Friday 26 August 2016

European Le Mans Series - Le Castellet news roundup

With the ELMS season passing its mid-season mark, lots of teams have already started up their preparations for next year. The 2017 season will see some teams expanding into other classes and new teams applying for an entry in the European Le Mans Series. The starting grid for the 2 last rounds of the 2016 season may already see some new teams making their entry into the championship. 

Earlier this week, French team Graff Racing announced they will step up to the LMP2 category as from next season. 

"After an encouraging start of the season in LMP3 and the trust & support the team gets from its partners, the logical next step was to be an LMP2 program in 2017. Going into LMP2 has always been the dream of Graff Racing, it's a very professional class with fierce competition. At this moment no decision has been made yet about which championship we will enter. Both WEC and ELMS are an option at this moment" said team manager Pascal Rauturier.

Graff Racing engages itself on long term to prototype racing, as this will be a four year project. Arriving in the LMP2 class demands important investments in both personnel and equipment, so going into it for the long term should give the team a solid base to be competitive. The team acquired a brand new Oreca07 chassis, which might be a surprise after having a good relationship with Ligier in LMP3. The choice to go with Oreca in LMP2 has been well considered. Being able to get an early delivery of the Oreca chassis has been the turning point to favor the French constructor. This season, Graff Racing had the Ligier LMP3 as one of the first teams, which gave them the opportunity to really test the car out and be competitive from the start of the season. 

The LMP3 program in ELMS will probably be maintained by the team. The chase for an invite to the Le Mans 24 hours next year has been opened too, so we might see Graff Racing competing in both endurance championships next season. 

© RLR Msport

RLR Msport has taken delivery of its second Ligier JSP3/Nissan. The car will also race in the ELMS championship, probably from Spa onwards. Drives are still available for the final 2 races of the season (Spa and Estoril), and for the 2017 season. 

The Ave-Riley LMP3 which will be entered by is going through its final homologation progress and should be ready to race at the end of next month at Spa-Francorchamps. The car was already in the Murphy Prototypes pitbox last month at the Red Bull Ring. Tony Ave and Doug Peterson, who already raced in a Ginetta and Ligier LMP3 this season are expected to drive it at its maiden race at Spa. 

Beachdean Aston Martin Racing will be sporting a new roof livery for each of the remaining races in the 2016 European Le Mans Series. So far the Aston Martin #99 Vantage V8 GTE has showed the Union Jack on its roof, except for Le Mans where the St Georges cross was showed following the Euro 2016 game. As from this weekend, the new livery on the roof will feature the Union Jack and the flag of the country they race in. 

Team owner and driver Andrew Howard explains the thought process behind the idea :  “We are proud to compete in ELMS and have the opportunity to race at some of the best tracks Europe has to offer. We wanted to illustrate this in some way on the livery and the roof, which already has our flag , seemed like the right place to deliver this message.”

© KEO Racing

Danish team KEO Racing which competes in the Formula Renault 2.0 this year has its plan for 2017 to race in the European Le Mans Series and French VdeV series with a Ligier JSP3. The car has already been delivered to the team, which will now start testing the car and different drivers in the upcoming months and aims to be fully ready to compete hard from the beginning of the 2017 season. 

One driver has already been conformer : 26 year old Johan Jokinen who will test and develop the car as well as advising drivers who test within the team. 

SPV Racing announced an ambitious 4 year project with the main target to be on the grid of the Le Mans 24 hours by 2019. Its "road to Le Mans" involves not only building up the team based on experienced personnel but also very much working with drivers that are interested in developing their skills and careers in endurance racing. The team will enter a Ligier JSP3 in the penultimate round of the ELMS at Spa next month, before competing in the Asian Le Mans Series later this year. They will also race their LMP3 in the French VdeV series to be able to develop the car further. Next season the goal is to compete with two cars in the ELMS LMP3 class and step up to LMP2 in 2018, to arrive to Le Mans in 2019. 

At the wheel of the Ligier will be former Toyota F1 test driver Borja Garcia and Malaysian driver Ashraff Dewal. Both will race at Spa-Francorchamps and in the Asian Le Mans Series later this year. Garcia already races with the team in the Nascar Whelen Euroseries. 

Kristof Vermeulen.