Sunday, 22 January 2017

13 automatic entries for Le Mans known after the Asian Le Mans Series finale.

With the Asian Le Mans Series closing down their season after the final race in Sepang this morning, 13 of the 14 auto-invitations for this years 24 Hours of Le Mans are known right now.

Three class winners in the Asian LMS are granted an auto-entry for the 24 Hours: 

- Algarve Pro Racing as LMP2 and Asian Le Mans Series champions; 
- Tockwith Motorsports as LMP3 champion (invite in LMP2); 
- DH Racing (Ferrari) as GT3 champion (invite in LM GTE-Am)

Four cars earned an auto invite by winning their class in the European Le Mans Series: 

- G-Drive Racing as LMP2 and championship winner;
- United Autosports as LMP3 champion (invite in LMP2);
- Beachdean Aston Martin Racing as GTE-AM champion (invite in GTE-Pro or Am);
- JMW Motorsport as runner up in the GTE-Am class (invite in GTE-Pro or Am).

The 2016 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup champions also earned an entry on the GTE-Am class: 

© Gabi Tomescu/

- TF Sport (Aston Martin). 

The first four entries were already known at the end of last years Le Mans: 

- Porsche in LMP1 as Le Mans winner;
- Signatech Alpine in LMP2 als LMP2 winner;
- Ford Chip Ganassi as LM GTE-Pro winner;
- Scuderia Corsa Ferrari as LM GTE-Am winner.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship also has been granted 2 entries for the French classic. The first one has already been assigned to Scuderia Corse for a second Ferrari in the GTE-Am class. The second entry should go to an LMP2 team. Visit Florida Racing seems to be in pole position for this one, although the Riley/Multimatic of Ben Keating might be another contender (depending on their programme for this year).

- Scuderia Corsa (Ferrari) in GTE -Am
- tba LMP2

On February 2nd all 60 invited entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be announced at a press conference, as well as the confirmed entry lists for the FIA World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series.

Kristof Vermeulen.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

European Le Mans Series 2017: LMP2 news roundup

Less than three weeks of the presentation of the 2017 entry lists in FIA WEC, ELMS and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, let's take a look at what we know so far.

First up is the LMP2 class in the European Le Mans Series. With the entry of the all new 2017 regulations and Gibson powered cars, the era of open top prototype racing now has come to an end. No more Gibson, Morgan or Oreca03 on the starting grids, but all closed cockpit coupes. Initially a sub class for older LMP2 proto's has been announced in which they would be "grandfathered" (but remain uncompetitive for an overall victory) in the championship, but all teams are switching for new LMP2 prototypes immediately.

Looking at the confirmed/expected entries, this will be a very varied field with a healthy mix of Ligier, Oreca and Dallara prototypes. The only manufacturer not on the list today is Riley-Ave, although there still might be a chance we'll see all four new LMP2 cars on the ELMS grid. At this moment there's a possible entry list of a very healthy 12 to 16 cars.

Jota Sport should be set to defend its 2016 ELMS title with an Oreca 07 (the Oreca05 which will be upgraded to the new 2017 specs). Whether this will be under the flag of G-Drive Racing remains unclear. Following the release of the new driver ratings in which Roman Rusinov was upgraded to Gold rating, the Russian driver threatened to leave the WEC and ELMS championships with his G-Drive sponsorship. Given recent reports, it seems very likely though that Rusinov will stay in endurance racing. Simon Dolan & co will be back for sure, with or without Rusinov's support.

© Dragonspeed

After an impressive first season in the European Le Mans Series this year (4 podium finishes, 1 win, 3 pole positions), Dragonspeed announced the acquisition of 2 Oreca07's in June last year. Both cars have recently been delivered; one brand new Oreca07, the second is the upgraded Oreca05 in which they raced last year. Nicolas Lapierre, Ben Hanley and Hendrik Hedman are already confirmed for the first car in this seasons ELMS. The team is now working on a driver line-up to field a second car in the European Le Mans Series. They will start their season in the Daytona Rolex24 at the end of January. Lapierre has also been confirmed at Alpine in the FIA WEC, so if Dragonspeed gets an invite for Le Mans, they'll have to find a replacement driver for Lapierre.

