There will be new qualifying rules implemented, when the 24 Hours of Le Mans runs in June 2020.
There are significant changes to the Wednesday and Thursday in race week, to add even more excitement, but with added practice time for the teams.
Two practice sessions will be held on Wednesday. The first one will run from 15.30 until 20.00, with another hour from 22-23.
All sixty-two cars will be on track from 23.15 until 24.00, where they are allowed to do as many laps as they wish, and do all the changes to cars as they desire. Top six from each category – LMP1, LMP2, GTE Pro and GTE Am – will win a spot in “Hyperpole”, which is a special qualifying session, for the twenty-four cars. Starting positions 25-62 are on lock following the 45 minutes of running.
Thursday will have another free practice from 17.00 until 19.00, with the twenty-four cars from yesterday taking it to the track between 21.00 and 21.30. They will be allowed as many laps as they want, and as many tires as they want. However, the cars are not allowed to be pushed inside the garage and have to stay on the pitlane instead.
Thursday will be finished off with two hours of free practice from 22.00 until 24.00.
This new system is to add more drama into the qualifying. What if there is a Yellow Flag Zone? Well, then drivers would have to lift, and risk losing out on the top-24. The teams will however be sorted on the grid in their respective categories, so we won’t have an LMP1 car at the rear of the field, having to battle its way through. At least not until Turn 1 shenanigans might happen.
Changes to the automatic invites for the European Le Mans Series were announced last week, with the number of competitors being adjusted within the categories, so with 6 to 11 = 1 invite, 12 to 17 = 2 invites, and 18+ resulting in three tickets for the LMP2 cars. The graduation in GTE is 4 to 7 = 1 invite, 8 to 11 = 2 invites, and 12+ will be three tickets. Same thing will be put in place in the Asian Le Mans Series for LMP2 and the GT3 categories, while it’s still just the LMP3 winner in both ELMS and Asian LMS, who will receive an automatic invite.
The GT3 category champion in the Michelin Le Mans Cup will still just have one invite, while IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship continues to have two tickets, like now.
It will only be the LMP2 and GTE Am winners of the 24 Hours race, who will be awarded an auto-entry for the race, the following year. All winners have received an entry until now – since the LMP1/Hypercar and GTE Pro winners already are so professional, and most likely already entered in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
The entries for the 2020 race opened today, and will run until 13 February. The final sixty-two participants will be announced after 23 February, where the final in the Asian Le Mans Series will be run. But we already know a lot of the teams, holding an entry for the race – you might want to check this article, where we previously touched on this subject.