The new endurance season will kick off on the Paul Ricard circuit on 31st March‐1st April under the name: the European Le Mans Series. Twenty‐three cars have entered for the race, and as expected, LM P2, the new top category, has the most teams with twelve entrants ready to go head‐to‐head. Topping the bill is Greaves Motorsport whose aim is to clinch a second title on the trot with Alex Brundle‐Lucas Ordonez‐Tom Kimber‐Smith in the Zytek‐Nissan.
There are several other title contenders, however, starting with the eagerly‐awaited team entered by 8‐time world rally champion, Sébastien Loeb. The newly‐created eponymous squad will debut with an Oreca‐03 Nissan that was delivered late, and which will only have been bolted together a few days before the event. With drivers of the stature and experience of the ex‐Peugeot Sport pair, Stéphane Sarrazin and Nicolas Minassian (22 Le Mans 24 hours between them), it will be hard to beat. The Morgan‐Judd driven by Jacques Nicolet‐Guillaume Moreau‐Dominik Kraihamer is another potential front‐runner and was quickest in the official tests on 9‐10 March.
Among the other teams that have opted for the Oreca‐Nissan combination is Thiriet by TDS Racing that has also impressed with its two young drivers, Mathias Beche and Pierre Thiriet, who can’t wait to take the fight to their rivals. The Boutsen Ginion Racing squad has received some first‐class support for the Le Castellet 6 Hours in the person of ex‐F1 Toro Rosso driver (and this year’s third Red Bull Racing driver), Sébastien Buemi who will back up Jack Clarke and Bastien Brière. The Pecom Racing entry driven by the experienced Soheil Ayari‐Luis Perez Companc‐Pierre Kaffer trio cannot be discounted either.
Five chassis constructors (Lola, Morgan, Norma, Oreca and Zytek) will do battle in the LM P2 category as well as two engine suppliers (Judd and Nissan) and drivers of eight different nationalities.
The LM GTE Pro category will be an all‐Ferrari scrap with three F458s entered by Kessel Racing, JMW Motorsport and JMB Racing. AF Corse has entered an F458 in GTE Am where it will be up against the Porsche 911 RSRs (997) of Imsa Performance Matmut and Prospeed Competition and the Gulf Racing Aston Martin Vantage.
Rendezvous this coming weekend on the Paul Ricard circuit for the first pointers to this season’s hierarchy.