The 17 car full-season entry in ELMS is a record number for the series. The seven in WEC is marginally down on 2017, but that is principally because a pair of two-car entries has switched to LMP1.
ELMS sees three new entrants in the class: Racing Engineering and Duqueine Engineering both fielding ORECA 07s and AVF by Adrian Valles fielding the ex-SMP Racing Dallara from last season (this car the spare chassis from High Class Racing).
WEC meanwhile sees the addition of Racing Team Nederland and Larbre Competition to give the championship full-season representation from three chassis suppliers this year.
The ELMS sees the first team to have two chassis suppliers under the same roof with Algarve Pro Racing fielding their own Ligier as well as the APR – Rebellion Racing ORECA.
And the Tyres?
IDEC Sport, Panis Barthez, Duqueine Engineering and Dragonspeed are the only takers for Michelin rubber in the ELMS. Larbre have declared Michelin rubber for the WEC, a first for the World Championship with the new for 2017 cars, with Jackie Chan DC Racing, Dragonspeed and Racing Team Nederland still to decide.
That means 12 Dunlop shod cars in ELMS, a further pair in WEC and four cars (all in the WEC) still to declare, plus one of the two OAK-operated JCDC Ligiers at Le Mans (the other confirmed with Dunlop.
No not that sort of chassis numbers!
Across all competition: IMSA, ELMS, FIA WEC and Le Mans that feature the current spec of LMP2 and the associated DPI ‘cousins’ the clear leader in terms of chassis in play is ORECA with 17 (6 in IMSA – inc 2 x Acura DPi), 4 in ELMS, 5 in FIA WEC.
Ligier have 13 in play (3 in IMSA including 2 x ESM Nissan DPis), 7 in ELMS, 1 in WEC plus an additional pair operating for Le Mans only under the Jackie Chan DC banner but crewed by OAK Racing. If the Dawson family-run D3 Transformers car appears in IMSA as promised that would add a further one.
There are 9 Dallaras out there, IMSA with four, all Cadillac DPis, ELMS with 4 P2 versions and the WEC with their single entry for the chassis for Racing Team Nederland.
And there are three Riley Multimatics, all three in IMSA, the pair of Mazda RT-24Ps and the BAR1 P2 car.
All in all that adds up to some 42 current spec LMP2 chassis that are set for action in 2018, 10 of which are DPis.
United Autosports decision to double up to a two car LMP2 entry in the ELMS was made a while ago with regular updates confirming that the driver squads were well advanced too.
IDEC Sport’s two car entry too was known about some time ago, their signing of Nicolas Minassian as Sporting Director is a smart one in ensuring that the effort to expand is well focused, the ex-Peugeot factory driver a key player in Dragonspeed’s run to the championship last season in the ELMS.
The third team to double up came as a very last minute effort, 2016/17 Asian Le Mans Series Champions Algarve Pro Racing were always set to return with their Ligier in ELMS, the team getting kudos once again for entering both the European and Asian series. The addition though of the APR – Rebellion Racing ORECA though came very late, the Thomas Laurent, Harrison Newey, Richard Bradley crewed effort immediate title contenders, in particular with the news that ace Race Engineer Greg Wheeler has joined the team after leaving Jackie Chan DC Racing.
Reserve List Rumblings
Six of the nine Reserve listed teams planned to field LMP2 machinery.
APM Monaco Team KCMG are ex FIA WEC entrants, 2015 Le Mans LMP2 class winners and Asian Le Mans Series runners up. They claim first reserve status with the #41 Dallara P217 .
High Class Racing are second year ELMS entrants with their #49 Dallara P217, they opted not to enter the 24 Hours in their first season. They’ll have some questions as to why they weren’t selected this time out whilst others with the same heritage were and particularly why SMP Racing, who entered a part season last year (with High Class’s spare Dallara no less) are granted a third entry to bolster their LMP1 pair! They are 3rd reserve. Could an alliance with the KCMG squad be a possibility?
Repsol Racing Engineering have been looking at an LMP2 programme for a long, long time. Championship winners in World Series by Nissan, F3 and in GP2, Team Principal Alfonso de Orléans-Borbón is a two time Le Mans starter – in 1994 and 1995, he finished fourth in GT2 in his first year in a Repsol Ferrari Espana entered Ferrari 348. His #24 Oreca 07 entry is listed as 4th Reserve.
IDEC Sport’s second #27 Ligier ELMS entry is listed as 7th Reserve, and that’s unlikely to be a major issue for the French team stepping up to a two car LMP2 effort in the ELMS for the first time this season.
ARC Bratislava though are far from happy with their 8th reserve listed slot. After three seasons in the Asian Le Mans Series, this year for the first time in LMP2 (after a one-off appearance at Le Mans last season following a second place finish in the LMP3 Championship in Asia), finishing third in the Series standings, team owner Miro Konopka has made it clear that he is singularly unamused. Speaking to French online magazine Endurance Info, Konopka has said that he intends to close his LMP2 effort in the wake of the decision to list him so far down the reserve list. He is particularly irked it seems by seeing teams that finished lower down the Asian standings having got the nod. DSC’s Mat Fernandez though found that a later statement pulls back from the brink, that whilst the Le Mans programme may be over, the team may return in ELMS or Asian LMS competition.
Finally there’s the 9th reserve, Brian Alder, head of the BAR1 Racing concern and sole entrant for the Riley Multimatic Mk 30 as a P2 car. He’s unlikely to be horrified by that, the main draw for this entry was the potential for a second ‘full house’ of LMP2 chassis makers, indeed this is the very car that raced at Le Mans last year in the hands of Ben Keating and co. He’ll surely have another crack at an entry next season?
Who Didn’t Make It At All?
There were a number of potential programmes that didn’t see the light of day in any series:
Amongst those the easiest to explain is the absence of a Manor-entered LMP2 in the WEC, with the step up to a two car LMP1 effort that’s a better than fair trade!
Sarrazin Motorsport, initially announced with potential LMP2 and LMP3 efforts in ELMS, and an LMP3 effort in Asia is a no show.
It looks too as if the answer from Team BBT to the proposed ELMS/ Le Mans effort in 2018 was a no.
A short-lived effort to bring the Sebastien Loeb Racing team back into the ELMS was done and dusted some little time ago too.
DAMS were reported to be evaluating an LMP2 programme for the coming season – there’s no sign of them having reached a positive conclusion.
SPS Performance, longtime GT3 racers, released video of Lance David Arnold testing a ‘loaner’ ORECA 07 ahead of ‘the delivery of our car’. That one appears to have bitten the dust too.
RLR MSport still have a Ligier JS P217 on tap but that was planned a while ago to be fulfilling testing only in 2018.
Add to that that JDC Miller opted not to take up their Auto entry, not the first team to find the commercial realities of a Le Mans campaign more than a stretch, a pity, either their GAINSCO backed effort – or the popular ‘Banana Boat’ ORECA would have brought a significant fanbase to the effort.