A field of more than 20 cars is being targeted for the new Ligier European Series, which will form part of the European Le Mans Series support package from 2020 onwards.
With the combination of Ligier JS P4s and JS2 R GTs, short sprint races and a calendar featuring top European circuits, the plan is for it to become the first step on the ladder to the top of ACO sports car racing.
For the ACO, this is another entry point to sportscars for gentlemen drivers, who it hopes will eventually end up racing around the world in its premier series. Ligier meanwhile, sees this as an opportunity to create a home for the JS P4 and create more visibility for its JS2 R product.
“This is all about providing a new platform to young and gentlemen drivers to experience the first step in Le Mans racing,” Ligier’s Pierre Nicolet told DSC at the launch of the series in Barcelona. “It offers a GT starting point and a sports prototype starting point for people with the ultimate goal to end up racing in Le Mans.”
Both cars are priced competitively. The JS2 R (featured) will cost €89,000 while the JS P4 (below) is marked as €149,000 (Exc VAT). Ligier believes that both products offer a lot of value for money, and provide customers with the chance to get a taste of both GT and prototype racing without the pressure of jumping straight into one of the more established, high-level ACO championships like the Michelin Le Mans Cup or European Le Mans Series.
“The first car is the JS P4 sports prototype, which is the little sister of the JS P3,” Nicolet said. “It features the same monocoque and crash box of the LMP3 and it has been designed with the intention of being easy to operate and feature low maintenance costs. It promotes the drivability for sports prototypes.
“Then we have the JS 2R. It exceeds the performance of a GT4 car with lower running costs. There’s a lot less aero, but it gives you the feeling of a GT driving experience. For us it’s the first step to enter the endurance world.”
For those unfamiliar with the two cars, they have been out racing since they were originally launched. The JS P4 briefly competed in the ill-fated British LMP3 Cup while the JS2R has formed the base of the Ligier JS Cup France series, which this year has attracted grids of over 20 cars.
They are also eligible to race in various other series like the Ultimate Cup. But the focus from Ligier is on building the Ligier Endurance Series and Ligier Cup France, which will continue to run parallel with the new Ligier European Series, offering owners of a JS2 R a chance to compete in both.
The Ligier European Series is not a new concept which has come together during the past few months, in fact, it was always part of the plan for both cars.
“From the beginning of the design process of the cars, the intention of creating this was there, we wanted to provide an entry-level championship for drivers to race in,” Nicolet explained.
“Since the cars launched we have delivered more than 12 JS P4s and more than 40 JS2 Rs. We’ve been sharing the thought process with teams, and we can see that there’s a benefit for everyone because they can operate multiple cars in the same weekend and also develop young drivers or gentlemen drivers though this new series.
“Some teams have already committed and we hope that this vision with the ACO will come to life with at least 20 cars next year.”
The ACO too is confident that this will create a platform that in the long term hands opportunities to drivers and teams alike. Gerard Neveu, the ELMS CEO, told DSC at the series’ launch that this is a welcome addition to the ELMS support bill.
“If you have to summarise this championship, it’s just for fun,” he said. “It’s a low level of GT and prototype and the idea is to give easy access to new drivers, and young drivers, who may not have money to do high-level single-seaters and want to see what sportscars are about.
“If you want to find out if you can race at Le Mans you can test yourself in this. If you do well you can do Le Mans Cup, then the European Le Mans Series, then Le Mans. This opens the door, it provides the first stage without a lot of preparation.”
Featured image courtesy of Didier Nauly