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ELMS Notebook: Longer Races Possible Later This Year, LMP3 Analysis

Post Paul Ricard Season Opener

The ELMS weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard gave all present the opportunity to reconnect with the sport very directly for the first time in many months.

And whilst the grids are still healthy there are issues aplenty still being worked through to complete the season.

Calendar, Longer Races Mooted In 2020

As reflected in our Paddock Notes from Paul Ricard,  a proposal to hold one of the remaining races as a 6-hour event, to help offset the loss of an event to the condensed calendar, was rejected by a majority of the teams.

There may well yet though be longer races this season in the ELMS.

That’s because of growing uncertainty over the round set to take place at Barcelona in late August.

With COVID-19 cases spiking again in Catalunya more local controls are being introduced once again.  A vote was taken amongst the teams on a response to the potential cancellation and DSC understands from a number of those present that the alternative proposal is that the races at Monza and Portimao would likely be extended from the regular 4-hour duration to six hours apiece in the event that Barcelona’s race was cancelled.

LMP3 Fuel Consumption

The last-minute changes made to introduce additional mandatory fuel stops in both the Michelin Le Mans Cup and the European Le Mans Series was, DSC understands, put in place to ensure parity between two specific sets of cars in both races.

At present, whilst the supply chain for LMP3 gets up to speed there are two available solutions for the powertrain for the new LMP3 cars.

The first is the new and off-the-shelf package, mandated by the LMP3 regulations, to introduce the 455 bhp, 5.5 litre Nissan  VK56, an engine which has already seen much motorsport use including in FIA GT1 and V8 Supercars.

The other alternative is for teams to utilise their existing 5-litre VK50 engines uprated (with more liberal air restrictor to match the performance characteristics of the newer unit until the engine requires replacement.

DSC understands it is the first (new) group of 5.5 litre engines that is giving cause for concern with fuel consumption rates proving to be significantly higher than the upgraded units.

LMP3 Comparative Performance

The ELMS race gave the first opportunity to measure the performance difference between the two generations of LMP3.

In 2019 the fastest lap in Qualifying was posted by Oregon Team’s Damiano Fioravanti with a 1:49.686 in their Norma M30.

In 2020 the honour went to Wayne Boyd with a 1:48.315 in the #2 United Autosports Ligier (the same driver posted a 1:47.949 in Practice).

In the race, fastest lap went to Tom Gamble in the same #2 Ligier a 1:49.683 compared to last year’s fastest race lap, a 1:50.900 by Nielsen Racing’s Colin Noble.

One further comparison is with the pre-2017 LMP2s – in their final ELMS year in 2016 pole went to Mathias Beche with a 1:47.00, with the fastest race lap going to Mike Conway in the same #46 Thiriet by TDS Oreca 05 Nissan with a 1:49.548, just a tenth faster than Gamble’s mark.

As a further comparison the fastest LMP2 lap in the Gibson-powered cars this year was a 1:38.268 from Filipe Albuquerque!

The only circuit difference is a 20-metre reduction for the current length from 2016 after work at T1 (5771 metres as opposed to 5791m)

Additional Teams

There are still prospects of some additional team joining the ELMS package later this season.  DSC is aware of at least two LMP3 teams eying Michelin Le Mans Cup outings for a part season ahead of committing to a full season in 2021.

In addition, 360 Racing, who withdrew from the ELMS due to COVID-related commercial factors, plus the absence of business to business opportunities to paddock restrictions this season, intend to return in 2021.  The team has both a Ligier JS P320 and a Ginetta G61 P3.

Positivity About Asian Le Mans Series 

Multiple LMP2 and LMP3 teams are actively considering adding an Asian Le Mans Series programme with the conflated 3 week, 4 race calendar at Buriram and Sepang.

These include both new and returning teams.

The new for 2020 LMP3 cars will see their Asian debut in January.