Endurance Racing

Looking Ahead – LMP2 at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

PHOTO©JEP - WWW.JAKOBEBREY.COM

We are one day closer to the start of the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship Super Season. Today we look at what to expect from the second prototype class.

It’s been a long off-season, but by the end of the week, we’ll be one race down in the 2018/19 Super Season. As we count down the days to the start of the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, we’ll be introducing each class and walking you through their entries and lineups. You’ve already met the LMP1 entrants, so here’s what we expect from the World Endurance Championship’s Pro-Am prototype category – LMP2.

LMP2 is a spec-class which sees ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ drivers join forces to take on the championship, to meet regulations driver crews must contain either a Silver or Bronze ranked driver (the term amateur may be a bit harsh here.) Teams may enter one of four different LMP2 chassis from manufacturers chosen by the ACO – the Ligier JSP217, Oreca 07, Dallara P217 or Multimatic-Riley Mk.30. This season sees a more varied entry than last year, though the Riley is still not featured on the bill. All LMP2 entries are also powered by a single type of engine: the 4.2L V8 Gibson – the same unit that Gibson’s new LMP1 engine is based on. Tyres can be provided by Dunlop or Michelin, and as far as numbers go, Dunlop has the edge with four full-season cars (plus an extra entrant at Spa) running their rubber compared to three on Michelin.

The seven full-season entrants in LMP2 will be joined by an extra Oreca 07 for the season opener, bumping the total number of cars on the grid to 37. Let’s introduce you to them.

 

French team, French car, French drivers

French squad TDS Racing have been on the endurance circuits since 2011 when they first joined the European Le Mans Series. With two sets of teams and drivers championships to their name in both LMP and GTE, this team is a force to be reckoned with. Running the favourite LMP2 chassis, an Oreca 07, TDS have opted to run Dunlops this season.

The Super Season is the team’s second in the World Endurance Championship following their debut in 2017. They’ve kept hold of two of their drivers, Francois Perrodo who has been in the WEC since 2013 and Matthieu Vaxiviere, who is also competing in the team’s ELMS entry. Joining the team for the first time is former Audi LMP1 driver, Loic Duval. The Frenchman is returning for a full-season of WEC alongside his current DTM commitments with the Audi factory team.

They call me mellow yellow

Newcomers to the World Endurance Championship, Racing Team Nederland joined the international stage last year when they debuted their Dallara P217 in the ELMS. Back in January, the team announced that former Formula One driver Giedo van der Garde would be joining them for the Super Season. The Dutchman will be lining up alongside fellow former F1 driver Jan Lammers and bronze ranked driver Frits van Eerd, who also happens to be the CEO of the team’s main sponsor Jumbo.

PHOTO©JEP – WWW.JAKOBEBREY.COM

The team have chosen Michelin as their tyre supplier, and as the only Dallara in the pack, the car’s signature square-ish nose should be easy to spot; not to mention the team’s bright yellow livery. Having managed to score points in their debut ELMS season, Racing Team Nederland will be surely looking to do the same here and improve on their 13th place finish at the Le Mans 24 Hours, though they’ll have some tough competition this year.

Enter the (baby) dragon

If you’ve been following the ELMS at all, (or have read our LMP1 preview), you should be familiar with American team Dragonspeed. The team joined the ELMS in 2016 with an Oreca-05 and managed a fourth-place finish in the championship. They still have their ELMS entry for this year, but they’re upping their game with an LMP1 entry in the WEC and an LMP2 entered in the WEC too.

Behind the wheel of the Michelin-shod Oreca-07 are three very talented drivers. Former Champ Car driver Ricardo Gonzalez joins forces with Frenchman Nathanaël Berthon and former Formula One driver Pastor Maldonado. Providing the team can keep the car out of trouble, they could achieve some great results, particularly considering that after this year’s Le Mans, Anthony Davidson will be joining the team.

