2017 Season Preview: LMP2

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It’s all change in LMP2 for 2017, with the intro­duc­tion of four stan­dard chas­sis made by Dal­lara, Onroak, Ore­ca or Riley/Multimac and a spec Gib­son V8 engine. The four-chas­sis vari­ety has, though, failed to reach the FIA WEC for this year at least, with all teams opt­ing for the Ore­ca 07, which won the LMP2 title in its pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion as the Ore­ca 05 in the hands of Sig­nat­e­ch-Alpine (although rebadged as an Alpine A470).

This year, more than ever, the key to suc­cess in LMP2 will be dri­ver rank­ings. With each team required to run at least one sil­ver- or bronze-rat­ed dri­ver along­side the pros, it is usu­al­ly the quick­est of these “ama­teurs” that makes the dif­fer­ence.

A glance at the entry list reveals a num­ber of “ama­teur” dri­vers, who do not earn a liv­ing rac­ing sports­cars. How­ev­er, the likes of Matt Rao for reign­ing cham­pi­ons Sig­nat­e­ch-Alpine has pro­to­type and sin­gle-seater expe­ri­ence, while Julien Canal in one of the two Vail­lante Rebel­lion cars has won prac­ti­cal­ly every he has raced.

The step for­ward in speed offered by the Gib­son V8 engine is like­ly to make this year’s LMP2 cars the quick­est the class has ever seen, with lap times at Le Mans like­ly to be cut by some 10 sec­onds. This could make the cars more dif­fi­cult to han­dle, espe­cial­ly for less-expe­ri­enced dri­vers.

Dri­ver rat­ing key: B = bronze, S = sil­ver, G = gold, P = plat­inum

Vaillante Rebellion

Ore­ca 07- Gib­son

#13 – Math­ias Beche ℗, David Heine­meier Hans­son (S), Nel­son Piquet Jr ℗
#31 – Julien Canal (S), Nico­las Prost ℗, Bruno Sen­na ℗

Rebel­lion Rac­ing, long time stal­warts of the LMP1 pri­va­teer cat­e­go­ry, have tak­en a step back into LMP2 for the fore­see­able before a (still-ten­ta­tive) return to the cat­e­go­ry in 2019. The Swiss team will run a pair of Ore­ca 07s crewed by a star-stud­ded line-up includ­ing Brazil­ians Nel­son Piquet Jr and Bruno Sen­na and for­mer P1 dri­vers Math­ias Beche and Nico­las Prost.

Rebel­lion have blitzed the LMP1 pri­va­teer cat­e­go­ry on an annu­al basis since the WEC’s inau­gur­al sea­son in 2012, and so it will be inter­est­ing to see them come up against tougher oppo­si­tion this year. The team has already com­pet­ed at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Rolex 24 at Day­tona with the new Ore­ca 07, which will cer­tain­ly have giv­en them a chance to iron out any major issues ahead of the WEC sea­son.

CEFC Manor TSR Racing

Ore­ca 07 — Gib­son

#24 – Tor Graves (S), Jonathan Hirschi (G), Jean-Eric Vergne ℗
#25 – Rober­to Gon­za­lez (S), Simon Trum­mer (G), Vitaly Petrov ℗

Manor is back for 2017 for a prop­er two-car entry under the CEFC Manor TRS Rac­ing ban­ner. The British-based team have joined forces with Chi­nese spon­sors CEFC, Baxi and TRS, some of whom were involved with the Baxi DC Rac­ing out­fit last sea­son.

Arguably the most high-pro­file sign­ing at CEFC Manor TRS Rac­ing is that of for­mer For­mu­la 1 and For­mu­la E dri­ver Jean-Eric Vergne, mark­ing the Frenchman’s first for­ay into sports­cars. He will be joined by Jonathan Hirschi and Tor Graves in the #24 car, while Mex­i­can dri­ver Rober­to Gon­za­lez (not to be con­fused with broth­er Ricar­do, who entered LMP2 last sea­son with RGR Sport), ex-ByKolles man Simon Trum­mer and Russ­ian Vitaly Petrov will take charge of the #25 machine.

G-Drive Racing

Ore­ca 07 — Gib­son

#26 – Roman Rusi­nov (G), Pierre Thiri­et (S), Alex Lynn ℗

Acri­mo­ny over dri­ver rank­ings, and par­tic­u­lar­ly Roman Rusinov’s upgrad­ing from sil­ver to gold, drew a cloud over the close sea­son, with the Russ­ian threat­en­ing to walk away from the series. Instead, Rusi­nov is back for a shot at the 2017 LMP2 title.

He is joined by 2012 Euro­pean Le Mans Series cham­pi­on Pierre Thiri­et and Brit Alex Lynn, who recent­ly won the 12 Hours of Sebring with Wayne Tay­lor Rac­ing in his first ever race on Amer­i­can soil.

TDS Racing

Ore­ca 07 — Gib­son

#28 – François Per­ro­do (B), Matthieu Vax­ivière (G), Emmanuel Col­lard ℗

TDS Rac­ing move to the FIA WEC for 2017 after three run­ner-up fin­ish­es in four years in the Euro­pean Le Mans Series. The team, based in Saint-Aubès just out­side Mont­pel­li­er, will be look­ing to car­ry on their ELMS form into their WEC com­mit­ment.

Join­ing TDS Rac­ing for 2017 are 2016 GTE Am dri­vers cham­pi­ons François Per­ro­do and Emmanuel Col­lard. As the sole bronze-rat­ed dri­ver on the P2 grid, Per­ro­do may use 2017 as a learn­ing expe­ri­ence more than any­thing. How­ev­er, with the expe­ri­ence of Col­lard and French­man Matthieu Vax­ivière on board, the team will be look­ing to upset the odds in 2017.

Signatech-Alpine Matmut

Alpine A470 — Gib­son

#36 – Nico­las Lapierre ℗, Gus­ta­vo Menezes (G), Matt Rao (S)

The 2016 LMP2 cham­pi­ons are back with their Alpine chas­sis (rebadged Ore­ca 07) for the 2017 sea­son with one of the strongest dri­ver line-ups on the P2 grid. Menezes con­tro­ver­sial sil­ver rat­ing has been upgrad­ed to gold for 2017, forc­ing the team to look else­where for an “ama­teur” dri­ver. Matt Rao, last year of Manor, has been recruit­ed to fill that role and will join Menezes and Nico­las Lapierre for the full sea­son.

Jackie Chan DC Racing

Ore­ca 07 — Gib­son

#37 – David Cheng (S), Alex Brun­dle (G), Tris­tan Gom­mendy ℗
#38 – Ho-Pin Tung (G), Oliv­er Jarvis ℗, Thomas Lau­rent (S)

David Cheng returns to the 2017 WEC with his DC Rac­ing out­fit, this time with the back­ing of movie star Jack­ie Chan as title spon­sor. The team has put togeth­er an impres­sive dri­ver line-up for a pair of even-more-impres­sive-liv­er­ied Ore­ca 07s. Although not made clear by the team name, the effort will be man­aged by the reign­ing ELMS cham­pi­ons and mul­ti­ple Le Mans win­ners Jota Sport.

Alex Brun­dle is arguably one of the quick­est P2 dri­vers out there, and he joins the #37 machine along­side Cheng and plat­inum-rat­ed Tris­tan Gom­mendy. Oliv­er Jarvis, mul­ti­ple race win­ner for Audi until the pro­gramme came to an end last year, joins the team in the #38 car togeth­er with Ho-Pin Tung and 19-year-old French­man Thomas Lau­rent.

Images: WEC-Mag­a­zin
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