New Hypercar Rules Could See Koengisegg Race The Jesko At Le Mans
Over a decade since Koenigsegg built the CGT in vain, founder and CEO Christian von Koenigsegg admitted he wants to compete at Le Mansby Michael Fira, on
We first saw the Koenigsegg Jesko at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. There, the replacement of the Agera RS, the current world’s fastest production road car, gathered quite the crowd, not least because of the Swedish automaker’s insane performance claims: that the Jesko puts out 1,578 horses on E85 biofuel or that a low-downforce version could reach 300 mph. Soon, though, we may see the Jesko do other things that the Agera RS never dreamt of doing besides traveling at 300 mph, such as going to the races. What races? The ones in the World Endurance Championship.
The Koenigsegg Jesko, a limited-run hypercar that could reset our standards for what’s fast and what’s outrageously fast, is merely the latest proof that Christian Von Koenigsegg and his motley crew means business. The Swedes thought that having a car in their stable that could do 278 mph on a public road (not on a gimmicky oval like Nardo) is not enough and, as such, the Jesko betters the Agera RS in almost all conceivable ways. It’s so incredible that if Koenigsegg does decide to turn it into a racing car, it won’t race with the likes of the Ferrari 488 GTB, the Aston Martin Vantage, the Chevy Corvette and all of the other GTs, instead gunning for the overall honors courtesy of the new Prototype Hypercar rules that will come into effect in 2020.
The 2020 Koenigsegg Jesko is the perfect base for a Prototype Hypercar
If you aren’t up to date with your endurance racing news, take a break from reading this article and jump over to our in-depth look at what happened at Le Mans a week ago where the last round of the 2018-2019 FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season round took place. Now that you’re up to speed with how things are going, you should know that the status quo is about to change.
You see, in 2012, FIA introduced hybridization in the (then) new-born World Endurance Championship.
The hybrid systems became mandatory for all of the OEMs that competed in the series’ top class, LMP1, in itself a class that’s been around since 2006. The formula seemed to work as Porsche joined Audi and Toyota in 2014 and it was followed by Nissan in 2015. But the Japenese manufacturer and its front-engined marvel evaporated after just one race, and then the other factory teams began to feel the pressure of the boards as they were spending in excess of $200 million per season to stay at the forefront of development. Audi exited stage left in 2016 after a hugely successful tenure in sports car racing and Porsche, arguably the biggest name in this form of racing, followed suit in 2017 after winning its 19th 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
This left Toyota to only race against a bunch of privateers that were never going to be on the same level budget-wise.
But Toyota’s obvious juggernaut position helped it do more than just beat those privateers because it could throw more money at the problem. The Japanese received an almost tailor-made rulebook that enforced the TS050’s efficiency. It could go longer on a tank of fuel because the rulebook said so (or rather, it forced privateers to stop one lap sooner, at Le Mans) and it also allowed it to take in fuel faster than anyone else.
People started moaning about the end result - a championship decided before the first race had even taken place - and that’s when the organizers realized that they need OEMs back and the only way they could come back is if the costs dropped. The current formula was stiff when it came to cost-cutting, so a new one had to be conceived. After countless discussions, round tables, phone calls, technical committees and everything in between, the FIA and the ACO (l’Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans) presented the Prototype Hypercar category that will replace the LMP1 category starting in 2020 when the second winter FIA WEC season will kick-off.
What is a Prototype Hypercar?
Le Mans-style racing has been, since 1993, about a combination of prototypes and GTs racing together at the same time in a plethora of different classes. The production-based models left the scene in the mid-’80s as Group C prototypes became so popular they filled the grids on their own. Then, when Group C died in the early ’90s, GTs were welcomed back at Le Mans and have raced there as well as other series that shared (at least a part of) the Le Mans rulebook ever since.
A prototype is a car that doesn't have a road-going equivalent.
That’s why the GT1 cars of the late ’90s like the Toyota TS020 GT-One and the Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR can’t be considered bona fide prototypes since at least one road-going chassis was built to homologate those cars. But you won’t see a road-going Audi R8 prototype or a street-legal Peugeot 908 HDi FAP anytime soon. Well, this is about to change as the new top of class in the FIA WEC and, consequently, at Le Mans, will feature cars based on road-going models.
The move comes, truth be told, after IMSA experimented with the idea of bringing prototypes closer in appearance to the product that supporting manufacturers actually sell. That’s why the DPI cars resemble production cars made by the manufacturer that’s involved in the development of each prototype - the Mazda RT24-P sports cues from a number of current Mazda products and so does the Cadillac DPI-V.R and the Nissan GT-R DPI, among others.
