Friday 4 March 2016

ELMS news round up

With the European Le Mans Series prologue at the end of the month at Paul Ricard coming closer, more news, driver line-ups and liveries for the 2016 season are being unfolded by the teams.

Thiriet by TDS presented their new livery for the 2016 season today and announced the third driver to compete in ELMS and Le Mans. Ryo Hirakawa will join Pierre Thiriet and Mathias Beche at the wheel of the Oreca05/Nissan. Hirakawa is a young Japanese driver who won the Japanese F3 championship and the Porsche Supercup in 2012. Since then, he has raced in Super Formula Japan and Super GT. He will discover endurance racing as part of the Toyota young drivers programme. Mathias Beche has been announced earlier and will join the TDS team following a partnership between TDS and Rebellion Racing which also shows on the new livery of the car. Beche will race in LMP1 with Rebellion and compete in the full ELMS season with TDS, including the Le Mans 24 Hours. 

ELMS champions Greaves Motorsport announced Julien Canal as their second driver for the Ligier JSP2/Nissan which will compete in the European Le Mans Series and at Le Mans. Canal won the LMP2 title in WEC last year with Sam Bird and Roman Rusinov in the Ligier JSP2 G-Drive Racing. He will join Meme Rojas at Greaves this season.  The third driver will be announced in the near future, as will be the crew for the Gibson 015S.  

US based Dragonspeed will debut its Oreca05/Nissan at the Sebring 12 Hours in 2 weeks, before heading over to Europe and compete in the European Le Mans Series. After some extensive testing over the winter, the Oreca was amongst the quickest prototypes at the IMSA organised test at Sebring last week. Nicolas Lapierre, LMP2 Le Mans class winner last year and former Toyota factory driver, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley will compete in the ELMS. At Sebring they will be joined by Nicolas Minassian, who won the 12 Hour race in 2011 with Peugeot.

Swiss team Race Performance announced their first two drivers for their Ligier JSP3 this season. Giorgio Maggi will join Marcello Marateotto in the LMP3 entry. Maggi is a young Swiss driver who raced for Race Performance in the 2015 ADAC Formula 4 series. He was also active in the CN class of the Asian Le Mans Series and won the 2016 title. Marateotto has been racing in for several years in the Radical championship and already raced in the team's Oreca 03. 

OAK Racing showed the new livery of their #4 and #24 Ligier JSP3's in the colors of the Ingenico Group. No more traditional black and pink livery this time, but mainly black and red instead. The cars will be driven by Jacques Nicolet, OAK president, and his son Pierre Nicolet in the #24, Erik Maris and Jean-Marc Merlin will team up in the #4 car. 

The United Autosports LMP3 also broke cover this week in its new livery.  The team completed their driver line-up for their debut ELMS campaign: Wayne Boyd will join team regulars Mark Patterson and Matt Bell at the wheel of the first Ligier JSP3/Nissan. The line up of the second Ligier was earlier announced with Alex Brundle, Mike Guash and Christian England sharing driver duties. The team will continue pre-season testing at Imola, ahead of the ELMS prologue at Paul Ricard later this month. 

Panis-Barthez Competition announced their LMP3 line-up last week.  Eric Debard will be joined by Simon Gachet and Valentin Moineault. In LMP2 Barthez is the only driver confirmed so far. Next to Christina Nielsen in the Formula Racing Ferrari, there will be a second female driver on the ELMS grid this season. Ines Taittinger will race with the Pegasus team in LMP2 with their Morgan/Nissan. She will be joined by Julien Schell & Remy Striebig. Eurasia already confirmed their line-up which retains Pu Jun Jin and Nick de Bruijn, who will be joined by Tristan Gommendy. 

Not much news yet in the GT class as the only confirmed driver line-up is the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari with Johnny Laursen, Mikkel Mac and Christina Nielsen. 

Kristof Vermeulen