Friday 5 February 2016

ELMS grid expands to an impressive 44 cars in 2016

Everyone expected the grid of the European Le Mans Series to boost in 2015, but no one expected a whopping amount of 44 cars. LMP3 takes the major part of entries with 20 cars, but the LMP2 grid also grows to a more than healthy 15 cars.

Photo © Adrenal Media/John Rourke
ELMS Website
The ELMS top category, LMP2, consists of 15 entries this season. Greaves Motorsport at the head of the field, defending their 2015 title with the Gibson 015S and adding a second car, the newly acquiered Oreca05. Greaves will defend their title against all time rivals Jota Sport, now racing under the G-Drive banner with the Gibson 015S and Thiriet by TDS Racings Oreca05. Other teams returning this year are Algarve Pro Racing, Pegasus Racing, Eurasia, Krohn Racing and Murphy Prototypes.

Of the new teams arriving in LMP2, Yves Courage is a name that pops out immediately. Absent from the endurance platform since 2007, Courage returns with a BR01. Race Performance also returns after a sabattical last year and will field their Oreca03 again. Other new teams are American Dragonspeed (Oreca05), SO24!, Panis-Barthez Competition and IDEC Sport Racing (Ligier).

We'll have 5 manufacturers (Oreca, Ligier, Gibson, Morgan and BR01), 2 engine suppliers (Nissan & Judd) and 2 tyre manufacturers (Dunlop & Michelin).  The 15-car field couldn't be more diverse than this.

LMP3 expands beyond expectation in its second season.  Where last year we saw an average of 5 cars, in 2016 no less than 20 LMP3 prototypes will be at the grid for the first race at Silverstone. Rather surprisingly, there's no sign anymore of the Ginetta-Juno car. Team LNT already confirmed not to return to the series, but one or two cars were still expected on the grid. Instead, Ligier provides almost all teams (all but one) with the Ligier JSP3. Only will race another chassis, being the factory backed team with a Riley-Ave2.

Lots of new teams and names in LMP3 and several teams listing a car in LMP2 and LMP3. Panis-Barthez Competition, Race Perfomance, Murphy Prototypes will run a double program in 2016. Onroak, who stopped their LMP2 program in WEC last year to concentrate on the production of their cars, will field 2 Ligiers, one of them for Mr. Nicolet himself. Another new team is American United Autosports that will field to cars, as will Italian team Eurointernational and French teams Graff Racing & Duquiene Engineering. A few big driver names on the entry list too, with Alex Brundle & Mike Patterson (United Autosports), Nicolas Leutwiler (Race Performance/Asian LMS champion), Jacques Nicolet (OAK Racing) and David Hallyday (Duqueine Engineering).

LMGTE, the only GT class remaining in the European Le Mans Series has 9 entries. Danish Formula Racing will defend their title and pulled Christina Nielsen onboard, the second female driver in ELMS this year. They will race agains 4 other Ferrari's, 2 Aston Martins and 2 Porsches. All familiar faces compared to last season, except for Thiriet by TDS Racing who switched their BMW Z4 for an Aston Martin Vantage V8.  The Beachdean AMR team is a great addition to the field, after their succesfull race at Estoril last year.

There's no GTC category anymore this season in ELMS. The former GTC teams will be able to race in the brand new Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, for which the entry list will be unveiled at the end of March.

44 cars, 34 teams, 14 nationalities, 3 categories ... what more do you need for an exciting racing season ? After the suprise 60-car entry list at Le Mans, a 44 car entry list in ELMS was a second pleasant surprise today.

The provisional entry list for the 2016 European Le Mans Series can be found here.

Kristof Vermeulen.