As the 2016 European Le Mans Series reached its half-way point in Austria last weekend, thoughts in the paddock were already turning to 2017, with orders for new-generation LMP2 cars likely to be already placed or close to completion around this time. DSC undertook a brief survey of the current grid to see where things stand.
LMP2: What next for SMP Racing?
The biggest question mark in LMP2 hangs over SMP Racing, whose BR01 will only be eligible for next year’s ELMS as a ‘grandfathered’ car and thus would struggle to be competitive. The team’s managing director Benjamin Durand told us that the Asian Le Mans Series is a strong possibility, while for the medium to long term the outfit is keeping an eye on the LMP1-L class and could eventually step up to join Rebellion and ByKolles in the privateer ranks.
Eurasia Motorsport team Manager Mark Goddard told us he would ideally like his team to enter the Asian Le Mans series at the end of this year and then migrate to the WEC in 2017. The team would upgrade its current Oreca-Nissan package to the new 2017 LMP2 regulations.
Algarve Pro Racing’s Stewart Cox said that his team would not attend the last race of the ELMS season at Estoril. “Our car will be running in the Asian Le Mans Series instead,” he explained. “We’re gearing up already for 2017. We’ll be getting a new LMP2 prototype soon and begin testing in mid-August with Michael Munneman at the wheel. We don’t know yet which manufacturer we’ll select. What we know for sure is that we should be in ELMS next season. We have already signed up one driver to that effect.”
Panis-Barthez Competition’s co-owner Olivier Panis confirmed that he has purchased a brand-new Ligier JS P2 17, which he’ll enter in the 2017 ELMS. The French team is also likely keep on entering a Ligier JS P3 in the same championship.
Pegasus Racing team owner Julien Schell was hesitant regarding his team strategy. “We either buy a brand-new LMP2 car and enroll a pro driver line-up or we aim for a win in the LMP3 class of the ELMS,” he said. “What I know for sure is that I want our team to compete for top positions and not remain at the back of the grids like we’ve done this year. What will support our decision is the budget we can assemble to that effect.”
If the new LMP2 route was to be taken, Schell says it would be with one good customer who helps to pay for two pro drivers “the only way to approach LMP2” in his opinion. If he can’t find an LMP2 budget then LMP3 looks a good option. Schell wants to drive again and would be looking to buy a car for the team, which he would drive, and to run a customer’s car too. Ligier is heavily favoured.
Greaves Motorsport will be purchasing a new LMP2 for 2017, but the marque hasn’t been finalised yet, with a decision due to be taken in the coming weeks.
Dragonspeed has already confirmed the purchase of two new Oreca 07s for the 2017 ELMS.
Murphy Prototypes team boss Greg Murphy will be kept busy with the Ave-Riley LMP3 project in 2017, but says he’s keeping his options open with regard to LMP2 at the same time.
LMP3: Plenty of new cars in prospect
RLR Motorsport likes the ELMS and the LMP3 class and is looking to return in 2017, likely with two cars, both of which will likely be Ligiers. Elsewhere, By Speed Factory team principal Dalius Steponavicius indicated that he was aiming to expand from one to two Ligier JS P3s for 2017.
At Eurointernational, team manager Antonio Ferrari said his team is aiming to expand into LMP2 while keeping two cars in LMP3 – a final decision will be taken in September. Although the choice of P2 car hasn’t been made for 2017, Ligier is apparently the favoured option in both categories.
Graff Racing says a decision is imminent regarding the purchase of an LMP2 car. “If we do it, it will either be a Ligier or an Oreca,” said team manager Pascal Rauturier. “We’ll take that decision at the end of July so that we have at least six months to gain experience with the new prototype. Although our presence in the ELMS is probable next year, we are still looking at opportunities in the WEC. What we do know for sure is that we’re aiming for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2017. We should also remain in the CN category of the VdeV championship while keeping one or two Ligier LMP3s in the ELMS.”
Finally, Italian team Villorba Corse is close to signing a deal for a new project, which is likely to be announced at the Paul Ricard round in August, but it’s not yet clear whether this will be in LMP2 or LMP3.