A record 17 full-season LMP3 cars will grace the ELMS grid for the season-opener at Barcelona, only the proposed #16 Ligier from the provisional entry failing to pull together a full-season line-up though the car may be seen after in the season.
Ligier dominates the entry with all bar two teams fielding the JS P320, just DKR Engineering and Racing Experience sticking with the Duqueine D08, now with its 10kg penalty `(for the late homologation of the car) removed.
The season entry sees four teams new to a full-season ELMS entry, three of the four ‘graduating’ from the Michelin Le Mans Cup and the regular race by race entrants from Team Virage firming up with a full year’s programme in both ELMS and Le Mans Cup.
LMP3: 17 Cars
#2 United Autosports – Ligier JS P320 – Wayne Boyd 1:39.685 (S), Edouard Cauhope 1:42.276 (S), Rob Wheldon 1:42.151 (B)
The Champions from 2020 return with just one change, Messrs Boyd and Wheldon joined for the season by Edouard Cauhope, a race-winning standout talent with COOL Racing in the Le Mans Cup last season as Tom Gamble steps up to United’s LMP2 programme.
There’s little doubt that the #2 will be in the title hunt once again!
#3 United Autosports – Ligier JS P320 – Duncan Tappy 1:40.495 (S), Jim McGuire 1:46.685 (B), Andrew Bentley 1:42.825 (B)
One of only two cars that have continued from 2020 with the same crew. Will that consistency pay off in the results?
There was a podium last year for the #3 and the team would love to see more, solid points finishes with a sniff of a possible podium poach if the circumstances permit is likely the optimistic game plan for a trio with a mix of experience levels.
#4 DKR Engineering – Duqueine D08 – Laurents Horr 1:39.042 (S) Alain Berg* (B)
*did not drive at test
After four consecutive titles in the Michelin Le Mans Cup Luxembourg’s DKR Engineering have, once again, got the ELMS in their sights with the rapid Laurents Horr, himself a now double MLMC Champion, and pole sitter at the Rolex 24 Hours in LMP3, partnered with Luxembourger Alain Berg (no not the Canadian ex F1 driver).
Much will depend on Berg’s available pace and since he did not drive at the pre-season test he remains an unknown quantity!
#5 MV2S Racing – Ligier JS P320 – Fabien Lavergne 1:40.229 (S), Christophe Cresp 1:46.580 (B), Adrien Chila 1:43.914 (B)
Stepping up after just a single season in the Le Mans Cup MV2S are a team of ambition. Their Ligier is presented beautifully and has the recently elevated from Bronze status Fabien Lavergne, the 2019 Le Mans Cup GT Champion, as lead driver and already showing fine LMP3 form.
Adrien Chila is a known and reliable quantity in support but Christophe Cresp needs to find a little more if the trio is to challenge the leading runners on pace.
#6 Nielsen Racing – Ligier JS P320 Austin McCusker 1:41.341 (S), Max Koebolt 1:41.552 (S), Nick Adcock 1:42.182 (B)
The new look squad in Nielsen Racing’s second car is an intriguing mix, ex IMSA Prototype Challenge Champion Austin McCusker has impressed his new team, he’s joined by Nielsen returnee and multiple South African Endurance Champion Nick Adcock and by 2017 GT4 European Series Silver Cup Champion (and since then multiple race winner), Max Koebolt.
All three have the potential to have pace and consistency – might this be a dark horse for a solid season-long run?
#7 Nielsen Racing – Ligier JS P320 – Colin Noble 1:41.892 (S), Tony Wells 1:43.473 (B)
Race winners in Asian Le Mans in February, the Noble/ Wells combo has the talent to score podiums, but has had little race-long luck in the ELMS.
If Tony Wells has a race where his pace and rhythm comes together as the form book in Le Mans Cup shows it can, and that race comes at the same time that Colin Noble pace and race craft hits his very best then this combo can win.
#8 Graff Racing – Ligier JS P320 – David Droux 1:40.529 (S), Sebastien Page 1:44.384 (B), Eric Trouillet 1:43.628 (B)
David Droux is one of the quickest drivers in this class but here he likely needs a little more combined pace from his co-drivers to make that pay over the full race distance.
Trouillet is capable of real consistency and whilst Page is less well proven there will be a conservative strategy in place that might pay off at the odd race for better than average results.
#9 Graff Racing – Ligier JS P320 – Matthias Kaiser 1:41.232 (S), Rory Penttinen 1:42.167 (B)
An intriguing two-man crew, with pace and with a team that knows how to bring a winning car home, could very well be one to watch! Certainly, this should be the Graff car that has the highest hopes attached to its 2021 campaign.
