Is Le Mans a better technology incubator than Formula One

Audi and Peugeot battle it out at the 2012 Le Mans


For a long time, it has been pounded in my cranium that Formula One technology trickles down to production cars but  I don’t know if that is the best test tube for automotive technology around. For those who have avidly followed F1, how many innovations, with the notable exception of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System-a mechanical version of an electric hybrid) have we seen. Most of them have been miniscule aerodynamic innovations which yield a nanosecond in lap time when your speeds reach triple digits. A few examples include a new rear diffuser in the Brawn, an F-duct which everyone copied. First any innovation is quickly protested against by the other teams. If the protest is upheld-ouch! If not, everyone else makes a carbon copy of that innovation.
But the other big variables – tires, major dimensions, engine capacity and configuration are tightly and strictly controlled by Bernie Ecclestone much in the same way the SS used to run Auschwitz.
In contrast, look at Le Mans. In the past dozen years or so, we have seen a big variety of cars – the Mazda 787 – a rotary, Peugeot and Audi diesels. This year, the teams went for it all out. Peugeot had a diesel. Audi had a regular diesel and a mechanical hybrid diesel and Nissan had the revolutionary Delta-Wing. Oh and I forgot, Toyota had a racecar with a hybrid system much like the Prius.

I am sure my readers are salivating at the prospect of knowing more about these cars.
So in my next posts, I will dive deeper for a closer look at these innovative racing machines. Stay tuned …

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