Aston Martin Racing says it is only going ahead with its all-new LMP1 because it trusts the Automobile Club de l'Ouest to finally address the issue of gasoline/diesel performance equivalence under its new 2011 rules.
The imbalance between the two fuel types has caused controversy since Audi introduced its first diesel LMP1 in 2006. Since then, Audi and Peugeot have dominated LMP1 with their turbodiesel designs, while petrol-engined cars like the original Lola-based Aston Martin LMP1 have been several seconds slower. The 2011 Le Mans regulations aim to resolve this disparity once and for all, and Aston Martin boss David Richards said he is confident this is now achievable.
"Diesel technology has advanced extraordinarily quickly over the last few years and we are all benefiting from that in our road cars because of the racing activities of Audi and Peugeot," he said. "It is a great compliment to Le Mans that they set this challenge in doing what they have done. But I believe we have arrived at a position now where that situation can be stabilised and with a commitment from the ACO our position was that this was the opportune time to do our own engine specifically for the task."
AMR team boss George Howard-Chappell confirmed that the new equivalency rule – article 19 in the ACO regulations – was critical to Aston's decision to go ahead with an all-new petrol-powered LMP1 coupe for 2011.
"We've had lots of discussion and the thing that really swung it for us was the introduction of article 19 in the new regulations which assures us of balance between fuel types and engine tech," he said.
"We've had lots of discussion from the ACO about how that is going to be implemented. We are trusting the ACO to see a level playing field and that's what we are working to."
ACO sports manager Vincent Beaumesnil acknowledged that getting the petrol/diesel performance balance right was going to be extremely difficult, and warned that it might take some tweaks before the rules were perfected.
"Looking for an equilibrium of performance is a very complex thing. Very complex," he said. "And you have to consider so many factors, it's not just the lap time. Performance is influenced by the driver, the tires, the conditions and so many other factors.
"Our purpose is to identify what exactly is the right regulation to make equal two different technologies. We are committed to work on this subject, and we will work openly with constructors on this specific to identify these points."
When asked if the rules would be changed if the initial version failed to equalize performance, he replied: "It's too early to say. You never know what the future holds, but for sure an important step in the year is Le Mans.
"The idea is not to balance cars every weekend, as it is done in other categories. The essence of endurance prototype racing is that you have one regulation, you do your best within that and if you have an advantage you must keep this. So there is no question on this.
"If, with all the new cars and regulations for next year, we will evaluate this. But until you have the cars on the track you don't know what will be the result. We will watch the first events of the season and react accordingly while working with all the constructors."