With its debut ELMS season in the books, Danish LMP2 team High Class Racing is looking to build on its successes and come back stronger in 2018. Driver Anders Fjordbach (pictured below) has confirmed to DSC that the team will be back for a second season in 2018, with run at Le Mans still on the cards too.
However, as DSC alluded to in its run through the Le Mans entry list prospects for 2018, getting a grid slot is set to be harder than ever before for teams outside the FIA WEC. Nevertheless, the team still has unfinished business in the ELMS to keep it occupied.
“The plan is for me and Dennis to come back as a pair like we did this year, and try and get a Le Mans entry too,” Fjordbach said to DSC. “We’re working hard on it, but we’re not sure whether we can get an entry.
“The reason we’ll run with two drivers in the ELMS again is because I think it’s an advantage. At the start of the season, with two drivers, who hadn’t driven an LMP2, we missed a driver with some experience, but we worked with it and it’s fine.
“It’s an advantage because Dennis can run more than an average Bronze driver each weekend in the sessions before the race. It’s also easier for us to find a set up, because we only have to find a sweet spot for two people.”
The Danish duo finished sixth in the class standings in their first season of European Le Mans Series competition, and impressive feature. And oddly, the highlight of their season arguably came in their debut in the series at Silverstone, where they finished third overall.
I think it’s an advantage to have just two drivers in the ELMS
“We started off the season and didn’t really know what to expect,” Fjordbach said. “We had been running in different series but never in an LMP2, and with the driver categorisation we have, we don’t have a Platinum driver but I was confident that I could do my part and Dennis could do his.
“I was really impressed with Dennis because he’s made huge steps, especially in the pre-season, and we as a team has as good as a pre-season as we could get. I knew when we started the season that we couldn’t have done any better.
“We ran all our programmes through and were ready for the first race. It paid off and Dennis did a really strong job, which is was counts, as the Bronze driver has to do his part, as between Pros there’s tenths between us, with gentlemen drivers it could be second.”
Later in the season though, the team struggled to keep tabs with the front-runners, resulting in lots of head-scratching in the back of the team’s garage at the Red Bull Ring, Spa and Portimao.
“As the season wore on we noticed that we were not really improving, and the ORECAs made a huge step between Silverstone and Monza, then again after Monza. Maybe we lacked driving time because we didn’t do Le Mans? Because when the Red Bull Ring trip arrived we hadn’t been in the car for over a month and the rest of the drivers were really on it.
“From that point we struggled more.”
In part, this was due to a fundamental flaw in the design of the Dallara P217, which the Italian manufacturer hopes to solve with its 2018 ‘Joker’ updates for its sprint and Le Mans package.
For Fjordbach, the P217 was a tough car to drive at high-speed circuits like Spa, where the front-splitter caused a major imbalance to the car.
“We lacked downforce on the front, Dallara struggled with porpoising, which makes it more difficult for me to drive than Dennis, because he doesn’t feel it. At Spa everyone could see the issues, but at the other tracks I could feel it on the straights.
By the end of next year, without ‘Jokers’ everyone would be running with an ORECA
“The only way to solve the issue is to raise the front and give us less aero. But we already lack aero on the front, which is what was holding us back because when we run maximum aero on the front, we still lack aero compared to the other cars, so if we combat porpoising, we go even further back.
“We have really enjoyed driving the Dallara though, and we are happy to be in the series. We started off with two results that motivated us a lot, then suddenly we were out performed by the other manufacturers, ORECA and Ligier too, is a step ahead of us. It’s difficult, setting up before a race not knowing where you are. We thought at Spa the car would be fine, but that wasn’t the case, the Dallaras were the slowest cars.”
Because of these issues, Andersen and Fjordbach when discussing options for 2018 earlier this year, came to the conclusion that changing chassis may be the only option in order to remain competitive in 2018.
The decision by the ACO to allow Dallara to use its ‘Joker’ upgrades though, has fuelled High Class Racing’s choice to stay with the P217 for another season.
“We are lucky that the Dallara will have a ‘Joker’,” Fjordbach explained.
“We are spending a lot of money on ELMS, but if we are running with a car that’s outperformed by two others, we will save money and not do Le Mans. We want to go there and we are working hard on it.
“It’s really difficult to live with the issues of the Dallara, it’s hard to understand, but we are happy that we don’t need to change brand because of the ‘Joker’. We said that if Dallara wasn’t allowed to upgrade its car for next year, then we would have had to change to an ORECA. By the end of next year, without ‘Jokers’ everyone would be running with an ORECA. That would be a shame because we are happy with Dallara’s service.
“I’ve driven the Dallara with the ‘Joker’ kit and it felt better,” he explained. “We believe in the data that the car will be good, but obviously we don’t know where the car will be because the Ligier is also improving.”