An Oreca by another name

If you look at the entry list, you’ll notice that Signatech Alpine Matmut have themselves an LMP2 that’s not on the list mentioned earlier. The Alpine A470 is in fact technically identical to the Oreca-07, just branded differently. This team have always run Alpine-branded cars, and this particular chassis took them to third place in the LMP2 championship.

This year, the team are running two of their three drivers from 2017 – Nicolas Lapierre and Andre Negrão. They’ll be joined by Frenchman Pierre Thiriet, a driver with six seasons of LMP2 experience to bring to the table. The team took the championship in 2016, and having been denied it last year, they’ll be looking to get back on top. Keep an eye out for this striking blue chrome beauty.

Everybody was Kung Fu fighting!

Yes, that joke has been done to death, but the fact that Jackie Chan co-owns an LMP2 team (with prototype racer David Cheng by the way), never gets any less cool. Jackie Chan DC Racing (in partnership with Jota Sport) are back in the WEC this year with their beautifully liveried pair of Oreca-07s – interestingly, they are the only team to be running two cars this season. Having finished second and third overall at last year’s Le Mans and won both the LMP2 and LMP3 championships in the Asian Le Mans Series, the team know what success feels like and are no doubt hungry for more.

Talking of Asian Le Mans Series, Jackie Chan DC Racing have brought in two of their drivers to pilot the ‘Fortune Cat’ #37. Jazeman Jaafar and Weiron Tan took fourth place in the 2017-18 ALMS season and will be joined by Nabil Jeffri (who makes his endurance racing debut) to form an all Malaysian driver lineup. The sister car, the ‘Mighty 38’ is in the hands of Ho-Pin Tung, who helped take the #38 to second in the championship last year, Gabriel Aubry and Stephane Richelmi both of whom won championships with the team in ALMS (LMP3 and LMP2 respectively.) This is definitely a team to watch.

From GTE to LMP

Recently, we’ve been used to seeing Larbre Competition running Corvette GT entries, but for the Super Season, the French outfit is upgrading to a Ligier JSP217 – the only one in the field. The five-time Le Mans class winners are returning to the WEC following a year’s break with a whole new car, class and drivers – they’re throwing themselves in at the deep end.

The team have selected two bronze drivers for their lineup – Erwin Creed, who has been racing in Michelin Le Mans Cup and the ELMS with M.Racing YMR, and Creed’s M.Racing YMR teammate Romano Ricci. Joining the pair of Frenchman was supposed to be Brazilian Fernando Rees, but apparent problems with the team’s finance meant that they had to part ways. Filling in for Rees is Julian Canal who has previously taken three of the team’s five Le Mans class victories. It is currently unclear if Canal will remain for the entire season as he also has ELMS duties with Panis-Barthez Competition.

Extra! Extra!

Originally slated for a 36-car grid, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will be getting an additional entry in the shape of a G-Drive Oreca-07. The team have entered their ELMS car into the 6 Hours of Spa as a preparation round ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Aboard the black and orange Dunlop-shod Oreca are Russian driver and G-Drive regular Roman Rusinov, former Renault Sport Trophy champion Andrea Pizzitola and the man currently leading the FIA Formula E championship – Jean-Eric Vergne. It’s unusual not to have a G-Drive car running in the WEC, so it’s great to see the #26 back on the grid, even if it’s just for one race.

What to expect

It’s a bit of a shame to see LMP2 numbers somewhat decimated after the success of last season, though given the new privateer LMP1 regulations it’s not a surprise. Eight cars (seven for the full season) may not sound like a great grid, but if 2017 is anything to go by, we will still be treated to some absolutely fantastic racing. The added variation of chassis on this year’s grid is also bound to add some spice – though, for the time being, we’re still expecting the Orecas to be the favourites.

 

Free practice kicks off on Thursday, May 3rd at 12.00 local time, with LMP qualifying on Friday at 15.35. You’ll be able to follow timing via the FIA WEC website or app and you can listen live with the fantastic team over at Radiolemans.

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