Targeting Le Mans, WEC and Le Mans Series
Greaves Motorsport has enjoyed phenomenal success in the 2011 season, a class win in the Le Mans 24 Hours was followed by victory in the Le Mans Series. However when the Champagne stops flowing and the applause dies away, planning the next season has to be the priority for the team. Tim Greaves, Team Principal of Greaves Motorsport, discussed the prospects for 2012.
What are Greaves Motorsport’s plans for the 2012 season?
Tim Greaves: Greaves Motorsport will contest both the FIA World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans Series plus of course the Le Mans 24 Hours, all in the LM P2 class. One car in each and two at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Well, that is the plan.
Two cars in two separate Championships. That sounds like a tall order... The ACO have said the FIA WEC and the LMS will not run on the same week-ends, My son Jacob, who is Team Manager of Greaves Motorsport has worked hard on the travel logistics and the various scenarios that could be in play. I think it will be achievable if difficult. The biggest issue has been the lack of a calendar.
Do you know where you will be racing yet?
No, but our best guess is that there will be 8 European rounds and 5 fly away rounds.
Isn’t it a bit premature to make plans without a confirmed calendar?
he have run out of time. The calendar is way too late in being announced. We had to make our decisions a month ago, otherwise we would not be on the grid at Sebring. We just have to hope were right in our basic assumptions.
The logistics of running two campaigns must be very difficult, given the global nature of the task...
Since Greaves Motorsport started racing in 2007 we always been known for carrying a very comprehensive spares’ package. We need to double that as we cannot rely on the manufacturers to support us at the track, particularly on the other side of the world. We have ordered customised fly away kit to reduce freight costs. This also means we can set up and take down more efficiently, leaving the maximum amount of time to prepare the car.
With Karim Ojjeh retiring you need to buy two new chassis, have you decided on these yet?
This has been the most complicated part of the process of deciding the future for us. We have carefully looked at all the alternatives. Oreca is the fastest chassis but seems plagued with bad luck, and minor reliability issues. However, perhaps that can be said for all prototypes. We believe that it is our team’s preparation and attention to detail that makes the difference. We would really like to try the Lola Coupé. On paper it looks the business and appears to be the best value for money. In total this is a £1,000,000 investment and we need to deal with facts. The Zytek is quick enough, we have proved that and we know how to run it. However the deals aren’t done yet.
That sounds like two Zyteks...
Let’s wait and see. We hope to make the announcement next week.
What about the alternatives like Oak, Norma or HPD?
Norma hasn’t been in contact, the only ones not to. From last year’s performances I would say they appear to be under resourced. It is probably the only car in the true spirit of the cost cap rules and it is a shame they can’t attract a top team to run the car. Oak looks good but not better than Zytek. HPD is not really an option with our Nissan engines.
So you are intending to continue with Nissan power?
Of course. Our relationship with Nissan began in 2009 with our initial meeting at Silverstone and has continued to prosper since through the Zytek engine programme. It must be acknowledged that the commitment from Renate Ojjeh allowed the deal to happen and from that a very successful engine has been developed. We have come a long way in two years.
Has the team decided on the drivers for the two cars?
We have had many enquiries since Estoril, especially with the news of Karim retiring. We are planning to make an announcement concerning the LMS line up sometime after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, there has been some media speculation but contracts are in the process of being finalised. At the moment there is still one seat available for the LMS, but not including Le Mans. With the rule changes for 2012 we think that the chance to race for overall wins in our car makes it an attractive opportunity. Each car now having to have a “gentleman” driver as part of the crew creates an interesting dynamic and we have proved by our record that we can provide the car and the support to maximise the potential of the drivers, both professionals and gentlemen.
What about the World Championship and Le Mans?
As with our LMS programme we have had several approaches from interested parties but the composition of the calendar is crucial to us signing up a driver. This being a truly global series, at least from what we have been told, the business commitments of any potential driver has to fit with the programme. Until that is confirmed it is difficult to make a binding agreement. There is a fantastic opportunity for a funded driver to score a great hat trick of endurance racing titles with us next year, Le Mans, FIA World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans Series. We have two invitations to the Le Mans 24 Hours as a result of our victories this season, so at least we can plan for that with confidence.
Do we know when the schedule will be revealed?
I understand that it will be on 11th November, so not far away, but a bit frustrating.
Do the current drivers figure in the planning for 2012?
We had a great line up in 2011 but Karim has now retired so changes have to be made. Tom Kimber-Smith and Olivier Lombard did a fantastic job and we are very keen to find a way to keep them on board, certainly that is a priority for the team.
2011 was very successful for Greaves Motorsport, what lessons did you learn and how will they be put into action for the future?
At the start of the year we did not necessarily have the fastest car but we worked hard on making it completely reliable and from that base we worked on getting more performance out of it. We had great support from Nissan and Zytek to achieve these aims. Dunlop too, were key to our success, producing a great race tyre that was both fast and consistent. By the end of the year we were as quick as any of our competitors, we won the title in Estoril by grabbing the point on offer for pole position. Our Race Engineer, Alan Mugglestone had a lot of experience of Estoril from his time with the local ASM team and this really worked well for us. During the race we were able to outpace all our opponents. We have also improved over the year at managing our pace during the race, consistent high speed and good tyre management is the way to win, not setting occasional fast laps. Away from the action the team puts in long hours to ensure that car is at maximum potential and as bullet proof as possible. My role in this process is to make sure that the team has the resources avavilable to complete the task. For example we are in the process of building a bespoke workshop with a potential of up 12,000 sq. ft. to accommodate the team, it will be a state of the art facility. Anyone who visits our garage at the races can see the investment that we have made, both in personnel and technical resources.
The team made several changes during the year. The most surprising was Paul Thomas, a fixture in the team, leaving you. What happened?
Paul had been with us right from the start, of what is now, Greaves Motorsport. We have a great relationship together and he did a fantastic job for us. We won Le Mans together! After the victory at Le Mans, Paul felt he had done enough and it was our intention to work together until the end of the season. ASM had a terrible time at Le Mans this year and decided to stop for the rest of this season. I considered the possibility of Alan (Mugglestone) joining us, and after some discussions with all parties, it was decided that we would bring forward the change in the team. It was the toughest decision of the season. But to replace Paul was always going to be very difficult, and we had to take the opportunity as it arose.
Any other developments planned for the team?
We also are planning to set up a small team to run our two SR8 Radicals in one of the Radical Championships. So we are looking for drivers who are interested in racing in these highly competitive series. We had a great start to the year by winning the Ricard Winter Series and would love repeat the result.