© United Autosports

Winning the 2016 LMP3 championship granted United Autosports an invite for the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team took it up and purchased a Ligier JSP217 to race in the LMP2 class. The car will also be fielded in the European Le Mans Series, in addition to both LMP3 cars in the championship.  The first 2 drivers have been confirmed at the Autosport show last week: American Will Owen and Swiss-born Hugo de Sadeleer.

© Villorba Corse

Italian team Villorba Corse continues to work on its "Road to Le Mans" next season and steps up to the LMP2 class. They will race a brand new Dallara LMP2 in the ELMS, driven by Andrea Belicchi, Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto. The team will also apply for an entry in the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans.

© Graff Racing

LMP3 vice champions Graff Racing are moving up to the LMP2 class next season with 2 Oreca 07's. Initially a one car effort was announced last september, but recently the addition of a second car has been confirmed (depending on budget and drivers). An application to enter the 24 Hours of Le Mans will also be filed. The team has already participated 11 times in the 24 Hours between 1980 and 1993 and aims to return with 1 car. Graff Racing has also the intention to race one Ligier JSP3 in the ELMS this season.

Olivier Pla will race with IDEC Sport in the LMP2 class next season. He will be the leading driver in the Ligier JSP217/Gibson, alongside Paul and Patrice Lafargue. Pla will combine the ELMS championship with his factory drive for Ford in the WEC. If IDEC gets an invite for Le Mans, Pla won't be able to race with the French team, as in the first race of the season in Silverstone. The team is also looking into the LMP3 class, with a possible entry of one car.

Greaves Motorsport is expected to be back in the championship this season, either with a car of their own or running customer team(s). The future of Krohn Racing which was run by Greaves last year remains unclear up untill now. We expected Krohn to acquire a new Ligier JSP217, but he's also been linked to Dallara recently. With Olivier Pla leaving for IDEC, Krohn now lost his lead driver from the last ELMS campaign. The team has confirmed working on their plans for 2017, so expect an announcement by the end of the month.

No news about the future of Murphy Prototypes so far. Murphy's men gave young talent a chance in LMP2 throughout last season and teamed up with Ben Keating & Bill Riley for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Running an Ave-Riley LMP3 was planned for last season but the debut of the car being delayed several times postponed those plans. Will Murphy return in LMP2 or will they eventually enter the Riley LMP3 (for which they already had been assigned as agents for the European market) ? Rumours were spreading about Ben Keating showing interest in LMP2 to return to Le Mans also, with a possible full season entry in ELMS. 

© Racing Team Nederland

A new team in the top class of the European Le Mans Series next season will be Racing Team Nederland. An ambitious Dutch team running a Dallara/Gibson, supported by Davytech. This is a very ambitious project, funded by Jumbo boss Frits Van Eerd who will be sharing the car with former Le Mans winner Jan Lammers and Rubens Barichello joining in for Le Mans (if they get an invite). An intense testing program has been completed up until now, including the Dunlop tire tests at Sebring last December.

Panis Barthez Competition has bought a new Ligier JSP217 for their second season in the ELMS. No news on drivers yet, but Fabien Barthez will surely be back at the wheel. The French team will also continue to race in the LMP3 class.

Eurasia will apply for a Le Mans entry again, but their future in the European Le Mans Series is unclear. Losing Jo Pin Tung and his sponsoring funds last season forces them to work with a tighter budget and it's not certain a full ELMS campaign will fit for 2017. The team is now active in the Asian Le Mans Series, winning the last race at Buriram.

RLR M-Sport who have been active in LMP3 in the past 2 years also bought a Ligier JSP217 to run in LMP2 this season, and will apply for an invite at Le Mans. They are into the market for (paying) drivers at the moment. 

Tockwith Motorsports impressed in LMP3 last year when they stepped up from the Michelin GT3 Cup. Very strong performances in the 4 hours of Le Castellet and Spa-Francorchamps made the them quickly order a Ligier JSP217 and step up again to LMP2. Nigel Moore and Philip Hansen will be the drivers of red/white Gibson powered Ligier. 

