes. A privateer could win on the odd day that the works teams A) didn’t show up or, B) had a bad race (Aston Martin won outright the 2009 Nurburgring 1,000-kilometer race, for instance), but that was about it.
Now, things are about to change or, at least, that’s what the FIA and the ACO have been telling us. Glickenhaus does his best to sound like he genuinely believes that the two governing bodies are making a legitimate effort to level all of the parties involved but past experience tells us that this is unlikely.
Officially, the new ruleset allows you to either enter a prototype built "in the style of a hypercar" or a racing version of a road-going hypercar of which at least 20 units have been built - there’s no mention of whether or not you also have to sell those 20 cars though. Minimum weight is set at 2,425 pounds (the Rebellion R-One non-hybrid prototype ran at Silverstone in the opening round of the 2019-2020 FIA WEC season weighing just 1,836 pounds) with maximum output set at 750 horsepower. The ACO expects hypercars to be roughly 15-20 seconds slower than the current crop of hybrid prototypes and, as such, the P2 cars that will remain unchanged will also have to be slowed down.
As Motor Sport Magazine wrote back in June, "restrictions on hybrid cars, which limit power output are meant to ensure that conventional models can compete for overall victory, with a Balance of Performance system, currently used for GTE cars, being introduced." This means that the cars will be tested together prior to the beginning of the season and, most likely, a target lap time will be set for each round, with each car then balanced to run within that performance window using air restrictors, ballast, and restrictions on engine revs and torque.
"I feel confident that they will treat us completely fairly and I think in their heart, they’d be delighted if we won first overall," said Glickenhaus commenting the plan to use Balance of Performance measures to keep the parity intact from 2021 onwards. "I no longer think it is just a question anymore of who has the largest wallet, I think in fairness to the ACO and the FIA, they’ve come up with a system that a privateer could do very well," he added. This is key to the future of the class because a man like Glickenhaus cannot hope to compete against Toyota and Aston Martin in an all-out arms race. After all, his net worth is said to be roughly $200 million or about as much as Audi and Porsche were spending to outgun one another in 2016.
If everyone is being kept in check, Glickenhaus reckons that "it’s absolutely possible that we could win in the first year," referring to his team's chances of winning the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans, the season-ending round of the 2020-2021 season.
Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus will tackle the whole season which is actually part of the rules: if you want to race at Le Mans and you aren’t granted an automatic invite by the FIA/ACO for your achievements in the continental Le Mans-style series, you must get on board for the whole season to do it.
Much of Glickenhaus’ optimism stems from the fact that he’s assembled a team of young but experienced engineers and mechanics, some with FIA WEC and Formula 1 backgrounds, that will build the cars and that has already built the very capable SCG 003 C that has taken pole position in the 24 Hours of the Nurburgring. "We race Porsche factory, Mercedes factory, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, and we’ve done well [at the Nurburgring]," Glickenhaus pointed out. "We’re already competing against Toyota and Aston Martin - quite frankly we beat both of them at the ‘Ring,” the financier and automotive entrepreneur added.
The Chance To Race A Road-Based Car Got Glickenhaus Interested
Before the announcement of the ’Hypercar’ regulations, SCG had no interest in racing at Le Mans because there was no way for a car built following Glickenhaus’ ethos to compete in the French enduro. "In our opinion, it was much more interesting when the top class at Le Mans looked like cars that were aspirational prototype versions of sports cars, back to the days when you could drive a car to Le Mans and race it, and if you didn’t destroy it, come back and drive it to dinner." Broadly speaking, the cars built to the new rules harken back to those days back in the ’60s when even the Chaparral 2D was road registered as it contested the Targa Florio.
The team unveiled recently a host of computer-generated images of the SCG 007 and you can still see the Ferrari influences that have been present in everything that SCG has raced thus far. The broad nose with swooping but pointy fenders features an incorporated wing that helps direct air both through the front splitter and into the venturis under the car and over the cockpit area.
The cockpit itself is far bigger than what we're seeing on the current cars and resembles more the cockpits of '90s GT1 cars.
In the back, the SCG 007 features a gigantic wing attached to two rounded fins, moving away from the traditional swan-neck wing mounts that we can see on Toyota’s prototype, for instance. What is more, the SCG lacks the mandated fin connecting the back of the cockpit to the wing that’s been present since 2011 and that’s there to stop the cars from somersaulting when air gets underneath them.
The diffuser is big and follows the line of the floor fins before the rear wheels. Four exhaust tips are placed in the space between the rear bodywork and the diffuser itself with the taillights located in the upper corners of the twin rear grilles next to where the fins starting lifting from the tip of the rear fenders. The design is dramatic, right down to the Alfa Romeo-inspired rims, but it doesn’t seem to be, to us, how the SCG 007 will actually look as some things must be altered among which is the rear wing.
We don’t yet know what engine will power the SCG 007 but what’s clear is that it won’t be a hybrid drivetrain. "When they made it 750, the maximum total horsepower, that became feasible and once again it’s a question of weight. If you have to put in a hybrid system, you have to dedicate a differential in the front, you’re not allowed to put the motors on the wheels because you can torque vector, and you need batteries and so you’re adding weight that once again makes it harder," Glickenhaus said.
This comes to contradict Jim’s own past statements that suggested his team will use a "3.0-liter, twin-turbo, V-6 engine that will produce 641 horsepower to drive the rear wheels, while a hybrid KERS unit will develop a further 148 horsepower in the front." That would’ve made the SCG similar in concept to the Toyota.
For reference, the SCG 003C that's balanced to race against GT3 machinery is powered by a 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged, Honda HR35TT V-6 limited to 490 ponies while the 'Stradale' version of the 003 features the 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged BMW S63 V-8 good enough for 750 horsepower.
Torque ranges between 516 and 590 pound-feet, all of it sent to the wheels through a Hewland six-speed sequential box in the 003C and, respectively, a dual-clutch seven-speed unit in the 003 ’Stradale’. It appears if we are to believe some posts and comments made by Glickenhaus on Instagram, that a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 will still offer the oomph that won’t be Nissan’s VRX30A 3.0-liter mill of the failed GT-R LMP1 car.
Aston Martin, likewise, will not equip the Valkyrie with a hybrid system. That’s because the Cosworth-developed naturally aspirated V-12 actually puts out a lot more than the maximum 750 horsepower with the unbridled road car delivering a face-melting 1,160 horsepower. "That’s why the whole four-wheel-drive/two-wheel-drive equivalence debate was so important leading up to the finalization of the regulations," said Aston Martin’s Sporting Director David King.
If things run according to plan, Glickenhaus plans to begin testing in July of 2020, just two months before the projected date of the season’s kick-off race. This means the team shall encounter no problems during testing nor delays during manufacturing if it wants to show up on the gird in the first round. On the question of drivers, Glickenhaus has said that the team discussed with a number of drivers "at the highest level" including LMP1 and ex-F1 drivers.
We’ll have to wait and see how it all pans out and if the BoP will actually allow Glickenhaus to at least have a chance to fight above his weight and, more importantly, let’s hope the racing will be good. At least half as good as this.
Read our full review on the 2016 SCG 003.
Source: Motor Sport Magazine