Despite struggling to attract entries in the FIA World Endurance Championship and a slight dwindling car count in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the LMP2 grid for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans couldn’t be any stronger, with 17 entries set to take part with their cost-capped prototypes.
FOXSports.com continues its comprehensive week-long coverage with a look at the teams from the LMP2 class.
***Diversity is the theme in LMP2, with five different chassis brands (ORECA, Morgan, Ligier, Alpine, Zytek) and three different engine manufacturers (Nissan, Judd, HPD) represented. Nissan, however, is the most-represented, with its VK45 engine powering 13 of the 17 entries.
***The Ligier JS P2 makes its race debut. Three of the all-new Onroak Automotive-designed prototypes are set to take part, with entries from OAK Racing, Thiriet by TDS Racing and OAK Racing Team Asia, which will feature the first all-Chinese driver lineup at Le Mans. While having completed significant mileage in testing, the car had not undertaken a 24-hour race simulation.
***Defending class winners OAK Racing is hedging their bets by fielding both Ligiers and its tried-and-trusted Morgan-Nissan. The French squad operates the G-Drive Racing entry for Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal, which is likely to be among the entries in contention.
***16-year-old Matt McMurry is set to become the youngest-ever starter. The high school sophomore from Phoenix will eclipse the 55-year record held by Ricardo Rodriguez, who was 17 years and four months old when taking part in the race in 1959. McMurry will share the No. 42 Greaves Motorsport-run Caterham Zytek Z11SN Nissan with Chris Dyson and three-time Le Mans class winner Tom Kimber-Smith.
***GM factory driver Ricky Taylor will make his LMP2 debut in Larbre Competition’s Morgan-Judd. Both Taylor and the Jack Leconte-led French operation took part in last year’s race with a Corvette C6.R in GTE-Am. Taylor will share driving duties with Pierre Ragues and Keiko Ihara, the only female driver in this year’s race.
***ORECA debuts its new 03R upgrade kit on all six of its prototypes, as well as the Alpine-badged A450b. The updates, which are primarily aero-related, are likely to give the French constructor an added boost as it seeks an elusive first class victory with the car.
***Despite U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed on the team earlier this year, SMP Racing is represented on the grid with two ORECA 03Rs and a Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am. The Russian squad, owned by billionaire Boris Rotenberg, had come under attack with allegations related to the ongoing crisis in Crimea. SMP has denied any wrongdoing and has reaffirmed its commitment to sport.
***After numerous delays, Strakka Racing’s new Strakka-Dome S103 Nissan was set to debut at Le Mans but a testing crash last month forced the British squad out of the race. Millennium Racing, meanwhile, withdrew for the second time last weekend after funding failed to materialize for its planned single-car Oreca 03 Nissan effort.
Teams to Watch:
OAK Racing — The French squad debuts its new Ligier JS P2 Nissan with arguably one of the strongest lineups in the class. Nissan GT Academy winners Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy are joined by Alex Brundle in the No. 35 entry. While Silver-rated Shulzhitskiy makes his Le Mans debut, both Brundle and Mardenborough finished on the podium last year. If the car lasts, this could be the team to beat.
G-Drive Racing — Another OAK Racing-run effort, but with last year’s class-winning Morgan-Nissan. French star Olivier Pla leads the lineup alongside Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal, a three-time class winner in the GT ranks. The proven reliability of the first-generation Onroak Automotive chassis could pay dividends in a 24-hour race like Le Mans.
Murphy Prototypes —Quickest at the test day and with one of the strongest efforts in the class, the Irish squad poses a threat for victory as well. Indian ex-F1 driver Karun Chandhok is joined by GP2 stars Rodolfo Gonzalez and Nathanael Berthon, in what could be an unbeatable lineup if the ORECA 03R can take the fight to the fight to the competition.
Jota Sport — A proven race winner in European Le Mans Series competition, the Sam Hignett-led outfit has shown the pace needed at Le Mans but has yet to come through. With added support from Audi reserve driver on-loan, Marc Gene, who joins Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell, the No. 38 Zytek Z11SN Nissan is likely to be one of the teams in contention come 3 p.m. on Sunday.
24 Hours of Le Mans Broadcast Schedule (all times ET):
- Saturday, June 14 – 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
- Saturday, June 14 – 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Saturday, June 14 – 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Sunday, June 15 – 2 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
- Sunday, June 15 – 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Entire race streamed LIVE on FOX Sports GO