LMP1 numbers for the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hour race may be down, but a record 25 LMP2 car grid ensures a stout prototype field for this year’s contest. In LMP2, teams are allowed to run one of four chassis designs all powered by Gibson engines. As such, the class is typically one of the most heavily contested categories. Increased speeds because of regulation changes heading into 2017 will make the battle at La Sarthe one of the most furious LMP2 challenges yet.
Oreca 07 Entrants _
The Oreca teams enter Le Mans carrying a distinct advantage, both in number of bullets in the chamber (14/25 total LMP2 entrants are Oreca chassis), and performance-wise. An Oreca chassis has won the last two installments of the 24 hour race. In 2015, KCMG dominated the race running relatively problem free. Last year, Signatech Alpine repeated the feat in their Alpine badged Oreca 05.
Ran in both the ELMS and WEC series, an Oreca chassis has won 3/4 races on the calendar this year.
Easily the most glaring piece of evidence supporting Oreca’s perceived advantage at this years Le Mans was their performance on the test day. Their cars held the top 13 positions on the timing sheets.
Among the Oreca teams, Signatech Alpine, G-Drive, and Jackie Chan DC Racing carry some momentum heading into the race. The No. 36 Signatech Alpine lineup of Romain Dumas, Gustavo Menezes, and Matthew Rao seems particularly menacing. The hunger for a Le Mans win motivating Roman Rusinov’s No. 26 G-Drive is shared by his teammate Pierre Thiriet, with both having been in contention for class win in the last two Le Mans races. Expect their car to be battling at the pointy end of the LMP2 field.
An Oreca lockout of the podium would not surprise anyone in this race. Each of the Oreca teams has a realistic chance of winning the class and possibly stealing an overall podium position.
Dallara P217 Entrants _
Newcomer to the LMP2 category, Dallara hope to add to their tally of wins across a wide range of Motorsports. With three cars in the field, it appears Dallara have a steep hill to climb before reaching their goals.
Their DPi counterparts in the IMSA series have dominated. The No. 10 Cadillac Dallara entered by Wayne Taylor racing have won 5/5 races to start the IMSA season including its debut race at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the always challenging 12 Hours of Sebring. These noteable race wins came against Ligier DPi’s, Riley DPi’s, and ACO homolgated Oreca 07’s proving there is indeed pace and potential in the Dallara chassis. Can their European counterparts unlock its potential?
Perhaps Dallara’s best chance at competing comes at the hands of the No. 27 SMP Racing entered car, as the team stood on last years LMP2 podium albeit with a distinctly different chassis.
Despite their struggles to match the pace of the Oreca 07’s, the Dallaras boast as the fastest cars in a straight line on test day exceeding 340 kph! Should the opportunity arise, having the speed to get by their oppennents should not be an issue.Formula 1 fans should be especially excited to follow the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara. The team carries Ruebens Barrichello as their platinum driver.
Can Dallara surprise here at Le Mans? Sure, however a top 5 finish in class by any of its three cars would be considered as a victory as the car is still being developed in its first year of competition. Seeing these cars fly down the Mulsanne straight will be a highlight of the race if nothing else.
Ligier JSP217 Entrants _
Second to Oreca in car count, 7 Ligier JSP217’s are entered for the race. With some formidable challengers and being the only other armor to spoil Oreca’s otherwise perfect record in Europe this season, do not count out Ligier.
History would indicate Le Mans is not specifically suited for a positive result for Ligier. Their new chassis affords the opportunity more potential at La Sarthe moving forward.
Atop the timing sheets for the Ligier teams on the Le Mans test day was the No. 32 United Autosports entrant. As the winner of the ELMS round at Silverstone, the UK based team represents the greatest opposition to the Oreca domination thus far. It’s driver lineup of Felipe Albuquerque, William Owen, and Hugo De Sadeleer will hope to make headlines as the race progresses.
Riley MK30 Entrant _
The Riley MK30 is in its infancy as far as development goes at this stage. Ran by Mazda as their DPi entrant , and the Visit Florida team (both in the IMSA series), the car has flashed some potential in its limited running so far.
The No. 43 Keating Motorsports Riley will have a tough road ahead of them on race day. Having only completed 19 laps on the test day, the team still has a lot to learn about their car. Undoubtedly, developing reliability in the cars package will be their primary focus in the race. If the car is still running at the end, expect the team to be celebrating as if they had won the class.
What to Watch For _
Speed. The new chassis and Gibson engine combos are proving to be a monstrous combination. With the capability of exceeding the LMP1 speeds in the straights, we might see LMP2 cars flashing their lights at Porsche and Toyota on occasion.
Anything other than an Oreca win would be a massive surprise. The favorites in the class rank in the following order by team, Signatech Alpine, G-Drive, Jackie Chan DC Racing, Vaillante Rebellion, and TDS Racing with the best hopes of a non-Oreca on the podium coming from United Autosports in their Ligier, and SMP Racing for Dallara.
Race Resources _
LMP1 preview (coming 6/13)