A return of Thiriet by TDS Racing this season is unlikely, the team already confirming to step up to the FIA WEC in an Oreca07. LMGTE Am champions Emmanuel Collard and François Perrodo will drive the car together with Matthieu Vaxivière.  Pierre Thiriet also has been linked to a possible Alpine drive in the WEC this season. Last year, the team quite early employed plans to run a Norma LMP3 in the ELMS, whether that's still on the table is unclear.

The future of SMP Racing in LMP2 is still in doubt. Their BR01 now outdated with the arrival of the new generation LMP2's. Running the BR01 is still possible in the ELMS, but as a "grandfathered car" & way off the pace of the new prototypes. Ambitious plans were announced back in November with the development of a new LMP1-L for 2018 in a joint venture with Dallara. Recent rumours about hitting troubles early on might . There might be a chance SMP running a Dallara LMP2 this season, or will they solely focus on the GTE class ?

WRT made an impressive one-off appearance at the 4 hours of Spa-Francorchamps last September, finishing second in the debut race with an LMP2 prototype. Rumours of the team going into LMP2 have now been denied by team boss Vincent Vosse. They have been looking into a FIA WEC campaign next year but a possible LMP2 entry is on stand by at the moment. If WRT goes into LMP2 it has to be with a sufficient budget at the resources to compete for the win. The project isn't off the table completely, this might be one to watch for 2018.

2 teams who are also active in the Asian Le Mans Series haven't confirmed any plans for this year in the ELMS. Both Algarve Pro Racing and Race Performance race in Asia with their current LMP2 machinery. Algarve Pro Racing is looking into a full season entry in the FIA WEC in 2018, plans for 2017 haven't been announced yet. Race Performance have put their Ligier LMP3 for sale recently and is defending the Asian Le Mans Series title in LMP2. There has been no official announcement so far about the future of the team.  

Pegasus Racing definitely won't return to the LMP2 class as they will switch to LMP3 in 2017 with at least one Ligier JSP217. 

Kristof Vermeulen.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Michelin Le Mans Cup unveils its new identity

In 2017, the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup will be known simply as the Michelin Le Mans Cup with the introduction of LMP3 alongside GT3.

This new logo with simple, yet timeless lines was created to reflect the values, the dynamism of the series and to provide an instantly recognisable brand for the Michelin Le Mans Cup, with the colour scheme matching those of the title sponsor. 

The latest news of the Michelin Le Mans Cup can be found at and also on the social media feeds: 
Facebook: Le Mans Cup 
Twitter: @LeMansCup
Instagram: @LeMansCup 

The 2017 Michelin Le Mans Cup will be held over six races in Monza (Italy), Le Castellet (France), Red Bull Ring (Austria), Spa (Belgium) and Portimão (Portugal). The highlight of the calendar will be the ‘Road to Le Mans’ race on the morning of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.   

Thursday, 12 January 2017

United Autosports confirms LMP2 entry in Le Mans and ELMS

This afternoon at the Autosport Show in Birmingham, United Autosports conformed its LMP2 entry in the European Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first two drivers of the LMP2 line-up have also been announced.

© United Autosports

Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer have joined the reigning ELMS LMP3 championship winning team for their debut LMP2 season. Will and Hugo will also be racing at the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours in June as part of the agreement.

American, Will Owen began karting at the age of 15, quickly moving into single seater racing. He has previously competed in the USF2000 Championship, winning in Indianapolis and scoring multiple top-10 finishes in his debut year. Most recently, Will has been racing in the Pro Mazda Championship. Swiss-born Hugo de Sadeleer also comes from a single seater racing background, having most recently raced in the 2016 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 – one of the support races to the ELMS. Hugo has previously tested with United Autosports in one of their Ligier JS P3 sports prototypes at Estoril, Portugal at the end of last year.

Will and Hugo will be joined by an as yet unconfirmed third driver in the United Autosports Ligier JS P217.

Last week United Autosports have already confirmed their two-car ELMS LMP3 drivers, by announcing American pairing, John Falb and Sean Rayhall at the end of the 2016 season, with the announcement last week that Mark Patterson, Wayne Boyd and Christian England will remain with the team for 2017.

