Wednesday 4 May 2016

FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps : LMP2 Preview

In our third and final preview we take a look at the LMP2 class. RGR Sport won at Silverstone, ESM had their best result ever and G-Drive is fielding their ELMS Gibson at Spa again. 

RGR Sport by Morand, the new Mexican team of Ricardo Gonzalez, Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque made a perfect debut at Silverstone. First race, first win, job well done as they say. They pretty much had a trouble free run in their #43 Ligier at Silverstone, can they do it again at Spa ? Senna and Albuquerque have loads of experience on the Ardennes track, but will Gonzalez – who did an outstanding job at Silverstone - be able to keep up with the pace of his two pro drivers.

Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports set their best result in the WEC so far in Silverstone, ending up second in class and sixth overall with the #31 Ligier JSP2/Nissan of Ryan Dalziel, Pipo Derani and Chris Cumming. After winning Daytona and Sebring earlier this year, Derani put in another stellar performance last month, there's no more doubt that he is one of the rising stars in endurance racing. The #30 car of Sharp, Brown & Van Overbeek finished (only) ninth in class last month. In their second season in the WEC championship it seems like it's all coming together for the American team, they could have a shot at victory in Spa.

G-Drive Racing is at Spa with a 2 car effort, the “Mighty #38” joining the WEC grid as a dress rehearsal for Imola and Le Mans. The crew of the #26 Oreca05/Nissan remains unchanged with Roman Rusinov, Nathanaël Berthon and Audi factory driver Rene Rast.

It's become a tradition over the past years, that Jota (G-Drive) races its Gibson 015S.Nissan at Spa-Francorchamps. After their impressive victory in the ELMS at Silverstone, Simon Dolan & co might well be one of the contenders for victory in LMP2. Last year they won the dress rehearsal for Le Mans in their Gibson, beating all top WEC teams. The orange/black #38 will be driven by Simon Dolan, Giedo van der Garde and youngster Jake Dennis. Dennis replaces Harry Tincknell who is racing with Ford at Spa, and will also race at Le Mans before Tincknell returns to the team for the remainder of the 2016 ELMS season.

No changes at the Russian SMP Racing team for Spa. Both BR01/Nissan's on the grid with the same driver crews. A good chance for Vitaly Petrov to familiarise himself further with his new office and get ready for Le Mans next month. The race at Silverstone wasn't without problems for the team, as they had a few technical glitches with both cars. If they can fix those and find the raw speed of the BR01 around the long straights in Spa, both cars could be in for a strong weekend.

Signatech Alpine had a promising weekend in their first race with the Alpine A460 rebranded Oreca05's. Despite a puncture late in the race, the #36 of Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi just missed the podium in Silverstone, coming in fourth in class. The #35 Baxi DC Racing sister car made it home in seventh. Given the fact that they raced with an entirely new car, and – for the first time – a double team effort, an encouraging result for the team. Signatech put in some strong performances at the end of last season, once they've got to know their new car better, they should be able to do that again.

Strakka Racing is the second team fielding a Gibson 015S, the #42 for Nick Leventis, Jonny Kane & Danny Watts. The British team had a strong run at Silverstone, in practice as well as in the race, and will want to keep that up in Spa. The Gibson may not be the newest chassis, but still is very competitive & might be in for a suprise in the hands of three very experienced drivers.

Manor didn't have an enjoyable weekend at Silverstone last month. The #44 having to retire due to mechanical issues and the #45 finishing 6th in class after also dealing with some problems. They did show some good pace yet at Silverstone, so the main issue for this new WEC entrant will be to find some reliability.

Kristof Vermeulen.