The first car of the new era in sportscar racing has hit iRacing. But what is the best way to drive the BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh car?
Image Credit: iRacing
Endurance racing fans are about to enter the best couple of years in recent memory. The FIA WEC and IMSA Sportscar Championship have come together to create an exquisite set of car regulations.
The two major endurance championships in the world will both feature the LMH and LMDh cars as part of the top class. In WEC, this has already started while IMSA is set for its first experience of the new era in January with the Daytona 24.
Ever since the announcement of this never-before-seen move toward convergence, simracers have been wondering when we’ll get our first taste of the action. Until now, games such as rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa have received the odd bit of content. But we were all really waiting for iRacing to add one of the new prototypes to its service. Now, it’s happened.
For Season 1 of 2023, iRacing gets the tediously named BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh car. So I thought I’d give myself the challenge of learning it so you don’t have to.
What is the BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh?
Within the Hypercar and GTP categories in WEC and IMSA respectively will race both the LMH and LMDh cars. BMW’s entrant that will only run the American series in 2023 falls under the LMDh bracket.
These cars are based on LMP2 chassis very similarly to the outgoing DPi cars. BMW has partnered Dallara and uses the future Dallara LMP2 chassis. From there, new parts are developed for the suspension and body. In fact, the cars aim to fall into the styling cues of the individual brands themselves. It’s fair to say the BMW certainly does that thanks to the large kidney grille.
Elsewhere, the twin turbo 4-litre V8 engine is a BMW design and features a spec hybrid system used on all LMDh cars. In total, this produces a maximum output of 500kW, or 670hp and 650Nm of torque. Plenty, I think we can agree, to slice through the GT traffic at Daytona.
Trust in the Force, the Downforce
The BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh is clearly in a prototype. The advanced aerodynamics made up of wings, flicks and a flowing body all help to push the car into the ground at high speeds. Through fast sweepers like the Porsche Curves at Le Mans or the first set of corners at Magny Cours, you can seriously feel the downforce.
Essentially, you have to throw the car in as fast as you can and it should stick. Though make sure to not jerk the wheel too hard or you’ll upset the balance, provoking a great deal of understeer and a trip across the gravel. Done right, the LMDh is an amazing car to drive.
That being said, it certainly can’t be driven exactly like the Dallara P217 LMP2 car. With batteries lining the floor and complex electronics powering the hybrid system, the BMW is a much heavier car. And it shows.
While the faster corners are mind blowing in the way you can throw it in with aggression, slower portions of tarmac aren’t quite as easy. The car locks up its tyres on the brakes very easily. Later in the corner phase, it struggles to turn-in and rotate the way you’d want. Therefore, it’s especially important to get the car slowed down early and not push the front end.
If you ignore the front end’s tightness for too long, your tyres will suffer and the issue will only get worse. Soon after, the front tyres will die after a single stint, and your teammates won’t be happy.
LMDh’s new Hybrid System to get Used to
The big element of the car’s name is ‘Hybrid’. As such, it’s an important part of how the car drives and must be understood before attempting a full stint.
Unlike the outgoing LMP1 cars, the BMW’s ERS hybrid system deploys automatically when you reach a certain point in the throttle. Based on some testing, that’s around the 70-80% mark. As a short side note, the electric motor powers the front axle. So it can be used to save a spin in some cases.
It has four modes: Build, Balanced, Attack and Quali. As you might guess, the qualifying mode isn’t available during a race as it depleats the battery faster than you can say BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh. The remaining three can be used at will and each have a set battery percentage target. Build will aim to keep the battery at 100%, Attack will more or less forget about regenerating battery while the balanced mode holds 50%.
Once the battery drops out of its window – a threshold surrounding the target – it will stop deploying leaving you with less power until the battery is topped up once more.
Energy is regenerated similarly to the LMP1 cars of old, by the brakes. Therefore, it’s important to hold the brakes for as long as possible, extending the braking zone. Neglect to do this and you’ll soon drop through the field on low power.
The iRacing Degree in Prototype Engineering
Using the same basic chassis as the Dallara LMP2 car, the BMW LMDh has a similar setup page. From the three-spring setup on each axle to the general effects each change has on the car, you can expect a familiar experience.
What sets the M Hybrid V8 apart however is the more basic aero options. Whereas the P217 has various aero body kits for differing track configurations, the BMW uses the same spec everywhere. This means downforce levels at Daytona will be very similar to Long Beach.
Elsewhere, the in-car adjustments are going to be crucial during a full stint. Akin to an Indycar, the anti-roll bars can be adjusted from the cockpit significantly changing the handling. It is sure to be important to use this feature throughout the tyre’s life. As understeer gets worse, you’ll want to soften the front ARB.
Will you race the BMW LMDh this season in iRacing? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!