After a year that saw the ACO prototype class struggle for numbers in North America and on the global scene, 2015 is set to see a major explosion of new machinery, and new teams, hitting the track.
In fact there’s so much that’s new in prospect that it’s tricky to decide how to present it – We’ll take a shot!
In this section we’ll summarise the manufacturers involved in a total of at least four brand new LMP2 coupe designs plus new and upgraded open top cars too! – Part 4 will look in little more depth at where those cars may appear in 2015.
The first car from the Boris Rotenberg owned BR Engineering will be the Paolo Catone designed BR01 Coupe.
Catone has real LMP heritage, he was the designer of the Peugeot 908 HDI LMP1.
The new car is set to debut publicly at the FIA WEC Prologue test at Paul Ricard in march, a two car entry is planned for the full 2015 FIA WEC with 2014 LMP2 Champions SMP Racing, both cars set to race with Nissan engines.
Testing though is later than planned, the car initially due to hit the track in late Autumn, now put back to January, or even early February.
There was no news on the potential tyre supplier – SMP raced throughout 2014 with Michelin tyres but would have switched before Le Mans to Dunlops had economic sanctions, still in place and still causing difficulties, not intervened. Those sanctions may continue to be a factor but the project is progressing with Nic Minassian taking a leading test and development role.
2014 was a year to forget for the Strakka Dome project.
Design issues first with the rear end of the brand new S103 Coupe and later with a fluffed redesign of the drivers headrest, prevented the car from seeing race action all year.
The team though are unbowed – late 2014 testing has gone well, the car looks the part, and the plans for a full 2015 FIA WEC programme are well advanced.
The Dome will race with the successful Nissan V8 in ’15 with the first car confirmed and a second car ready for either a test and development, or hopefully a customer programme.
Whilst all of the attention was on the glamour of the new Ligier Coupe the three year old Zytek P2 (Z11 SN) took the biggest prize with Jota Sport producing one of the stories of the year with a Le Mans week for the ages!
The sale of part of Bill Gibson’s Zytek outfit to Continental made it likely that a rebrand for the remaining Zytek Engineering concern was likely. That came quickly with the announcement in June of a new LMP2 Coupe for 2017 under the Gibson Engineering banner (below).
Before then though there will be an allowed performance upgrade for the existing open car. What’s not yet known is what it will be called!
It looks likely that Gibson Engineering would like to have their name on the nose of the car if the homologation regulations allow. The designation of the chassis will be 015S.
Both 2014 customer teams have confirmed that they will run the upgrade on their Nissan engined chassis – Jota and Greaves will be delighted to continue with their still competitive packages as others work their way through the inevitable Coupe development niggles.
This is the fourth manufacturer in the list and here’s the fourth new LMP2 coupe, and the third for 2015!
The brand new, purposeful and pretty ARX 04b has already hit the track with the launch customer, Extreme Speed Motorsports.
The car is powered by the well proven HPD twin turbo V6 and ESM’s confirmed two cars will see action in both the FIA WEC and the North American Endurance championship rounds of the TUSCC.
The project has had a couple of wrong turns with prospective customers vanishing, ESM are the only confirmed 2015 customers thus far of the promised six car initial production run.
Onroak Automotive had their very pretty new Ligier JS/ P2 coupe out and running after an extensive test process at the Test Day for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.
It ran very strongly, if not ultimately entirely reliably, at Le Mans in the hands of both the factory Oak Racing team, in both Nissan and Honda engined form, and in customer hands too, TDS coming home a strong but ever so slightly annoyed second place.
Since then it has contested the full flyaway section of the WEC (Nissan engine) and the late races in TUSCC (Honda engine) and has found new customers too, Krohn Racing adding the Judd V8 to a lengthening list of motive power options, Graff Racing opting for Nissan power (both of these cars bound for the 2015 ELMS) and Michael Shank racing making a late call to eschew Ford EcoBoost power for the Honda option.
2015 should therefore see the Ligier chassis represented in Europe, North America and in the WEC too, though we have yet to see whether the G-Drive Racing squad can produce their planned second entry, and indeed which ‘luxury brand’ will be either providing or badging engines for the effort.
Despite a very comprehensive testing programme the Ligier was not without issues in 2014. Initial launch customer Thiriet by TDS opting to sell their car (later purchased by ex LMPC Oreca entrants Algarve Pro), the team believing that reliability issues cost them a shot at both Le Mans and ELMS Championship wins.
Onroak ascribed much of the trouble to braking issues (though there were some reports of suspension issues too, and are set to switch standard fit from Brembo to AP in search of a solution.
Mazda’s Lola chassied, diesel powered P2 effort is set to remain a TUSCC only project for 2015 at least, the ACO regulations still preclude anything else for a diesel powered LMP2.
There has though been major progress on engine development in the close season for the Speedsource run effort, the car needed more speed, much, much more! And reports from testing suggest that the team have unlocked a large step forward in straight-line speed at least, we’ll soon see whether it makes a fundamental difference with the Rolex 24 Hours just weeks away.
News came from Jacques Nicolet at Interlagos that Onroak Automotive have far from abandoned their Morgan badged open topped car. The 3 year moratorium on performance upgrades for the car has now expired and an upgrade kit will be offered for 2015.
That’s likely to see service both in the ELMS and, if the planned Morand/SARD project comes together, in the FIA WEC too. Nissan and Judd powered cars are likely to feature in 2015, with the SARD car planned for Toyota badging on their Judd V8s.
Another new for 2015 coupe will come from Hugues de Chaunac’s Oreca concern.
The new 05 will merge Rebellion R-One chassis technology with proven Oreca 03-R underpinnings.
That should shorten the development curve but there is precious little time to get the new car up to speed.
2014 saw the permitted performance upgrade for the Oreca 03 (dubbed the 03-R) and several current customers have opined to DSC that they’ll be sticking, for now at least, to their trusted open cars.
Others though are keeping a keen eye on proceedings at Oreca, and keen too to take as early an advantage as possible from any performance gains offered by the new coupe. We’re likely to see the cars running in the WEC with KCMG and in the ELMS too.
The much delayed Pilbeam MP100 saw its first track action last month in South Africa, the Mountune powered open car though looks a way away from the initially planned (back in 2013) part ELMS programme.
The Charouz family owned Praga concern now owns both of the ex Lotus LMP2 T128 chassis
We’ll have to wait and see whether their plans to contest the 2015 ELMS and Le Mans come to fruition.
Mike Newton and co are plugging away at a plan to get the heavily reworked, and now Judd V8 engined ex Embassy Racing WF01 on track as a Tiga LMP2. Plans are afoot too to develop a new Coupe LMP2 for the new regulations.
There is no announcement as yet on where and whether we might see the Tiga emerge.
Plans for a Wolf designed and built LMP2 are some way in the future still but recent Tweetage from Italy suggests that we should see a Wolf badged LMP2 effort in 2015’s ELMS.