June 18, 2024
Melinda Head

It’s a Race to the Future of the Automobile

Played Out at the Race Track

The 92nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was held this past weekend, with Cadillac (General Motors) determined to place its hypercar at the top of the podium after a promising 3rd place finish in 2023.

In its first appearance since 2002, Cadillac secured 3rd position at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, giving the Team all the confidence necessary to set its sights higher in 2024

What is a hypercar?

In very basic terms, it is a hybrid vehicle that uses 2 forms of propulsion - a conventional internal combustion engine (also called “ICE”) and an electric motor, which provides a horsepower boost.

In endurance racing, there are 2 sub-classes of hypercars:  LMh (Le Mans Hypercar) and LMDh (Le Mans Daytona Hypercar).

The LMh is the crazier of the two, with more open parameters, such as the ability to use 4WD, and to design one’s own hybrid system and chassis.

LMDh only permits rear wheel drive, uses a prescribed chassis (from a few choices) and a Bosch spec’d electric power unit.

Essentially, LMh is quite unrestricted, while LMDh is mostly predetermined.

Cadillac hypercar concept illustration

Both sub-classes race under the same hypercar umbrella, vying for the same podium positions. But you might say: “That’s not fair”.  Indeed it is not, so the advantage of the more open LMh class is balanced out over the more limited LMDh class, allowing both to race head-to-head – this is called balance of performance (BoP) in racing/engineering jargon.

Cadillac entered 3 hypercars in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, known as “Cadillac V-Series.R”. It is designed to conform to the less wild LMDh regulations, which also happen to line up with North American sports car regs (IMSA), and exclude the cost prohibitive LMh class.

Why has Cadillac returned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans?

Over the last number of years, car development has undergone many transformations. At one time, everyone thought we’d be moving to 100% electric vehicles, but now the pendulum appears to be swinging in a different direction. The global trend for car evolution is a hybrid model, with a move to sustainable fuel. The ultimate goal is to develop affordable synthetic fuel with zero emissions.

Motorsports will serve as a testing ground, the results of which will eventually find their way to you, the consumer.

Years ago, Cadillac was a dated brand associated with old men. It has invested heavily in changing consumer perceptions, with motor racing playing a large role in repositioning Cadillac as a sporty brand on the leading edge of technology. Many expect to see Cadillac break into F1 in association with Andretti … if Formula One Management will open up an entry or if they buy an existing F1 team to do so.

How did Cadillac fare this past weekend at Le Mans?

Much to Cadillac’s chagrin, the Team’s best place on Sunday was 7th, 4 positions less than its 2023 results.

It was a very exciting race.

Some say the top 3 winners, Ferrari (1st and 3rd) and Toyota (2nd), were “sandbagging” (not showing their true potential, resulting in questionable balance of power parameters), which gave them a sizeable, unexpected edge. No one knows for sure.  

Cadillac had top talent in its race cars, and a throaty, poppy V8 engine that muscled its way past bystanders to the delight of everyone’s ears. But, at the end of a gruelling 24 hours, it wasn’t enough.

Keep your eye on these American-powered sexy beasts. Winning doesn’t happen overnight, but it may very well come.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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