Wednesday, 13 February 2019

ELMS: Capacity grid of 41 cars for the 2019 season

No less than 41 cars have been announced by the ACO for the 2019 European Le Mans Series, a championship that seems healthier than ever with this capacity grid.  Lots of new faces, the addition of some very experienced and talented new drivers and several new teams in the championship set the bar high for what should be a very exciting 2019 ! 


No less than 18 LMP2 cars feature on the list, a record amount of full season entries. We’ve already seen 18 (Monza, Red Bull Ring) and 19 (Le Castellet) LMP2 cars on the grid last season, but never before 18 LMP2’s have been committed to a full season entry. The LMGTE class also increases from 6 to 9 cars with the addition of 3 new teams in the class.  The addition of entries in both LMP2 and LMGTE has its effect on the LMP3 class, which loses a few entries and now has 14 cars.  Less cars but several teams with a 2 car effort and what seems an increase in quality for this season. 

LMP2

Last year’s champions G-Drive racing lead the LMP2 field with a single Oreca 07 for Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne and LMP3 champion Job Van Uitert. No second entry this year for the Russian team which was run by Graff last year.  United Autosports return with 2 Ligier JSP217’s.  The #22 will be driven by Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque who also step up to the FIA WEC in the 2019/2020 season. The #32 has a new driver line-up with Alex Brundle who returns to team and Ryan Cullen.


Algarve Pro Racing is also set for a two car effort again, although this season without support of Rebellion Racing on the second car. The Portuguese based team now fields 2 Oreca 07’s with 2 new driver line-ups.  Mark Patterson returns to the #25 Oreca and will be joined by 2018 champion Andrea Pizzitola and John Falb, the 2017 LMP3 champion who will make his debut in the LMP2 class. The #31 Oreca has a promising line-up with young and talented drivers Henning Enqvist, James French and Tacksung Kim.     

IDEC Sport returns with 2 cars, an Oreca 07 and a Ligier JSP217. The trio of Oreca drivers  (#28) remains unchanged with Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas. In the #27 Ligier, Patrice Lafargue and Erik Maris will be joined by Stéphane Adler who has been racing in the French Porsche 911 Cup.  

The third team with a 2 car effort is Panis Barthez Compétition with the addition of a second Ligier. The crew of the #23 has already been announced with Rene Binder, Will Stevens and Julien Canal. Timothé Buret is the only driver confirmed in the #24 so far. 



Dragonspeed  is back with the #21 Oreca.  So far only Henrik Hedman has been confirmed as driver, it’s unclear if Ben Hanley will return for another season in ELMS with his debut in the Indycar series this year.  Nicolas Lapierre won’t return to the team, switching to Cool Racing. Duqueine Engineering is set for its second season in the ELMS top class with their Oreca 07. Pierre Ragues and Nicolas Jamin are still part of the team and will be joined by Richard Bradley in 2019. 

High Class Racing is set for its third season in the championship but changed from Dallara to an Oreca 07 during the winter.  Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen are expected to be back in the #20, and set for a debut at Le Mans, depending on confirmation by the ACO.  Graff Racing are also back in the LMP2 class but down to one car after running the second G-Drive car back in 2018.  No change in the driver line-up for the French team with Alexandre Cougnaud, Jonathan Hirschi and Tristan Gommendy. 

4 teams are moving up the endurance ladder, and are set to make their debut in the LMP2 class, some of them with highly rated drivers. Cool Racing were one of the first to announce their intentions at the end of last season, and immediately announced Nicolas Lapierre as their lead driver. The highly experienced Lapierre will be joined by Cool Racing’s regulars Alexandre Coigny and Antonin Borga in the #37 Oreca. Inter Europol Competition is set for a busy season in the European Le Mans Series, entering not only both LMP3 cars, but for the first time also a Ligier JSP217 in the top class. Jakub Smiechowski has been announced as lead driver for the #34.



Another big name to be seen in the paddock this year is Bruno Senna who has been signed by RLR MSport for their return to the LMP2 class.  Senna will share the #43 Oreca with John Farano and Indian GP2 driver Arjun Maini.  BHK Motorsport is a rather surprising addition to the class, moving up from LMP3 with a new Oreca 07. Francesco Dracone has been announced as lead driver, with Jacopo Barratto also expected at the wheel of the Oreca.  The final team to enter this years championship is Carlin.  A well known name and big player in the motorsport world in single seaters from F4 to Indycar who will field the single Dallara on the grid. A single driver has been confirmed so far: Jack Manchester who has previous experience in Radicals and the Blancpain GT Cup. 

A few teams from last season are missing on the list.  Racing Engineering, who started the season with a win at Le Castellet last year and finished second in the championship decided not to return to the series. They have been testing at Barcelona in January with their Oreca, but seem to shift their focus to a new GT3 program. SMP Racing doesn’t return also, focussing on their LMP1 program in the World Endurance Championship, after already missing out the final 2 races of last season. Spanish team AVF by Adrian Valles also didn’t apply for an entry, after a fairly disappointing first season.  Finally there’s Cetilar Villorba Corse who will race in the FIA WEC as from next season. The Italians will race their Dallara at Monza however, on a single race entry. 