As such, the Hypercar Prototypes will be developed with road-going cars in mind.
Interested automakers, can either take (or create) a road-going hypercar and then turn it into a racing car after they’ve built 25 units of the said hypercar or, if they wish, they can build a prototype without bothering to build 25 road-going units, although at least one must exist to homologate the car - as far as we can understand right now.
The ACO and the FIA confirmed the plan to introduce this new formula as early as 2020 during the Le Mans weekend and, thus far, we know that the new cars will put out 750 horsepower and that, if you opt to strap a hybrid system to your car, that system can produce no more than 250 horsepower. We also know that these new Hypercar Prototypes will weigh at least 2,425 pounds (a standard Jesko weighs 3,130 pounds with all of the liquids onboard) and that they shouldn’t go below 3:30 a lap around the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the race.
Toyota Gazoo Racing, the World Champion team, announced it will enter a racing version of the GR Super Sport Concept from 2018. "For Toyota Gazoo Racing, this new era of competition is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our credentials not only as a race team against some of the best in the business," said the company in a press release. Toyota’s announcement was shortly followed by a short video showing none other than Toyota Chairman Akio Toyoda test-driving a mule of the new ’Prototype Hypercar’ at Fuji. What’s interesting is that the mule tested by Toyoda and chief test driver Kamui Kobayashi was a two-seater, suggesting it’s actually a mule of the road car and not the race car as previewed by an artist’s rendering released by Toyota.
Right after Toyota’s announcement of its continued support of the FIA WEC, Aston Martin stepped up to state that it plans to bring the Valkyrie to Le Mans in full-blown ’Hypercar Prototype’ guise. Of course, as Aston Martin plans to build 150 Valkyries, there’ll be no hurdles in getting the car homologated.
Happily, this race version will sport the same insane V-12 developed by Cosworth with no turbochargers added and no hybrid system. It will be, in short, a version of the Valkyrie AMR Pro built for long-distance racing and Aston Martin said it will sell it to customers too. The chassis itself will be updated for the rigors of long-distance sports car racing by Multimatic although the road car has been mainly co-developed by Aston Martin, Prodrive (who builts the Aston Martin race cars since 2005), and R-Motorsport/Arden. The latter has partnered with HWA for its DTM adventure but is said to be interested to buy ’customer’ Valkyrie chassis and race in LMP1 as the R-Motorsport boss wants to race at Le Mans.
With Aston Martin and Toyota already in the game, the organizers have said they will work really hard to get the Balance of Performance just right.
You may remember that before Audi and Porsche left, the hybrid prototypes were left alone to race sans BoP, in other words, whoever had the fastest car won the races. Now, though, there’s something called EoT (Equivalent of Technology) which is similar in nature to the BoP that is enforced in the GT classes, and it’s there to ensure that (theoretically) the privateers can race and win against the works teams. However, we’ve seen that the EoT has failed because of Toyota’s advantage that’s written in the rules so, this time around, the ACO pledges to have a fair BoP system in place that will allow both hybrid ’Prototype Hypercars’ and non-hybrid ones to race together in close contention.
Where does Koenigsegg find itself in all of this?
Well, with product relevance being a top priority for the organizers to the point that they’ve allowed extensively modified road cars to race in the top category of the FIA WEC, we could well see a surge in the number of manufacturers that will enter the series in 2020 or, more realistically, in 2021, when the second season under this set of rules will begin.
Koenigsegg left sports car racing before it even had a chance to enter.
Over a decade ago, the CCGT was built to meet the rules of the GT1 class. The racing version of the CCR was built from reinforced carbon fiber and kevlar and featured a race-prepped version of the dry sump 5.0-liter V-8 engine that developed about 600 horsepower - in a car that weighed under 2,200 pounds without necessary ballast. The car should’ve debuted in 2008, but just as the car was being tested and proving itself in the hands of a number of drivers, the FIA and the ACO changed the rules for 2008. Carbon fiber monocoques were no longer allowed and, on top of that, the minimum production number rose from 20 over several years to over 350 per year. However, cars that had already been homologated according to the old rules could still compete (such as the Maserati MC12 of which just 50 were built in all).
With the CCGT retired, Koenigsegg had no desire to build a slower version to enter the GT2 class and, anyway, it could never meet the production numbers required.
"To race in the last ten years, after GT1 was gone, against 911s and 458s, would have been crazy, with a car costing ten times as much, being bogged down by the balance of performance," said Christian Von Koenigsegg quoted by Road & Track. Von Koenigsegg now sees the ’Hypercar Prototype’ class as an opportunity to finally bring his company to Circuit de la Sarthe. "The new regulations [announced last week] look much more feasible on the surface—but we have not yet had time to fully evaluate them. The interest from our side persists, but for the time being, we have no announcement." The company is, though, actively looking at turning the Jesko into a racing car as renders of a racing version are said to exist already.
