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2014 Prospects Round-Up: Part Two, LMP2

LMP2 has seen good grids in both the FIA WEC and ELMS this year with rather smaller numbers in the American and Asian Le Mans Series.

All told we have seen close to 30 cars campaigned this year and the potential is there for that total to increase in 2014 if TUSCC takes off, the AsLMS gets a foothold and the ELMS and FIA WEC continue to thrive.

With confirmation of stability for the regulations through to 2017 there’s an additional commercial opportunity too, the business case around a new car with a three year guaranteed lifespan might well be a persuasive one for many.

There is though little news of new car sales for 2014 as yet from the established players, though new blood is on the horizon on the chassis front.

The big unknown is TUSCC – Chassis manufacturers report that there is a fairly healthy level of potential interest from those considering their US options but with a new LMP2 taking c.12 weeks to build from scratch those regulations are needed RIGHT NOW!!

Current Crop

HPD

HPD saw major success in 2012 in the WEC, Le Mans and the ALMS and had orders on the books for 2013 before the squeeze on Venezuelan funding changed plans for at least two teams.

As things turned out there would be no HPD chassised or engined LMP2s racing outside the ALMS (aside from a single Level 5 car at Le Mans). The cars remain fast and reliable though and could well feature in increased numbers for the coming season.

Level5_COTA

Rumours around Level 5 and potentially Strakka plans suggest that a Global or European programme may be possible for an HPD or two in 2014 whilst ESM (and possibly another significant LMP2 addition) could form a bedrock for the new TUSCC Prototype class combining P2 and DP machinery.

Lola

Multimatic’s acquisition of much of the existing Lola inventory, tooling and rights to the intellectual property have taken a little time to move forward and it was a very pleasant surprise indeed when Steve Charlsey confirmed to DSC’s Gary Horrocks that new P2 Lolas are being produced and will be raced in the 2014 season. Currently three/four cars are spoken for and that likely won’t be the end of the orders. No news on the lucky customers but it was confirmed that these spoken-for cars will be raced on both sides of the pond.

There are, of course other Lolas still available with the ex Lotus LMP2 cars, and the more recently parked Gulf Racing Middle East duo with no current programme confirmed. HWM/ Status’s car, heavily damaged at Le Mans was apparently fixable too.

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Lotus

The T128 was the very first 2014 compliant chassis to hit the track and, whilst it hasn’t come close yet to getting on terms over a race distance with the established order, it has shown flashes of speed, better reliability and consistency over the first half season of its short life so far.

Sales of this car are essential if the Kodewa led team is to deliver on its own LMP1 aspirations and, whilst rumours circulate around interest in the car, there’s no firm news yet.

Lotus_LMP2

The rather public spat between Kodewa and senior figures behind Adess at Le Mans did not help confidence levels in either party.

The Charouz interests behind the Praga branding on the rear deck of the current cars add further spice to the potential cocktail here but the reality is that we need to see real results

Morgan

OAK Racing’s Onroak sister company has invested heavily in launching a customer programme for the now heavily modified ex Pescarolo package.

There has been no shortage of cars racing this year with three in the WEC, one in ELMS and a pair in the AsLMS

In low downforce trim the car was pretty much untouchable at Le Mans but the inherent compromises in achieving that result were showing at COTA with the cars struggling for downforce against the competition.

Bertrand Baguette / Ricardo Gonzalez / Martin Plowman OAK Racing Morgan Nissan

Several teams are believed to be considering a switch but there’s no firm news yet on orders for 2014. The factory’s effort will depend on their final plan for LMP1

Oreca

The numerically dominant chassis of the past few years is still a highly competitive proposition with race wins scored in both the ELMS and FIA WEC this season. There have been fewer of the electrical issues that plagued the 03 in its early years this season and the pace, other than at Le Mans, has been very good indeed.

Delta ADR are believed to be planning to return with two cars and most of, if not all of, the current customers will continue too unless aggressive marketing and pricing elsewhere manages to prise a team away.

delta-adr

For the future, Oreca has made its intentions to continue into the next era from 2016 with a new coupe clear too, with the constraints of cost capping that’s a commitment unlikely to be matched by some of the other current players.

Alpine

See above! Signatech look set to race a pair of the Oreca 03 ‘based’ Alpine A450S cars in 2014 after title winning form in the ELMS this season. Whether anyone else chooses to race the rebadged version of the car (A homologated LMP2 car MUST be available for sale) remains to be seen.

Alpine_LMP2

Zytek

No immediate new orders are on the horizon but there is still interest out there after the results so far this season that saw the Zytek chassis showing real pace on occasion this year in the hands of both Greaves Motorsport (ELMS and WEC) and Jota Sport (ELMS).

greaves_01

Zytek of course also prepare the Nissan V8 engines for almost all of the non-Oreca chassised contenders

Radical

The only chassis that is close to active nowadays is that fielded rather sporadically by Ian Dawson’s Project Libra, the car apparently still rules compliant and Dawson telling DSC at COTA that a new sponsor (placed by him with Delta ADR at COTA) is allowing a plan to progress to race at PLM with the car’s currently unique Roush Yates Ford based Twin Turbo 3.2 litre V6.

libra radical

It’s a left field effort, and Dawson is very open in acknowledging that there have been too many false starts, will the arrival of TUSCC give him a last chance to make it stick?

Newcomers and Returnees

Bailey

Another programme that has promised much but has so far delivered little in purely competitive terms.