LMP3


The growth of LMP2 and GTE has its reflection on the amount of entries in the LMP3 class this season. The class is down to 14 cars this year, compared to 18 last year. Less cars and also less teams in the paddock, since several teams have doubled up their efforts with a second car. Similar to last season, it’s a battle of Ligier (10 cars) vs Norma (4 cars). 



United Autosports is set for another 2 car entry with the #2 and #3 Ligiers.  The #2 sees the return of 2016 LMP3 champions Mike Guasch and Christian England. In the #3 Canadian Garett Grist is the first confirmed driver so far. 360 Racing expands to a 2 car effort this season. James Dayson, who raced with Eurointernational last year, has been assigned to the #5 car, Terrence Woodward returns to his #6 Ligier. 

Another team doubling up is Nielsen Racing, who also races in the Asian Le Mans Series this winter, now adding a second Ligier to its garage.  The #7 for Anthony Wells and Colin Noble,  the #8 for Nobuya Yamanaka and James Littlejohn.  The fourth and final team with 2 cars on the LMP3 grid is Inter Europol Competition.  It’s going to a busy season, with a Ligier in LMP2 and two in LMP3 and the Asian LMS campaign. Martin Hippe (#13) and Paul Scheuschner (#14) are two familiar faces by now in the ELMS paddock.  



6 teams will have one car on the grid for the first race in April at Le Castellet.  RLR MSport defends its title with a complete new line-up in the #15 (Rich/Olsen/Vedel). Swiss Realteam Racing is new with a Norma (#9), but will be run by Graff Racing don’t have any cars in class under their own banner. 2 drivers have been announced for Realteam: Esteban Garcia and David Droux. Also back is the colourful Norma of Oregon Team (#10) for Damiano Fiorivanti.  


The family-run Ultimate returns with its #17 Norma, which should be driven by Mathieu and Baptiste Lahaye and Francois Heriau again. Yvan Müller’s M.Racing enters just 1 Norma this season (#19), reserved for Laurent Millara and Lucas Légeret, the third driver still to be confirmed.  Another team with 1 car less than last year is Eurointernational which now will have 1 Ligier at the start (#11) for Andrea Dromedari.  

Several teams who were expected do not appear on the list, meaning we’ll probably find them in the Michelin Le Mans Cup this year.  DKR Engineering already announced they would focus on the MLMC again. Cetilar Racing was expected in the ELMS but apparently didn’t make the cut, as Spanish SPV Racing.  Another ELMS regular from the past years which surprisingly isn’t on the list is Austrian AT Racing.   

LMGTE

Not only the LMP2 class increases in numbers, but - and this is a bit of a surprise - the LMGTE class also expands up to 9 cars. It’s a Porsche vs Ferrari battle again with the addition of a few new, but highly experienced teams in the mix the season.  



Last year’s champions Proton Competition are back with two Porsche 911 RSR’s. The #77 under the Dempsey-Proton Racing flag with Porsche factory driver Richard Lietz as designated driver and the #88 under Proton Competition for rising star Matteo Cairoli. They will be joined by 2 other Porsche teams: the #80 Ebimotors of Fabio Babini, now and Project 1 with Egidio Perfetti.  The German team expands its endurance program to the ELMS after a succesful start in their maiden season in the FIA WEC. 

5 Ferrari’s will face the competition against the Porsches. Kessel Racing won last season’s GT3 class in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and steps up to the ELMS with a 2 car effort.  The first Ferrari F488 GTE (#60) has been reserved for MLMC champion Claudio Schiavoni. The #83 will be the first ever full female driver line-up in the ELMS with Manuela Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting. 



Another newcomer is Luzich Racing. A young team that debuted in the GT Open championship last season, and immediately won it with Mikkel Mac. No drivers have been appointed yet, but the return of Mikkel Mac to the ELMS wouldn’t be surprising. 

The 2 remaining Ferrari’s are familiar faces in the ELMS paddock with the #55 Spirit of Race of Duncan Cameron and the #66 JMW Ferrari who was runner-up last season. The designated driver for the #66 is American Jeff Segal who has been racing in the IMSA Weathertech and Pirelli World Challenge in the past years, raced at Le Mans with JMW last season and won the GTE Am class in 2016 with Scuderia Corsa.  

Just one team from 2018 is missing on this year’s entry list: the bright green Ferrari of Krohn Racing. 

1 comment:

  1. Regarding DragonSpeed, James Allen is driving for them this year. He was in the Graff G-Drive car previously, and filled in for a couple of WEC races (Shanghai and Fuji) in the LMP1. He’s confirmed it on his FB and Instagram pages.

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