Slowing LMP2s further fraught with issues, say WEC drivers

Filipe Albuquerque and Anthony Davidson believe slowing LMP2 cars further to create a gap to the Hypercar class could complicate matters in the first season of FIA World Endurance Championship’s new era.

The new breed of Le Mans Hypercar machines are expected to be five seconds slower than the LMP1 cars they replace in the WEC's top class, as they are not only down on power but also significantly heavier than their predecessors.

The WEC had factored this in prior to the 2021 WEC season, originally cutting the horsepower of LMP2 cars by 40bhp before announcing a further 25bhp reduction earlier this month. The minimum weight of the car has been increased from 930kg to 950kg, while all LMP2 teams are now mandated to complete the entire season running the low-downforce, Le Mans 24 Hours package.

However, these changes appeared to be insufficient to create a gap between the two classes in the Prologue test at Spa-Francorchamps at the start of this week, with LMP2 cars locking out the top three spots in the combined timesheets.

Sebastien Buemi's 2m04.669s effort in the final session in the Toyota GR010 Hybrid was half a second down on the fastest time of the test, set by Nyck de Vries in one of G-Drive's Aurus-badged Oreca 07-Gibson.

Following the test, Toyota called for a "review" of the balance between the two categories, with technical director Pascal Vasselon saying "it clearly was not the target to have LMP2 running faster than the Hypercar category." 

However, United Autosports driver Albuquerque feels pegging back the performance of LMP2 cars is not as straightforward a solution as it may seem, and may significantly affect the way those cars handle at different tracks.  

"As an LMP2 driver, we don't want to be slowed down more," the 2019/20 class champion told "Already the car feels really bad, especially on long runs. It's frustrating and it's almost impossible to work on the car, because when the car is out of the window on downforce, there's very little you can do about set-up.

"And then when we go to Bahrain with the Le Mans aero kit, with super-high temperatures… I don't know see how we can drive there like that. At Spa with 20-25 degrees track temperature, it's already slippery, so when we get to Bahrain it's gonna be crazy slippery. And this is from a professional driver's point of view, not even a gentleman driver."

Toyota's new GR010 Hybrid consistently set the fastest times across the board in sectors 1 and 2 at Spa, but struggled to match the pace of the LMP2 cars in the more twisty middle part of the track - a direct effect of its heavy weight compared to cars in the intermediate prototype class.

Albuquerque suggests the WEC and ACO should look at ways at increasing the performance of the hypercars instead of trying to slow the already-hobbled LMP2 machines.

"I agree with Toyota when they say we need to increase the gap between Hypercar and LMP2," he said. "But I think they need to focus now on making the Hypercar faster. They should take away some weight. They were struggling in the second sector, which is just corners. Their car is too heavy, just allow them to go lighter. 

"The Alpine… they changed to an LMP1 and they are slower than they were last year with an LMP2! I think a lot can happen between now and August [when the Le Mans 24 Hours will take place]. But the plan on paper is one thing and real life is another thing.

"The ACO just needs to listen to drivers, teams and engineers from both sides, because we don't want to fight the Toyotas. LMP2 is already very competitive!" 

The two-day Prologue test saw several crashes in the LMP2 and GTE classes, with Ben Keating (TF Sport Aston Martin), Sean Gelael (JOTA Oreca), Anders Buchardt (Project 1 Porsche), Job van Uitert (Racing Team Nederland Oreca) and Katherine Legge (Iron Lynx Ferrari) among those involved in major shunts.

JOTA driver Davidson believes the increased number of crashes were a direct consequence of LMP2 cars being slower on the straights than in previous years, forcing drivers to pass GTE cars in high-speed corners.

"The GTEs have more mechanical grip, but even with the Le Mans aero kit we have much more downforce, so the closing speeds in the high-speed corners like Blanchimont and Eau Rouge are frightening," Davidson told

"I think it's why you are seeing more crashes, because the LMP2s know they have to get the move down and exploit their speed in the high-speed stuff, because it's much harder now to just power past them in a straight line like we used to.

He added: "We've seen a lot of incidents this week because drivers are trying to adjust to the new closing speeds, and everyone's a bit out of kilter – coming back to a circuit they know well, but the overtaking moves and the planning of those moves is now different to what they used to be."

