Every Le Mans Hypercar Should Look Like the Bugatti Bolide

Fred Smith
·3 min read
Photo credit: Bugatti
Photo credit: Bugatti

From Road & Track

The Le Mans Hypercar class, the new top-class at Le Mans that will be replacing LMP1 starting next season, is the single most exciting thing to happen at the 24 hour race since Porsche joined Audi and Toyota in the hybrid-focused top class at the beginning of this decade. Unfortunately, the cars announced for the category so far all more or less share the same basic shape of the modern LMP1 car, with a pronounced rear fender protruding out over a low beltline and a narrow greenhouse being surrounded on all sides by bodywork. This, simply, is the look of a modern racing car, and, while it optimizes safety, efficiency, and speed, it certainly does not look as interesting as some other options.

Unlike the Bugatti Bolide.

Volkswagen's absurd track-only specialist car is very obviously not a racing car. Weighing in at 2800 pounds may be impressive for a Bugatti, but the number is hefty for a racing prototype, nearly a thousand pounds over the expected weight of a current LMP1 car. The W16, too, is not exactly the most efficient engine layout available to a team hoping to make as few pit stops as possible in a 24 hour race. The car is also all wheel drive, and its 1800 horsepower are far above the expectation for any racing car. All of this adds up to a projected lap time at the Circuit de la Sarthe of 3:07, eight seconds faster than this year's pole time of 3:15. In other words, despite being fast enough for the task, it is not a tenable racing car in any way.

It can teach lessons, however. The Bolide shares some of the obvious distinctions of a modern racing car, including a greenhouse narrower than the car itself, wide rear fenders that protrude well above the car's beltline, and an aggressive rear fin designed to keep the car from "Blowing over" in case of a spin. All of the features that become so jarring on an LMP1 car look graceful in the context of the Bolide, smoothed over by other radical, primarily-visual features that integrate them into something that looks more cohesive as a car. It is a stark contrast to Toyota's concept GR Super Sport, which carries all the awkward shapes expected of a car designed first and foremost to be a racing car and makes no real effort to integrate them into a cohesive design. Aston Martin's Valkyrie, which was designed for the LMH class but will not race after the team re-organized their budget earlier this year, is visually pleasing in its radical simplicity, but it, too, is defined by five very distinct shapes: four protruding sections of bodywork covering each corner and a narrow, shapeless greenhouse stuck in the center.

This should be the lesson LMP1 teams take from the Bolide. While their Hypercars will not be pushing 1,800 horsepower or 300 miles per hour, they will need to integrate all of these practical features into something that, visually, looks like a cohesive car rather than an engineering project. IMSA's DPi category is designed specifically to allow manufacturers to build a unique look to their otherwise-shared car platforms in order to create some level of production relevance for manufacturers, and theoretically LMH should allow teams even more opportunity to create that sort of visual distinction.

The Bolide is immediately recognizable as a Bugatti. If Toyota, Peugeot, and other manufacturers looking to join the Hypercar category take the right lessons from it, their potential Le Mans winners will be, too.

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