Will Owen, driver, United Autosports:
“I am so excited to be a part of the United Autosports LMP2 team. 2017 is shaping up to be a fantastic year and I am very thankful to have this opportunity to race in the European Le Mans Series with such an experienced and professional team. There is going to be great competition this year in the LMP2 category and we are all going to learn so much but I also know everyone on the team is pushing to win. It is a dream come true to be able to go race at circuits like Silverstone, Monza, Spa and Le Mans. It has been a goal of mine to race at the Le Mans 24 Hours but I never thought I would make it this early in my racing career. It is an honour to be a part of an event with such deep history.

Hugo de Sadeleer, driver, United Autosports:
“I am excited and hopeful about taking this huge step from single-seater racing to endurance racing. The ELMS will be a thrilling challenge; if I look back to a year ago, I would never have imagined myself transitioning to such an impressive machine. I am honoured to be joining such a distinguished team too. It was by chance that I met with United Autosports last season and they gave me the incredible opportunity to prove myself in their winning LMP3 car. I am very grateful for their belief in me and hope our partnership will lead to success. The Le Mans 24 Hours always felt like just a dream but the fact that it has become a reality is beyond belief. The history of Le Mans, as well as competing against drivers that I look up to, is something I am very proud to be a part of.”

Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports:
“It’s going to be great having Hugo and Will as part of our LMP2 driver line up. Hugo tested our LMP3 car at the end of last year and did an excellent job and I have followed Will for a while now with his racing in America. I have high expectations for both of them. I’m so excited that United Autosports will be racing at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The team had a great year in 2016, winning the LMP3 championship so I’m confident we can carry the momentum onto 2017. Now we need to finish our driver line up. We know who we want and are just putting our finishing touches together to get our entire programme in place.”

Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“I’m really pleased Will and Hugo are joining the United family for our debut year in LMP2 racing. The decision to race in LMP2 came quite late at the end of last year. Once it was confirmed we would have an entry into the Le Mans 24 Hours after winning the LMP3 championship, we decided to go ahead and planned to race in the LMP2 category, alongside our existing LMP3 commitments. It’s taken a lot of work in a short space of time to pull it all together, but I’m excited for what we’ve got going on this year.”

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Entry lists for Le Mans, FIA WEC and ELMS to be revealed on February 2nd.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest is innovating and using a totally new format to reveal the lists of entries for the 2017 European Le Mans Series (ELMS), FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC) and the Le Mans 24 Hours.  

Live from Le Mans on Thursday 2nd February 4:00 pm (GMT + 1) the lists will be revealed in exclusivity on Internet in a new innovative interactive format. Medias and surfers can ask questions via the social networks. On a dedicated stage in a friendly ambiance, the hosts will interview the ACO representatives and will have the on-the-spot reactions of key players in the world of endurance thanks to several duplexes. Several new subjects will be tackled during this innovative reveal!

Rendezvous on the internet sites and social networks on 2nd February. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Rebellion Racing announces 2 car FIA WEC effort

Today Rebellion Racing confirmed a 2 car effort in the 2017 World Endurance Championship. As announced before, the team makes the switch from the LMP1-L class to LMP2 with 2 new Gibson engined Oreca07's. 

Four drivers have also been announced today. Nicolas Prost and Matthias Beche are up for their ninth and fifth season with the Swiss team. Nelson Piquet Jr, who drove the first three races of the 2016 season with Rebellion, including Le Mans, also makes his return for his first full season in the FIA World Endurance Championship. 

A new name in the 2017 line-up will be Bruno Senna, leaving RGR Sport for a full season campaign with Rebellion. Senna had a successful campaign last season, scoring 2 class wins in Silverstone and Mexico and four class podiums.

The driver line-up will be completed with 2 silver drivers later on. Pierre Thiriet is one of the most named possible drivers to join in for next season.

The new Oreca07 has been tested for the first time at the Dunlop tyre tests at Sebring last week.

© Dunlop

The Swiss team will also compete in the 2017 Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup, the 4 longest races in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship (Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans) with a one car effort. Rebellion has already been successful in the States, winning Petit Le Mans in 2012 and 2013 and finishing on the podium in Sebring. 