Having said this, we think you shouldn’t get your hopes up too much because Koenigsegg would probably still need the help of a potent team to get the program off the ground as it’s a really expensive and complicated thing to do, something that Von Koenigsegg acknowledged too. "Probably if we do it, we’ll team up with some racing team instead of doing everything from the factory," he said during the 2019 Geneva Auto Show. Luckily, there are experienced teams out there looking to partner with an OEM to build a car for the new rules.
One such example is ORECA, the manufacturer behind the most successful LMP2 chassis (by the way, LMP2 is set to stay as is and it will probably be slowed down in the process) and the Rebellion LMP1 prototypes of the last few years.
The French company is currently in talks with a number of manufacturers already, and we don't know if any of those is Koenigsegg, but you never know until something is made official.
But there’s one element in ORECA’s master plan that suits Koenigsegg’s needs, namely the fact that ORECA doesn’t want to build a hybrid car and, of course, the Jesko is not a hybrid. "I think that the car manufacturers, due to the experience of Toyota, would prefer to come with a non-hybrid so they can compete inside the BoP window," said Hugues de Chaunac, ORECA’s President.
Who else may join the freight?
We know Aston Martin has vowed to come back after almost a decade away from the top class (the British manufacturer last raced in LMP1 in 2011 with the ill-fated AMR-One) and Toyota is set to continue as well.
Koenigsegg might be a wildcard, but there are other smaller players that want to come out and fight too.
James Glickenhaus’ team has said it will build a prototype based on its SCG 007 road car since last year and the project seems to be afoot. ByKolles, the Austrian team that has campaigned a Nissan-powered prototype for the past three years also said it will build a prototype hypercar (in other words, a car like the one being developed by Toyota) and this may be just the tip of the iceberg.
McLaren was one of the key participants of all those round tables and now that the regulations have been released, the British company can make a call: will it race at Le Mans? WIll it continue in Formula 1? Will it refocus and go all guns blazing in Indycar? It’s unclear at the time of writing, but Zak Brown did say that "all of our racing decisions would be taken in isolation, we would run everything independently, not only technically but fiscally. One isn’t going to pull on the other, and we’re not going to not do this or not do this. Everything has to stand on its own two feet."
We’re still a long way before being able to draw out the entry list for 2021, but it’s clear that the new set of rules has made quite a few big names in the industry turn their heads towards endurance racing and that’s a good thing. "I’m really confident this concept is quite innovative, it will bring very exotic and sexy cars on the grid that I hope the fans and media will enjoy,” said Vincent Beaumesnil, the ACO’s Sporting Director.
|Engine||Koenigsegg twin turbo aluminium 5,0L V8, 4 valves per cylinder, flat-plane crankshaft, double overhead camshafts, dry sump lubrication|
|Bore: 92 mm Stroke: 95.25 mm|
|Sequential, multipoint fuel injection with individual cylinder pressure sensors and back pressure sensors|
|Closed loop individual combustion and lambda control, twin ceramic ball bearing turbo chargers with Koenigsegg response system.|
|1.7 bar boost pressure (2.2 bar with E85)|
|Dry sump lubrication. Carbon fiber intake manifold with optimised intake tracts|
|Tig-welded ceramic coated 0.8 mm wall thickness inconel exhaust system manifold with merge collector|
|Total engine weight: 189 kg|
|OUTPUT||Gasoline: 955 kW (1280 hp) at 7800 rpm, redline at 8500 rpm.|
|E85: 1195 kW (1600 hp)|
|Torque: 1000 Nm from 2700 to 6170 rpm|
|Max torque: 1500 Nm at 5100 rpm|
|Dimensions||Total length: 4610mm|
|Total width: 2030mm|
|Total height: 1210mm|
|Ride Height: 70-100mm front, 75-100mm rear|
|Front lifting system activated: +50mm|
|Fuel capacity: 72 litres|
|Luggage compartments: 100 l front, 50 l rear|
|Dry weight: 1320kg|
|Curb weight: 1420kg|
Read our full review on the 2020 Koenigsegg Jesko.
Read our full review on the 2020 Koenigsegg Jesko Cherry Red Edition10.
Read our in-depth review of the 2017 Koenigsegg Regera
Check out our full review of the 2010 Koenigsegg Agera
Check out our full review of the 2015 Koenigsegg One:1
Source: Road & Track