The 2018 LMP2 grid in the European Le Mans Series has been well-populated in both numerical and qualitative terms, added to at a number of rounds by guest appearances from WEC full season runners.
And the signs are that 2019 could, and should, be even better, most of the 2018 group look set to return, to be joined by at least three teams stepping up from LMP3 with other additions still potentially ‘in the works’
A near-20 car LMP2 entry for at least some rounds looks well within reach.
Here’s where DSC believes the teams currently stand!
All options seem open for Elton Julian’s 2017 ELMS Championship-winning DragonSpeed outfit with 2018’s WEC campaigns in LMP1 and LMP2 dovetailed with a single car effort in LMP2 in the ELMS. The team currently has a pair of ORECA 07s on their fleet, 1-2 ORECAs possible.
Look set to return with a two-car effort (with potentially a third car in next season’s FIA WEC.
Success in the last two races of the season have likely cemented their links with Ligier after mid-season statements that a switch in chassis was not out of the question. Likely 2 x Ligier.
Panis Barthez Competition
Has shown great pace with their Ligier on the Michelin tyres – earlier rumours of a doubling up to a two-car outfit now though look unlikely. Likely 1 x Ligier.
An excellent addition to the ELMS cohort, the Spanish-flagged outfit took a win first time out but thereafter, despite often being in the mix, failed to get to the top step of the podium again. The team has flirted with the potential to double up in 2019 but at present looks most likely to return with a single, highly competitive, ORECA. Likely 1 x ORECA.
Algarve Pro Racing
After a two-car effort in 2018 featuring both a Ligier and an ex-Manor ORECA, the team’s Ligier has been sold (believed to Inter Europol. see below). To be confirmed but a programme with the ORECA looks the most likely option in 2019. Likely 1 x ORECA.
G-Drive Racing/ TDS Racing
After a Championship-winning effort in the hands of TDS Racing the G-Drive funded campaign looks set to return in 2019 with at least one TDS-entered car, the team in the process of sourcing the best possible Silver-ranked driver to partner Roman Rusinov and (likely) Jean-Eric Vergne.
G-Drive look to brand two cars for the Le Mans 24 Hours and there is a possibility that a second TDS-entered effort might join the returning #26.
TDS entered their WEC full-season car for a couple of races this season, Francois Perrodo’s plans beyond the ‘Super Season’ as yet unknown. Likely 1 ORECA. Second car possible.
Another mixed two-car effort with a Ligier and ORECA, the Ligier a more all-gentleman driver affair that has sat out part of the season. The ORECA though has been a star performer this season, well in contention in several races.
Current information seems to indicate that the team are set to move to an all-ORECA line-up, a return to a two-car effort the most likely scenario for 2019. Likely 2 x ORECA, 1 x Ligier, 1 x ORECA possible.
A top-class first-year effort with real pace, the team losing a first overall ELMS win to an error in dealing with a fuel rig after an early-week test. This is another team that looks to have examined the potential to double up the effort. The core 2019 plan though appears to be more of the same. Likely 1 x ORECA.
AVF by Adrian Valles
Some sparkling runs in 2018 have seen frustration with either car or indeed driver-incurred issues, the season does not seem either to have been a commercial success, the team do not look set to return.
SMP Racing, ducked out of latter part of 2018 season, limited intel available but the team looks unlikely to return in 2019 ELMS.
Signatech Alpine, made a one-off appearance at Paul Ricard. The team seems wedded to the idea of continuing in the FIA WEC in 2019/20 at present.
Graff’s two-car ORECA programme, including one car branded with G-Drive Racing, has had a troubled 2018 season with technical issues, and a somewhat unsettled driver line-up, in part as a result of that.
The team ended 2017 with race wins and is steadying the ship ahead of what is believed to be a similar proposed programme in 2019. Likely 2 x ORECA.
Cetilar Villorba Corse
A strong finish to 2018 saw Felipe Nasr lead at Portimao, the Dallara finally coming on strong. In the run-up to the 2018 season the Italian squad looked at fielding a second car, and that plan may well come back into play again. For now though the multi-year programme will carry on into 2019. Likely 1 x Dallara.
High Class Racing
The All-Danish line-up still harbours the same ambitions to take forward their LMP2 effort, there has been some significant frustration with their Dallara in 2018, will they return with the same car? Likely 1 x Dallara?
One of at least three teams set to step up to LMP2 from the LMP3 ranks, the Polish-flagged Inter-Europol squad finished 2018 on a high with a class win at Portimao and have now taken delivery of the ex Algarve Pro Ligier chassis that they intend to enter for a full 2019 ELMS campaign, likely with the same core driving talent that has been bolstering their LMP3 effort. Likely 1 x Ligier.
Another graduate to LMP2 from a successful LMP3 campaign, the 2018 ELMS LMP3 Champions step up with a new ORECA, obtained by RLR customer John Farano, currently testing, with the team talking to a range of drivers to join their 2019 campaign. This is the second time that RLR have looked at the 2017 spec LMP2 with Ross Warburton initially obtaining a new Ligier, the car though was never run in RLRs hands, that chassis now with United Autosports we believe. Likely 1x ORECA.
The third confirmed LMP3 graduate team is Swiss-flagged Cool racing, and this is another effort that is out of the blocks fast, announcing the signing for 2019 of Nico Lapierre to join talent graduating with the team from LMP3. The team’s car is already on-track, testing at Portimao on the day following the 2018 season finale. Likely 1 x ORECA.
Ultimate, whilst statements earlier in 2018 pointed to a drive to step up to LMP2 for the Lahaye Family-run Ultimate outfit the current plans lie, beyond an LMP2 season in Asia with Panis-Barthez Competition, in LMP3 for 2019.
Spirit of Race, an Asian Le Mans Series effort only to this point, but it would not be a stretch to see either the AF Corse manned team expanding their LMP2 programme to Europe, or indeed seeing a current ELMS customer either from LMP3 or GTE stepping over. No confirmation yet though of either of those scenarios coming to fruition.