Sunday 10 July 2016

ELMS action resumes at the Red Bull Ring next week

Next week, the European Le Mans Series heads off to Austria for the third round of the season at the Red Bull Ring.  Earlier this week, the entry list for the 4 hour race has been published.

A total of 38 cars in 3 classes will be on the grid next Sunday. 11 cars will race in LMP2, which is 3 less compared to the starting grid at Imola. For the first time in ELMS history, all LMP2 cars will be powered by a Nissan engine, as all 3 Judd powered cars won't race in Austria.

Race Performance, who kept their clean sheet at Le Mans (6 starts, 6 finishes) won't bring their #34 Oreca 03/Judd to the Styrian Alps next week. The Swiss team will be at the Red Bull Ring with a one car effort in the LMP3 class. Mulsanne based SO24! by Lombard racing won't race their #22 Judd powered Ligier JSP2 in Austria either, after financial gremlins already came up ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours. The #28 IDEC Sport Ligier JSP2 decided to focus on their entry in the 24 hour race at Paul Ricard next week, but should be back on the ELMS grid for the remainder of the season.

All but 2 driver line-ups have already been confirmed. The third driver at Greaves Motorsport is still TBA, after Jakub Giermaziak has been replaced at Le Mans by Nathanaël Berthon due to a lack of sponsorship fundings. It's not clear yet if Berthon will race with Greaves again or Jon Lancaster who won the 2016 ELMS championship with the team (and tested at Le Mans) gets the third seat in Austria. Sean Doyle returns to the wheel of the #48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03/Nissan, he will be joined by Italian driver Guglielmo Belotti and a still to be announced third driver. In the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier, Andrea Pizzitola will take his place again after being replaced by Sir Chris Hoy at Le Mans.

The LMP3 field will be 19 cars strong, all Ligier JSP3/Nissan's this time. The Ave/Riley LMP3 which was bound to make its race debut in Austria is still struggling with the homologation process which has delayed its competition debut with another month. Murphy Prototypes raced with a Ginetta in Silverstone and a Ligier in Imola, but won't race in the LMP3 class in Spielberg. The Ave/Riley will be at the track though to do some more testing but won't race. Let's hope they will be able to make their debut at Paul Ricard next month.

At Graff Racing, James Winslow will join Paul Petit and Eric Trouillet in the #9 Ligier JSP3. He will replace the injured Enzo Guibert.

In LMGTE there are no significant changes compared to the last race in Imola. The 8 cars seen in Italy will be racing at the Red Bull Ring with similar driver line-ups, except for Proton Competition, for whom Marco Seefried and Matteo Cairoli will be joining car #77 and #78 respectively. They will replace Robert Renauer and Klaus Bachler.

Dragonspeed racing confirmed they will expand their ELMS effort in 2017 to two cars in the championship, and has ordered 2 new Oreca07/Gibson's. The team will also apply for an entry in the Le Mans 24 Hours. After their strong result at Imola with the first pole position and an excellent podium finish, the decision was made quickly to extend the team effort in the European Le Mans Series next season. Team principal Henrik Hedmand and Elton Julian were already at Le Mans last month to discuss the possibility of a 2017 entry at "the big one". 

G-Drive's championship leader Harry Tincknell's contract with Ford Performance has been extended. The Englishman will now race for the remainder of the season in WEC in the #67 Ford GT. He already raced with the team at Silverstone, Spa and Le Mans and will now complete the season with Marino Franchitti and Andy Priaulx. Ticknell will also complete the ELMS season with G-Drive Racing alongside Simon Dolan and Giedo Van Der Garde in the Gibson/Nissan.

Last month, Norma has revealed the design of its first LMP3 chassis, the Norma M30 LMP3. Production of the car has been started, with the first chassis to be assembled by the end of the summer.  In addition to studies conducted internally by Norma’s design desk since the summer of 2015, a significant collaboration was also implemented in recent months with the engineering office
at Tatuus, to validate an innovative process for design and development which entirely focused on optimising performance.

TDS Racing has already announced they will race a Norma M30 next season in the European Le Mans Series. According to Norbert Santos, who is thrilled with the partnership with TDS, several other teams have already showed interest in the new LMP3 and made clear they have the intention to race the new car as from next season."

Norbert Santos, the founder of the company declared "This is another very important moment in the history of Norma that we are in the middle of writing. We put a lot of resources and energy into the design of the M30. This will not only be a beautiful car but, we are convinced, it is also a performance car that will meet the expectations of our future partner teams. As such, I wish to very warmly thank Xavier Combet and Jacques Morello from TDS Racing for the speed with which they wished to formalise our agreements. I think they were both convinced of the relevance of our work. This is a first extremely important partnership that will allow us to prepare our launch in the best possible way. Other teams have already made clear their intention to join us. These are trusted brands that affect us, whilst the first car will only be, as scheduled, assembled at the end of the summer.

Useful links for the race in Austria next week :

Kristof Vermeulen.