Hybrid Warfare: The Top Prototypes of the 24 Hours of Le Mans’ 100th Anniversary

cadillac hybrid prototype, former f1 pilot antonio gionvinazzi, porsche 963 steering wheel
Hybrid Warfare: The Top Prototypes of Le Mans 2023Cayce Clifford, Marc Urbano, and Will Crooks
cadillac hybrid prototype, former f1 pilot antonio gionvinazzi, porsche 963 steering wheel
Cayce Clifford, Marc Urbano, and Will Crooks

People love nice round numbers. Why is not entirely clear, but they do. And that’s particularly true when that number heralds an anniversary. So it’s natural that the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for its entire existence, is making a big deal of this year’s race. It’s the event’s centenary, after all.

This story originally appeared in Volume 16 of Road & Track.

Okay, so it’s not the 100th race. There were nine years during and following World War II when no race was held. The 1936 race cancellation was due to the most French of reasons, a labor strike. And there’s that small matter of the event not even being a race until its sixth running in 1928. But forget about all that because what matters—yes, even more than nice round numbers—is that 2023 promises to be one of the best races in years.


That’s almost entirely down to a historic accord announced three years ago between the ACO and IMSA that will now allow the Eurocentric Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) class to run head-to-head against the new-for-2023 IMSA-defined Le Mans Daytona hybrid prototypes (LMDh). Both classes put out a maximum 500 kW or 671 hp (measured at the driveshaft). And both varieties of prototype must have a downforce-­to-aerodynamic-drag ratio of 4:1.

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Hearst Owned

LMDh cars, like the ones that raced at this year’s 24 Hours of Daytona in IMSA’s GTP class, must be based on one of four possible independently designed chassis and use the same transmission and hybrid system. They are all rear-wheel drive. This approach dramatically cuts development costs. Cadillac and Porsche will each field LMDh entries in this year’s Le Mans.

The LMH rule set allows carmakers to design and build their own chassis and hybrid system—along with everything else, for that matter. To­yota is the returning champ in the class with its proven hybrid four-wheel-drive entry. It’ll have to fend off big factory efforts from Peugeot and Ferrari, both of which use a conceptually similar hybrid four-wheel-drive powertrain. And Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus returns with the nonhybrid 007.

The last time five major manufacturers vied for the overall win was pretty much never. Add in a couple of dark-horse independent efforts, and you have one helluva 100th-­anniversary party.

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Hearst Owned

Looking ahead, Alpine, BMW, and Lambor­ghini are expected to join in the fight at the 2024 running of Le Mans. But that’ll be the 101st anniversary of the first race, and who cares about that?

Here are our profiles of the 2023 Ferrari, Cadillac, and Porsche programs. Place your bets accordingly.

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