Amongst a salvo of LMP1 announcements today in the Bahrain paddock DragonSpeed’s Elton Julian has revealed that the 2017 ELMS Champions have chosen a Dallara BR1/ Gibson combination for their entry into the LMP1 class of the 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’
The DSC Ed caught up with Elton in Bahrain to dig a little deeper on the journey so far:
So how long has this project been under development?
“Well it might be a surprise to you to hear that the very first time the phrase ‘LMP1’ was uttered in our garage was about 6-8 weeks ago!
And since then you’ve looked at all of the available options?
“Well our first choice was ORECA, we have the cars already and we have plenty of experience dealing with them so that was a clear first choice. It has to be said though that their decision making has been slow, they have never said ‘no’, or ‘yes’ for that matter but we were getting messages like “It’s not a red light, but it’s not a green light either”. That got to a point where it was going to be difficult for us to progress at the rate we needed to.
“While that was going on I asked Nic (DragonSpeed Sporting Director Nic Minassian) to introduce me to SMP Racing.
“I was already in touch with Dallara by Le Mans this year, I was interested in working with them in LMP2 to get their car fixed (issues which were eventually dealt with as part of the ‘Joker’ process at the end of the season).
“I was told that there was a car available with the AER engine but made it very clear, very quickly that I wanted a normally aspirated engine.
“That’s simply to get us as much opportunity as possible for getting the effort up to speed as soon as possible. This is a big step and we need as much time as possible as a team, and with the drivers, in particular of course with Henrik (Hedman) to get miles on the clock as reliably as possible.
“We were still looking at other options, including taking on a pretty left field project and completing it ourselves, or updating the ORECA ourselves, by Shanghai were were wanting to make the decision and were still waiting on ORECA.
“Dallara then said that they would convert the available car from the AER to a normally aspirated engine and better still that SMP had offered to foot the bill for the changes.”
So what’s the plan with the ORECAs now?
“We’ll be looking to sell one car and race the other.”
In the WEC alongside the Dallara?
“No, in the ELMS, and we are looking for customers to run there. Running it alongside the LMP1 in WEC presents some problems, the Super Season makes it difficult to staff a team and adding another car makes the step up more difficult still.
“We know what it takes to run at the highest level possible, we’ve made the transition to doing that with a second car in ELMS this year and this makes way more sense as we get to grips with LMP1.
“I like the relative stability and certainty of the ELMS but we’ll also be putting in an entry to the Le Mans 24 Hours for the car and would be very ready to run the car there for our customers.
“2018 looks like being quite a year!”