For the Daytona 24 hours in January, Rebellion already has a stellar driver line-up with Neel Jani, Sebastian Buemi, Nick Heidfeld and Stéphane Sarrazin.  


Nicolas Prost: "I am of course very glad to continue for a ninth year with REBELLION Racing. I know the team very well, I am very happy here and I am always involved in the development of the team. We have grown together over the years and it was clear to me that the right thing to do was to stay with REBELLION Racing in their challenge with the new LMP2 cars. The competition in LMP2 is going to be very hard, but we will give everything to fight for all the races. I am looking forward to driving the Oreca 07 LMP2 which I have heard a lot of good things about."

Mathias Beche: "This will be my fifth season with REBELLION Racing and we know each other well. I am extremely happy and grateful to be able to be part of this new challenge, moreover under the colours of Switzerland ! The new car is fantastic to drive and the fight on the track is going to be fierce, that's what makes us all excited ! I believe that my experience with the LMP1, coupled with the experience I gained in LMP2 will be a great asset to help the team meet this beautiful challenge."

Nelson piquet Jr: "I am really happy to return with the team, this time for a full season. It’s going to be a big challenge for us in our first year with the new LMP2. I am looking forward to work with people I know from last year and to make a good championship together with the team and my teammates. I can’t wait for the season to start !"

Bruno Senna: "I'm so excited to be part of REBELLION Racing's line-up for FIA WEC in 2017! The team really has strived to get the most competitive line-up possible to challenge for the championship as well as winning Le Mans in LMP2. Our job will be very tough with so many strong drivers and teams out there, but I'm very much looking forward to kicking things-off in Monza during the Prologue !"

Bart Hayden, REBELLION Racing Team Manager : "We are very pleased to confirm our plans to enter two Oreca 07 LMP2 cars in the 2017 World Endurance Championship alongside our already announced entry with a single car in the IMSA North American Endurance Cup races. We are also very happy that Nico, Mathias and Nelson will be driving with us again in 2017 and I would like to welcome Bruno to the REBELLION Racing Team. We were impressed with the Oreca 07 when we tested it in Sebring last week, it should be a good car to go for race victories and the Championship. We are putting together all the ingredients to run a strong campaign in 2017!"

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Riley Mk30 LMP2 breaks cover

With the delivery of Visit Florida Racing's Riley Mk30/Gibson this afternoon at Carolina Motorsports Park, the fourth and final new LMP2 chassis broke cover. 

© Visit Florida Racing

The pictures released by the American team are the first of the new Riley LMP2 chassis. Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande, both full time drivers for the team in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship took their first laps in the car today. Further testing will continue at the official IMSA test at Daytona International Speedway next week. 

© Visit Florida Racing

All four cars now broke cover and are undergoing intensive testing ahead of the 2017 season. 

The Ligier JSP217 was the first car to be unveiled at the ELMS weekend at Spa. Since then, the Onroak Automotive prototype has covered more than 6000 testing kilometers so far, both in Europe and in the USA with the first tests as a converted DPi prototype scheduled in the upcoming weeks. 

© Onroak Automotive

The Oreca 07 was presented by the end of October at the Paul Ricard circuit in France. Oreca is also the only manufacturer who offers an "upgrade kit" for their current Oreca 05 to the 07 specification. 

© Alexis Goure/Oreca

The car has been tested thoroughly in the past months, ahead of racing in the FIA WEC, ELMS and IMSA.

© Alexis Goure/Oreca

Meanwhile some spy shots were published of the brand new Dallara testing in Italy. Up untill now, the Dallara LMP2 hasn't been officially presented, with not much details already known about the car. 

© Racing Team Nederland

Villorba Corse have published some renderings of the Dallara that will be entered in the ELMS next season. Dutch team "Racing Team Nederland" who also acquired the Gibson engined Italian chassis though have published several pictures since they started testing the car in november. As from next week they will test the Dallara at Sebring. An entry in the ELMS is on the cards for 2017 and an application for the Le Mans 24 Hours. 

© Racing Team Nederland

Kristof Vermeulen.