Gibson is the contract engine supplier of the P2 prototype machines in the FIA World endurance as well as many other championships. Besides the FIA, they are also providing LMP1-teams with an all new performance engine wit. With the help of Motul’s finest lubrication their engines are pushed to its absolute limit, race after race. We talked to technical director Ian Lovett and discovered the required ingredients needed to build a reliable endurance engine.
What’s the history of Gibson, wasn’t it formerly called Zytek?
Correct! Founder Bill Gibson started building engine management systems somewhere in the eighties. Later on, he bought a company building Cosworth engines and started building his own Gibson “Zytek” F3000 engines. In a second phase the company moved into sportswear racing which is when this story all began.
In the world of engine manufacturing a lot of builders are looking into downsizing and or turbocharging, Gibson sticks to naturally aspirated V8 engines? Why?
It’s mainly a cost related reason. In the past we’ve been toying around with a lot of ideas and concepts. In order to justify the cost of developing a whole new type of engine, we would have to increase the price for our customer teams significantly. When the agreement with the FIA regarding the LMP2 deal was signed, we realised we already had a good package with our V8 engine that would meet the FIA’s cost constraints.
Are you looking into electrification?
Oh yes, we definitely are. We’re waiting for the new round of regulations to be released for the 2020/2021 season. Afterwards, we can decide what direction we need to go. We’ve actually been building hybrid engines since the late nineties; in that period we’ve built one in collaboration with Panoz.
What’s the difference between the engine in the LMP1 rebellion and the LMP2 spec engine?
The LMP1 engine is an evolution of the LMP2 unit and has become vastly different. All the internals are different, the displacement is different as well as the crank shaft, the con rods, even the cylinder heads and the engine management unit. In essence, the LMP1 engine is making more power while consuming less fuel.
As you mentioned earlier, the Gibson 4.2l V8 is the spec engine for the P2 class which speaks volumes in terms of reliability. What’s it’s strong suit?
Well we don’t really get any engine failures. The biggest advantage of working with this engine is that it’s a product that has started its development back in the early 2000’s, over the years we gathered an enormous amount of data. Meaning: we have a very accurate idea about the lifecycle of each part in each engine and when it’s time to replace it.
Are teams responsible for the maintenance of their own engines?
Oh no! Definitely not. That’s why we have a truck full of engineers present at every race. They make sure the team’s engines are looked after and manage the pool of engines. We gather data from all the engines before and after the race and bring them back to the workshop and replace and rebuild the engines. Each LMP1 team, Rebellion, Dragonspeed, SMP and Bykolles have one engineer per car. These engines run our own fueling system and we keep a very close eye on them. In P2 the FIA requires us to have a minimum of 2 engineers per six cars but to be honest we often involve a lot more people.
Gibson and Motul are strong partners, how does the collaboration work? What role does Motul play within Gibson?
We don’t just use Motul products in the cars actually. Our machines in our factory have Motul coolant so Motul literally runs through the entire company. The engines themselves use Motul 300V and have Mo Cool coolant. In the factory we also use various other Motul products for cleaning and maintenance as well. The biggest advantage about working with Motul is that instead of buying of the shelf engine oils, we now have access to a laboratory and engineers who can help us developing and making bespoke products for our needs. That is the biggest plus for our company.
Some statistics about the engines already built and raced...
- Total Kms: 1,252,625.05
- Total Hours: 7530:08:06
- Average kms per hour: 166.35
- Teams / cars that have had a GK engine fitted: 57
- Engines supplied and fitted to teams / cars: 284
- Most hours on an engine (between rebuild): 55:50:16
- Most kms on an engine (between rebuild): 9,911.07
- Most hours on an engine from the first test: 247:06:48
- Most kms on an engine from the first test: 41,991.57
- Races (ELMS / IMSA / WEC): 52
- New GK kits built: 49
- Rebuilds dispatched: 150
- Engine check-overs dispatched: 99
- Total engines dispatched: 249