What are Le Mans Prototypes? The abbreviation of LMP refers to Le Mans Prototype which is a category of automotive race in the FIA World Endurance Championship. It is a type of racing which is open to finding innovative ways for finding new technologies to power cars. There category of racing gets its name from the annual 24 Hours of Le Mans race held in Le Mans, France. One specific category LMP1 was born from this famous race, and for being the most innovative race cars in the world.
The race has been held annually since 1923, and is particularly known for being the ultimate test for car manufacturers to test new forms of technology. Over the years the race has been an innovative foreground for features that are found in regular passenger cars. During the first decade of the race many companies developed cars that were specifically designed to last 24 hours of racing. Since its start in 1923 the race has seen new forms of technology, even the features in our modern-day cars which may seem not to be very significant. During the 24-hour race there are various elements that a car must endure to reach the end, which also includes weather, track layout, and also the components of the car itself. In 1926 Carmaker Lorraine-Dietrich introduced the first use of fog lights to provide clarity for foggy weather in the race.
During the 1950’s engineers at the British Car maker Jaguar managed to develop a new form of brakes that were far more efficient than the traditional use of drum brakes, as a result the disc brakes were born to specifically be used in the 1953 24 hours of Le mans. These were simple leaps for the future of cars. Other significant safety systems that were born from Le Mans also include seat belts and even windshield wipers, halogen headlights and direct-injection engine improvements. However, safety features were not the only thing that helped to improve the cars of today. Over the decades the race cars of this race have evolved from modified road cars to specifically built multimillion-dollar race cars, and the winners of this race have been pioneers in using new technologies to a point where categories needed to be introduced to provide equal competition.
In 1991 the ACO (Automotive Club l’Ouest) organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, devised multiple categories, as there was a debate regarding new faster cars racing against aged racing cars which were a bit older. Out of the multiple categories came Group C, which was introduced in the 1970’s. Group C resulted in the creation of race cars that featured more streamlined bodies; race cars such as the Porsche 956 and the Jaguar XJR-LM9 were created to minimize air resistance. Two decades later in 1992 the categories were changed once again, and the Le Mans prototype class was born in. The main focus of creating this class was to keep the innovations of these fast race cars. At the turn of the century one manufacturer dominated the category; In 1999 Audi won the race using a race car known as the R8. The focus of the LMP category in the 2000’s not only was speed and engine power, but also fuel efficiently to avoid pit stops which could use up valuable time. In 2006 Audi also became the first car maker to win the race using a V-12 Cylinder diesel engine in the R-10, which was more fuel efficient when compared to a gasoline engine.
In the past decade however, the mass of cars has also been a point of focus regarding the Prototypes. One of the easiest components of a car to use to decrease the weight is the engine. In 2011 Audi once again won the 24 hours of Le Mans using the R18 TDI race car which featured a V6-cylinder engine turbocharged engine which was not only more lightweight but also more fuel efficient their race car which used 33 percent less fuel than their 2010 car the R-10. Which was more efficient than their rival the Peugeot 908 HDI-FAP which had a bigger V8 Cylinder diesel engine. The body of the race car was also improved by using lightweight carbon fiber for the chassis. In 2012 the LMP category featured the first Hybrid Prototypes in the 24-hour race.
The new hybrids included the Toyota TSO30, which includes and Battery capacitator which recovers energy lost when braking and sends the power to the front wheel with an electric motor combined with a V8 engine. The other also including the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro, which features the same philosophy instead of recovering lost energy through a capacitator it uses a flywheel instead to recover energy which is sent to an electric motor along with power from the a V6 turbocharged engine found in the original R18. With the combined hybrid powertrains of both cars, the Audi R18 E-Tron and the Toyota TS030 both make over 1,000 horsepower Eventually the Audi R-18 quattro won the race, it became the first Hybrid race car to win the race. Currently the technology used in the race cars are used in the current hybrid production cars of today have been used. Toyota has incorporating the technology used in the TS030 to the Prius Hybrid car in improving the battery life, along with Audi and Porsche using the data of the race cars to improve the hybrid and electric cars of their own. Physics can apply to many things in our world anything from architecture to airplanes to road construction. This is the same case when it comes to the Le Mans Prototype racecars and can be demonstrated through Newtons three laws of motion.
Newton’s first law of motion states that an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted by another force. This is demonstrated when the cars are cornering, as the brakes act the unbalanced force acting on the object. Newton’s second law which states that the acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the force applied to the object and inversely proportional to the mass of the object. Meaning the heavier the object the more force is needed to give the car a positive acceleration rate. To keep the mass of the racecars down most Le Mans prototypes are made from lightweight composite materials such as carbon fiber which is used in the modern LMP machines of today such as the Porsche 919 LMP1 and the Toyota TS050 LMP1 Hybrids. Along with lightweight bodywork both cars also feature small lightweight yet powerful engines.
The Porsche 919 LMP1 car features a V-4 turbocharged engine and the Toyota TS050 features a V6 Turbocharged engine which are small engines that eliminate sheds weight in order to use less force to accelerate the race cars. Newton’s third law for which states that for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction is demonstrate through the tires of the race car which are called slicks which have a soft smooth surface and require heat on the track to help obtain the maximum grip to propel the car forward. Kinetic energy and potential energy are two important features which can be used to observe in two forms in a Le Mans Prototype racecar. One of these forms is through accidents where these cars are involved. In the 2011 24 hours of Le Mans, two Audi R18 were involved in two separate accidents, one of the R18s was attempting to pass a slower car when it collided with the car veering towards a tire wall at a high rate of velocity causing it to roll over and nearly impacting spectators before coming to a rest. In a separate incident during the race an identical incident occurred with another R18, except the second car was traveling at a high rate of speed. Fortunately, both drivers were uninjured and walked away.
The reason both drivers were able to walk away was due to the kinetic energy and the form it was dissipated, as the kinetic energy was dispersed through sound, thermal, and through the work of crumpling zones which in this case make the bodywork rip apart sending part of the car flying way from the survival cell of the car. Another form that kinetic energy is observed through these cars is through the form of the Kinetic Energy Recovery System or KERS, which works by collecting energy that is lost during braking in the form of heat and storing in the form of electrical energy and storing in a capacitator or flywheel as potential energy. When used along with the potential energy of the chemical fuel and the combustion engine, the hybrid system produces over 1,000 horsepower. In conclusion the world of Le Mans Prototype race cars physics plays a major role in the creation, and is demonstrated through their performance as through the newton’s laws of motion and especially through Kinetic and Potential Energy LMP race cars are built using the laws of physics.
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