The new LMH division is attracting more than just legacy automakers.
German racing team ByKolles has taken to social media to show off its Le Mans Hypercar (LMH), but there's plenty of uncertainty around whether the team will compete in FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). There's also speculation of trouble brewing over its use of the legendary Vanwall name seen plastered on the car's sidepods.
French driver Christophe Bouchut piloted the car in the video, which was filmed at Zweibrücken Airport in Germany. The Vanwall LMH is powered by a Gibson V8 engine making around 700 horsepower, and ByKolles says that it developed the car entirely in-house over three years. The company plans to release track day and road-going versions of the car with 650-hp and hybrid 1,000-hp V8 powertrains, respectively. The Aston Martin Valkyrie was originally intended for a similar path, to double as an LMH car, and it's likely Ferrari will be entering the fray soon too.
Even though the car looks great and seems to be running well during its shakedown session, significant questions remain about ByKolles' ability to field a car in the 2022 season. The team's application for the 2022 FIA WEC was rejected over concerns with the homologation process, and there is no avenue for ByKolles to pursue a race-by-race entry into the series. The FIA will allow new LMDh cars to enter on a per-race basis later this year, but no mechanism exists for LMH cars.
ByKolles has other problems beyond finding a spot on the grid. The team's use of the iconic Vanwall name drew scrutiny and legal questions from a group in the UK who claim that they have the rights to the brand, not ByKolles. If allowed to race, things could get complicated should the group decide to mount a legal intervention. The matter is said to be under investigation by the European Union Intellectual Property Office. If the ruling doesn't go ByKolles' way, there's little chance of the Vanwall name showing up on a racing car in Europe.
The 2022 WEC calendar kicked off in March at Sebring, and the next race is scheduled for May 1 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. After that, only four races remain, so it's unclear where or how ByKolles will make an appearance. Teams competing in the Le Mans Hypercar class must run Michelin tires and can set up the car using a variety of architectures. The LMH cars are hybrid, and for 2022, there will be cars running under a new LMDh specification in the mix. Power is limited to 500 kW (670 hp) for the cars, and they carry a minimum weight of 1,030kg (2,270 pounds). At this stage, it seems like we'll have to wait until 2023 to see Vanwall racing again.