Wednesday 13 April 2016

ELMS Silverstone : LMP3 Preview

After the introduction of the LMP3 class last year, it proved to be an immediate success. In its first season, 7 cars entered the ELMS, with 6 Ginetta's and 1 Ligier at the last race in Estoril. 

© ELMS - Adrenal Media
Given the success of the series, the ACO announced last month that French racing car constructor Norma has been assigned as fifth constructor for an LMP3 prototype. Norma will offer their chassis next to Ginetta, Onroak Automotive, Ave/Riley Technologies, Adess EG and Dome.

Norma was founded in 1986, its first prototypes designed to race at hill climbs and circuit racing. In 2003 Norma launched the M20, a high versatile sports prototype that has been sold worldwide and is regulary updated. The design of the all new Norma LMP3 should be already at an advanced stage, aiming to have at least one car racing at the end of the season. Oreca is still looking after the customer service linked to the engine, an atmospheric Nissan V8 with 420 hp, X-Trac supplies the gearboxes and Magnetti Marelli the electronics. 

A stunning 20 cars have been entered for the opening race at Silverstone. All but one Ligier JSP3's, the Ginetta of the only Ginetta in the mix (in attendance of the delivery of their Ave/Riley chassis). A mix of well known teams and new teams stepping into the endurance racing format should give us a season full of close and exciting racing. 

© United Autosports
United Autosports (#2 & #3) returns to prototype racing with an ambitious plan to race at Le Mans in LMP2 in the near future. First step to get there is the LMP3 class in which they are fielding 2 Ligier JSP3/Nissans. They are in with an outright shot at the title in a very experienced team and some very fast and experienced drivers. The #2 will be in the hands of Alex Brundle (son of Martin) and American Mike Guash who has plenty of experience. The #4 will be driven by Mark Patterson (racing at Murphy in LMP2 in the past years) and another youngster, Matthew Bell. United Autosports dominated the prologue at Paul Ricard last month, setting the fastest and third fastest time over the two days.

OAK Racing (#4 & #24) is the second team with two cars on the grid this season. After Le Mans last year, the team stepped out of the WEC to focus on the evolution on the Ligier JSP2 and the development of the JSP3. Now they step back into the racing arena with 2 Ligier JSP3's. The #4 will be driven by gentlemen drivers Erik Maris and Marc Merlin. Jacques Nicolet, president of OAK Racing will race in the #24 together with his son Pierre Nicolet.

BySpeed Factory (#5) traded in its Ginetta Juno for the Ligier and returns to the ELMS grid for their second season. Spanish drivers Jesus Fuster and Alvaro Fintes will be joined by Tom Jackson, another young driver changing from single seaters to prototype racing. 

© Onroak
British team 360 Racing (#6) has raced with Radical racecars since 2005. Last year the team secured the Radical Masters title with Terrence Woodward and Ross Kaiser. Both title winning drivers will be joined by James Swift in the Ligier JSP3.

Villorba Corse (#7) heads into its second season in ELMS, and also traded in their Ginetta for a Ligier. Roberto Lacorte and Giorgio Sernagiotto already raced last year and will be joined by Niccolo Schiro this year.

Swiss based Race Performance (#8) is not only making its return to the LMP2 class this season but also enters a Ligier JSP3. Drivers are Swiss Marcello Matteotto, the 2015 Radical Masters champion, Giorgio Maggi and Belgian Bert Longin.  

Graff Racing (#9 & #10) was the first team to race with the Ligier JSP3 in the ELMS last year, immediately with a podium finish in Estoril. The objective for Graff is eventually racing at Le Mans, LMP3 is the next step to achieve that goal. This season, the French team returns with 2 cars; a complete French team in the #9 with Enzo Gübbert, Paul Petit and Eric Trouillet. The #10 car is an all American crew with Sean Rahall, Enzo Potoliccio & John Falb. 

© ELMS - Adrenal Media
Eurointernational (#11 & #12) is an Italian/American team with more then 25 years of experience in endurance racing,. They dominated the Italian Sports Prototype Championship last year and will enter two Ligiers this season. The #11 will be driven by leading driver Giorgio Mondini, Andrea Roda & Marco Jacoboni. Andrea Dromedari will be on driving duties, with the second (and third) driver still tba. 

Inter Europol Competition (#13), a Polish based team active in single seaters, acquiered 1 Ligier for this season. At their first endurance race in Barcelona last month, the team came in second at the VdeV race in Barcelona. Drivers in the ELMS are Jakub Smiechowski and Frenchman Thomas Dagoneau.

Murphy Prototypes (#14) is the only team not racing with a Ligier this year. The Irish team will race an Ave/Riley LMP3 with extensive factory support under The car will be driven by Tony Ave and Doug Peterson. Due to the car not being ready for the first race, the team will enter a Ginetta Juno for the first race at Silverstone. It's expected that the Riley car will be ready for the second race in Imola next month.

© ELMS - Adrenal Media
RLR Msport (University of Bolton - #15) raced a Ginetta LMP3 last year, but swill witch to Ligier this season. RLR was the first non factory team to win a race in the LMP3 class at Imola last year. Morton Dons, Ossy Yussuf and Ross Warburton will be at the wheel of #15 this season. 

Panis-Barthez Competition (#16) is also running a double program in both protoype classes. With Eric Debard, Simon Gachet ad Valentin Moineault, they have a mix of experience and young promising talent at the wheel.

Ultimate (#17), another French team, steps up from the VdeV championship into ELMS with one Ligier. The team has raced with CN prototypes for several years and now takes a logical step up to the LMP3 class. Team owners and brothers Mathieu & Jean-Baptiste Lahaye will share the car with Francois Heriau.

© Duqueine Engineering
A well known name in the paddocks is Yvan Muller, the four time WTCC champion who enters one car in the 2016 championship as M Racing - YMR (#18). Muller gives 3 young drivers the chance to race and gain experience in endurance racing. Tomas Laurent, 17 years old and karting world champion, Yann Erlacher and Alexandre Cougnaud. 

French Team Duqueine Engineering (#19 & #20) is a young but very ambitiuos team that already raced their 2 LMP3's in the VdeV & GT Tour championships. Both times with great success as they won in Barcelona and Nogaro. They come into ELMS with high expectations and want to have a shot at the 2016 title. The #19 will be driven by David Droux, David Halliday and Dino Lunardi; the #20 by Eric Clement, Roman Ianetta and Maxime Pialat.