#11 EuroInternational – Ligier JS P320 – Joey Alders 1:40.297, Mateusz Kaprzyk 1:41.696 (S), Andrea Dromedari 1:46.710 (B)
EuroInternational will be looking to try to return to race-winning form after a disappointing 2020 season with a full change to the driver line-up.
Andrea Dromedari returns to the team after a season in the Ligier European Series that yielded the JS P4 title, he’s then had plenty of track time at the ELMS circuits!
19 year old Mateusz Kaprzykalready has experience in F4, GT4 and in LMP3 in the Ultimate Cup, and seems to have significant pace.
The squad was completed at the test by 21-year-old Dutchman Joey Alders, reigning Asian F3 Champion, he has real speed – Eurointernational could be another squad to watch!
#12 Racing Experience – Duqueine D08 – David Hauser 1:43.197 (S), Gary Hauser 1:41.303 (S), Tom Cloet 1:45.871 (B)
Another graduate from the Michelin Le Mans Cup, and part of developing wave in endurance racing from Luxembourg!
The family owned team sees hillclimbing brothers David and Gary driving for the season together for the first time, both have useful pace. They’re joined by Tom Cloet who has useful LMP3 experience but willed to bed into the challenge of a full-season campaign here.
#13 Inter-Europol Competition – Ligier JS P320 – Ugo de Wilde 1:39.555 (S), Julien Falchero 1:41.803 (S), Martin Hippe 1:42.062 (B)
Another one to watch, Inter-Europol and Martin Hippe are now thoroughly bored of the runners up spot in the ELMS after three consecutive so-called ‘vice Championships’.
The #13 this season has a new look squad, rapid Belgian single seater racer Ugo de Wilde tested for United before signing for the Polish team whilst Julien Falchero, who impressed in a one-off outing for Team Virage last season in Le Mans Cup, was a very late signing to complete the line-up.
Has the look of a very serious contender.
#14 Inter-Europol Competition – Ligier JS P320 – Julius Adomavicius 1:43.055 (S), Alessandro Bracalente 1:42.570 (S), Mattia Pasini 1:41.341 (B)
It was all a bit last minute dot com for the #14 squad to come together after the initially planned Brazilian crew pulled out due to travel restrictions issues.
That said all three drivers, though a little rusty, were reasonably paced in the pre-season test, ex Moto2 race winner Pasini is one to watch, if he can find his four-wheel feet the signs are there could be fireworks!
#15 RLR MSport – Ligier JS P320 – Malthe Jakobsen 1:40.414 (S), Alex Kapadia 1:41.124 (S), Mike Benham 1:43.357 (B)
RLR has pulled together a squad to be reckoned with, Malthe Jakobsen stays with the team and is joined by returning race winner with the team Alex Kapadia and, tempted back to the fray and with a first full-season EMS effort, multiple Michelin Le Mans Cup race winner Mike Benham.
If all three are on form this should be considered a very strong challenger.
#18 1AIM Villorba Corse – Ligier JS P320 – Alessandro Bressan 1:40.571 (S), Damiano Fioravanti 1:41.517 (S), Andreas Laskaratos 1:43.894 (B)
Villorba Corse’s stop-start effort to pull together a full-season effort has now got the traction it needs – the #18 car won’t be missed in the crowd with the familiar bright yellow, white and black livery plus the blue dorsal fin of the Greek Tourism Authority backers of very capable Bronze driver Andres Laskaratos.
Alessandro Bressan has already shown real pace in LMP3 and formed part of a winning squad for Villorba Corse in the Asian Le Mans Series a couple of seasons ago whilst Fioravanti was very quick indeed in the Team Oregon ELMS effort that suffered more from reliability woes than it did from any lack of pace.
This effort will feature in some of the key battles this year for sure.
#19 Cool Racing – Ligier JS P320 – Matt Bell 1:41.187 (S), Niklas Kruetten 1:42.678 (S), Nicolas Maulini 1:42.949 (B)
Matt Bell is the anchorman here, the Brit with proven pace and grit in LMP3 and looking to pull the Cool Racing effort up the order.
Nicolas Maulini is one of the fastest Bronzes in the field and will be a very handy foil to Bell’s attack whilst the newcomer is young German ex F4 racer Kruetten, if he can develop well in LMP3 then this could be a regular contender.
#20 Team Virage – Ligier JS P320 – Garett Grist 1:40.099 (S), Charles Crews 1:42.418 (B), Rob Hodes 1:43.404 (B)
Team Virage have toyed with a full season commitment before and now take the plunge thanks to bagging the Grist/ Hodes/ Crews trio from last year’s Nielsen Racing line-up.
If the reliability is there then this is yet another trio very capable of producing a run that would put them in reach of a podium finish.