The current forecast suggests a second wet race at Spa in as many years, after the 2020 running of the event was also heavily affected by poor weather.

Davidson believes there is a possibility of a shock win for a GTE Pro entry if the weather doesn't improve by Saturday, stressing the advantage GTE cars enjoy over LMP2 cars in the wet thanks to better quality tyres.

The 42-year-old gave the example of the 2015 Petit Le Mans round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship when Porsche claimed outright victory with its 911 RSR, beating the DPi contenders in a race shortened to just under eight hours due to appalling weather conditions. 

"It looks like we're going to have changeable weather, and we saw last year in the wet the GTEs were sometimes faster than the LMP2s, because they have better mechanical grip," he said. 

"If it's wet, we could see a GTE winning the race outright, like Petit Le Mans a few years ago! I wouldn't be surprised if the hypercars find a bit more pace if it's dry, but so far it looks like that won't be the case."

The WEC Spa 6 Hours starts on Saturday May 1 at 1.30pm CET, with practice and qualifying scheduled on Thursday and Friday. All sessions of the event will be streamed live on


Related video

Toyota wants LMP2s slowed further after Prologue test

Previous article

Toyota wants LMP2s slowed further after Prologue test

Next article

Fittipaldi to run Gateway IndyCar race, not Le Mans

Fittipaldi to run Gateway IndyCar race, not Le Mans
Load comments
How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks Prime

How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks

The screaming rotary-engined Mazda 787 is regarded as one of the most popular Le Mans 24 Hours-winning cars, but until its surprise success on this day 30 years ago it was never regarded as a likely victor. But that reckoned without a new technical partner, some canny political manoeuvring and a rival's bizarre self-inflicted weakness.

How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge kept Toyota clear Prime

How Alpine's stunted Portimao charge kept Toyota clear

Despite going stride for stride for pace at Portimao, Alpine’s grandfathered LMP1 couldn’t convert pole position into a sustained victory fight against Toyota. And due to rules and car limitations that are set in stone, the French manufacturer will be searching for solutions in its own battle of endurance.

Jun 14, 2021
Charting 100 world championship sportscar starts for Toyota Prime

Charting 100 world championship sportscar starts for Toyota

This weekend's Portimao 8 Hours round of the FIA World Endurance Championship marks the 100th world champion prototype start for Toyota. Here are the major milestones on the road to three figures since the earliest low-key days of its entry into the Group C arena nearly 40 years ago.

Jun 12, 2021
The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing Prime

The philosophical problems the WEC's new Hypercar class is already facing

Most of the column inches after the World Endurance Championship's opener were centred around the relative pace of the Hypercar class and the LMP2s, but there's another question that needs addressing in order for the new division to have a successful future

May 7, 2021
How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era Prime

How stumbling Toyota drew first blood in the WEC's new era

Amid concerns that the new Hypercar class would be upstaged on debut by the spec LMP2 machines at Spa, Toyota delivered the pole and victory that the vast majority of observers expected. But neither car had a clean run, which gave the grandfathered Alpine LMP1 an unexpected shot at glory.

May 4, 2021
What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era Prime

What to expect from sportscar racing's bold new Hypercar era

A slim field of three cars will be entered in the Hypercar class for the first round of the World Endurance Championship's post-LMP1 age. But there are plenty of reasons for optimism with the new wave of manufacturer entries and competing class philosophies just around the corner

Apr 29, 2021
How Aston Martin scaled new heights in the Prodrive era Prime

How Aston Martin scaled new heights in the Prodrive era

The 2021 FIA World Endurance Championship kicks off at Spa this weekend, but for the first time since its 2012 inception there will be no factory-run Aston Martins in the GTE Pro class. That's especially notable because as a works entity, the Prodrive era of Aston Martin Racing that began in 2005 has been a success from the very start.

Apr 27, 2021
How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname Prime

How 'Brilliant' Bob Wollek lived up to his nickname

Sportscar racing lost one of it's greatest talents 20 years ago today when Bob Wollek was knocked from his bicycle prior to the Sebring 12 Hours. The enigmatic Frenchman never won the Le Mans 24 Hours, but many still remember today why 'Brilliant Bob' became a legend

Mar 16, 2021