The Swiss-based team took the wraps off its new Oreca 01 Swiss HyTech Hybrid last weekend at Paul Ricard, which features a unique energy recovery and transmission system designed by U.K. specialists Flybrid.
Powered by a conventional 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline turbo engine, badged as a Swiss HyTech, Hope Racing’s prototype will double as a flywheel-based hybrid, capable of revving to 60,000 rpm to store kinetic energy from the car’s braking phases. That energy, still in kinetic form, is then transmitted directly back to the drivetrain, bypassing the need for electric motors.
It’s a system which Flybrid calls CFT, or clutch flywheel transmission, in which team engineers claim results in no loss of energy when transmitted from the wheels to the flywheel storage and then back to the wheels.
“With battery systems, you always struggle to get energy in and out of the battery quickly,” explained Tobias Knichel, lead engineer for Flybrid’s LMP1 program. “Where the mechanical system, it basically all depends on how quickly you can decelerate or accelerate the flywheel. That determines at what rate you store the energy.”
Knichel explained that the more energy stored, the faster the flywheel will spin. Compared to the flywheel on the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which revs at 40,000 rpm, Flybrid’s system could end up producing larger amounts of boost, although exact numbers have not been disclosed.
While the ACO limits the amount of energy recovered to 500 kilojoules per two braking phases, it’s a massive increase over the previously allowed 400 kilojoules per lap in Formula One, where Flybrid developed its first-generation system for Honda F1 over two years ago.
“Obviously there are a lot of braking phases at Le Mans,” Knichel said. “We’re really thankful for the ACO to write the rules as they are at the moment. They allow very powerful KERS systems, which is not possible in Formula One. I think that’s one of the reasons why you don’t see any mechanical systems [in F1] and why it was not met with a lot of enthusiasm.”
The team plans to roll out its hybrid for testing next week at Paul Ricard, prior to a public debut at the Le Mans Test Day, where it will likely be joined by Peugeot’s battery/electric motor-based 908 Hybrid4 and the second-generation Zytek Hybrid entered by MIK Corse.
In order to be certified by the ACO, all hybrids must complete the 400-meter long trip down the Le Mans pit lane in full electric/KERS mode. Hope will get its chance on April 20, with lead driver Steve Zacchia handling the driving duties.
“There is a strategy that we’ll use and Steve is going to be very busy in the cockpit,” said Hope Racing technical director Andrew Sayer. “To drive it only on KERS, we have to have the gearbox engaged, but the engine de-clutched. So he’ll have one or two things to do, but he’s going to be trained for that.”
With a race debut slated for next month’s Spa 1000km and participation in the remainder of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup races confirmed, Hope is poised to become the first hybrid to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this June.