ACO confirms WEC technical regulations tweaks, LMP2 engine supply for 2017

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The Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) has confirmed its planned changes to the FIA World Endurance Championship technical regulations for the 2017 season, as well as unveiling the new spec engine for LMP2 to be used across series.

Ahead of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, officials from the ACO including president Pierre Fillon and sporting director Vincent Beaumesnil held a press conference to announce the planned changes for 2017.

For the manufacturers racing with hybrids in the LMP1-H class, there will be a reduction in aerodynamic performance for 2017 by increasing the height of the splitter and reducing the size of the rear diffuser.

The ACO and the FIA are keen to increase the popularity and attractiveness of the privateer LMP1 category (LMP1-L) by increasing performance while reducing costs. Currently, just two teams – Rebellion Racing and ByKolles – race in the LMP1 sub-class.

For 2017, the regulations will allow LMP1-L cars to be wider at the front and use bigger rear wings. The minimum weight of the cars has also been reduced to 830 kg, while a single fuel flow metre will be introduced. The torque metre will be removed, as will limits on the number of engines.

The introduction of a Drag Reduction System (DRS) for cars is also being discussed for 2018, having been used effectively in Formula 1 and DTM.

It is hoped that these changes will cut the pace difference between the LMP1-H and LMP1-L cars, which has grown from 2.5 seconds to 7.5 seconds per lap in the past four years.

In LMP2, the ACO announced that it had chosen Gibson to be the sole engine supplier for the class at Le Mans, the FIA WEC, the European Le Mans Series, the Asian Le Mans Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The normally-aspirated V8 will offer teams more power while being fractionally cheaper than engines currently are. Teams will also benefit from technical support from Gibson.

Looking ahead to the future, plans to improve safety were discussed, with the plan being to introduce a new survival cell to cars and enforce stricter crash tests.

The push for zero-emissions racing was also expanded on, leading to discussions about hydrogen-powered cars racing at Le Mans in the future. Investigations into the possibility of using hydrogen in endurance racing will be carried out over the next year.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.