That’s a shame because the South African designed and built coupe looks a neat and tidy alternative to the norm, as time ticks by though there seems less and less opportunity for the project to gain the momentum it requires to progress from test cars and mock ups to real racer.

bailey_01

Janos Wimpffen’s visit to the factory earlier this year saw a second factory demonstrator in build with much talk of potential interest and the additional fillip of a hugely competitive exchange rate – realistically though 2014 sees a last chance saloon for the African car to emerge from the erecting shop and hit the track.

Tiga

Mike Newton was a firm supporter of the original LMP2 concept and his acquisition of the ex WFR LMP2 project looks set to see him play a part in the current junior LMP scene.

wfr1

Now renamed as the Tiga LMP2 the heavily revised car is set to test in the next couple of weeks, initially fitted with a Judd powerplant, the new Tiga concern intend to market the car but we have yet to get confirmation of a plan to race a factory entry.

The WFR, then powered by the Zytek V8 was a quick car in its day, a new and competitive addition to the current crop of class contenders would be very welcome news

Wolf

The all dominant CN manufacturer in recent times has aspirations to move into the LMP2 arena with statements made in recent months that the Italian based manufacturer hopes to come forward with an LMP2 car in months not years – There is though no sign yet of that project immediately moving beyond aspiration.

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Dome

With the LMP1 programme parked all efforts are surrounding a punch through into the LMP2 market and sources suggest that Dome has made a breakthrough with at least two chassis sold (though this may be a single car effort with a spare).

dome_S103_1

The new coupe looks evolutionary rather than revolutionary but in this game that might well prove to be well enough.

Adess

Another outfit that looked at trying their hand in the LMP1 market but found the market there too tough was Adess, the outfit behind the design of the Lotus LMP chassis. They have now announced that they will, instead, focus on the LMP2 market.

adess1

CGI imagery of the proposed car and a wind tunnel model picture has been circulated but no news yet of any prospective customers.

Pilbeam

Pilbeam Racing announced some time ago that a South African funded development of their MP93 design was planned for 2014. The project is happening with the support of multiple Pilbeam customer Dr Greg Mills, with further support from African business concerns.

mp93-2014

The originally announced plan was to equip the car with a 4.6 litre V8 Toyota/ Lexus engine, developed from the unit used for Toyota’s Dakar Rally trucks. That though has now moved on and the car, already in South Africa for engine installation, will now be powered by a Ford Duratec based Mountune turbo motor.

Current plans for the car are for a race programme in 2014 which may not yet involve Le Mans.

The car features entirely new bodywork with aero figures which Mike Pilbeam described to DSC as “really very encouraging indeed”.

The Pilbeam concern is ready, willing and able to supply further cars to new customers.

Caterham

After their Caterham badged effort with the Greaves Zytek at Le Mans there has been much talk of interest from Caterham in progressing some form of LMP programme, assumed at the moment to be a standalone project with LMP2 the initial focus.

lm_preview_Caterham

In terms of timing there’s little likelihood of anything emerging in the immediate future but it seems clear that there is solid interest here, could this be a collaborative first step ahead of a full in-house effort for the new rulebook?

Toyota

There has been some chatter that Toyota, or rather that TMG, might be interested in getting involved in the LMP2 market as a customer programme.

The current position is that TMG is undertaking a business evaluation on engine supply in LMP2, but this is very early days, no design studies have started.

It’s much the same for the potential for a chassis to be produced by TMG, the evaluation of available markets is always under evaluation, but it would require a solid business case to take things forward and with the clock ticking towards a new set of regulations it seems unlikely that the button would be pressed just yet to start anything more than an evaluation of the market.

SMP Racing

The ambitious and well funded Russian outfit put a toe in the water this year with a Nissan engined Oreca 03 in the ELMS and have retained Paulo Catone for the race and development programme to come.

SMP Oreca

There is still ambition to do their own thing though earlier rumours of a Ferrari powerplant have gone stone cold for now at least.

A new car from SMP is, at least, a year away and it could well be that they choose to delay until the new regulations in 2016.

For 2014 we’d expect a further year with the Oreca, and potentially a Le Mans entry too alongside the GTE entry they won by taking the GTC title in the ELMS.

Engines

The current mainstream trio look set to continue with the Nissan, HPD and Judd (BMW) all still proving to be rapid and reliable.

In addition, and as noted above there are a couple of Ford based units already out there with Roush Yates and Mountune programmes, and with continued signs that a more prominent Ford badged effort might soon emerge too, with the Ecobost engine already available and announced for Daytona Prototype usage that’s not as left field as it may sound.

The Mazda diesel programme announced with much fanfare at Le Mans last year went very silent indeed by the end of the year but again rumours abound of a programme that could emerge very soon, watch this space!

Teams

A whole (potential!) gridful of teams is looking at the potential for LMP2 programmes in Europe, the USA or on the global scale.

Amongst those US based teams mentioned with varying degrees of confidence have been 8Star, Dyson (who came very close to buying an HPD this year), Krohn, Dempsey, Ganassi and Conquest Racing’s Eric Bachelart whilst there are prospects and potential for several European based teams to take a look at the US scene too including Greaves, Pecom, Murphy Prototypes and OAK.

DKR Engineering meanwhile lost their ex Pecom Lola Chassis in a workshop fire and are, apparently, looking for a replacement.

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GG