Filling the gaping hole left by Audi after their withdrawal from the sports top-level of competition is an immense challenge. Paired with the introduction of new LMP2 regulations in 2017, a certain degree of uncertainty exists regarding prototype filed in the WEC. However Ginetta’s announcement to begin production on an LMP1 chassis suggests the WEC and it’s prototype classes still have a strong pull on manufacturer interest.
Ginetta aims to produce 10 chassis with the hopes of providing three teams with a pair of cars for full-season entry in the 2018 WEC season. The task of leading the aero development of the new Ginetta chassis has been given to Adrian Reynard, who was also involved with the design of Ginetta’s LMP3 chassis.
The Leeds based manufacturer also announced Paolo Catone will be heavily involved in designing Ginetta’s new LMP1. With the inclusion of Catone in the design process, Ginetta will have the knowledge of a designer who built a Le Mans winning car in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.
Some of Ginetta’s LMP3 privateer customers have already expressed interest in the non-hybrid LMP1 and talks with potential engine suppliers, Honda and Mecachrome, have begun.
The news comes as a welcome to those who expressed concerns over the declines in the prototype field for the WEC’s 2017 lineup due to Audi’s withdrawal from the sport and Rebellion moving to IMSA for a full season effort in the United States. The potential of an additional six Ginetta LMP1 cars on the grid in 2018 would nearly double the number currently expected for the 2017 season.
It remains to be seen whether Toyota will be running an additional TS050 at Le Mans and possibly the European leg of the WEC season. The possibility also exists for Porsche to run a third 919 Hybrid at Le Mans and Spa. Any additional races run by the third Porsche LMP1 hybrid is unlikely.
In advance of the Ginetta news, former LMP2 manufacturer BR Engineering, and current LMP2 manufacturer Dallara have begun working on a LMP1 project of their own. The outfit would be run by privateer SMP Racing in WEC for the 2018 season.
With both Ginetta and BR Engineering having missed out on securing one of the four manufacturer slots per the new LMP2 regulations, their efforts to field LMP1 privateer cars is a clear indication of where smaller manufacturers are turning to secure grid spots in future runs in the WEC and at Le Mans.
The prototype grid for the 2018 Le Mans race at current estimate appears to be in the neighborhood of the 2015 event which saw fourteen LMP1’s on track. One can hope a privateer is brave enough to take up the challenge and field Audi’s R18 as a non-hybrid entry and further strengthen the field. That would be a sight to see!
Photo Credit: Ginetta