Words and Images: Nick Holland
The recently announced changes to LMP2 for 2017 caused somewhat of a stir throughout the endurance racing world and prompted Nick Holland into thinking ……
We Brits are not ones for complaining (openly), it is our European stereotype that we just grumble, knuckle down and get on with it. How many times this summer have we sat in a restaurant making the best of a sub-standard meal or service, and when the staff have asked ‘Is everything okay?’ we have dutifully responded ‘fine, fine, Thank you!’
And that so British of traits strangely appears to have typified our response to the changes to LMP2 for 2017; let me explain ….
From the very beginning of endurance motorsport it has been a British passion. Le Mans was dominated by the likes of Walter Owen (WO) Bentley, Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry Birkin and the other boys.
Of course post-war Jaguars, Aston Martins, as well as Austin Healeys, Triumphs and MGs all demonstrated their strength, prowess and brand values at La Sarthe. Amongst these manufacturers privateer racing teams such as Ecurie Ecosse emerged with their ability to out-perform the factory equivalents.
Subsequently, pure prototypes from Eric Broadley’s Lola Cars emerged to form a specialised engineering business with purpose and drive. Similarly, talented Brits such as John Wyer who enjoyed stints with Aston Martin, Ford, Porsche and Mirage (taking a final win at Le Mans in 1975) shone on the world stage.
The point of all this is that prototypes, from before the categories were even ‘invented’, were very often the domain of what in Formula 1 parlance would be referred to as British ‘Garagistas’. Out of this passion to build the best possible racing car a cottage industry of high performance Automotive Engineering has flourished, grown and evolved to such an extent that Britain’s global reputation is quite literally second to none. If you approach any manufacturer you are likely to find a substantial number of ex-pat graduate Designers, Engineers and leaders flying the British flag.
Steering us back to our topic of the current World Endurance stage, it is sad to observe that in the prototype classes there is now only one, yes just one, British entrant, Strakka Racing.
The Strakka Racing team personifies the drive and determination that so many of those mentioned above stood for. It is a legacy that the team may not be aware they are extolling, but that we as fans should be drawn to, embrace and support.
Strakka’s announcement of first a reversion to a Gibson (nee Zytek chassis) with class leading Nissan power was perfectly understandable. An acceptance that further investment in the Dome S103, certainly for LMP2 would be tantamount to burning cash. That followed by an announcement of a change in business plan and the commencement of an LMP1 programme shone light on a seemingly rather dark situation.
I, and I am sure many of my fellow racing fans would not be surprised to see a collective of British teams, led by Strakka and including Greaves and JotaSport rise to giving this ill-conceived monopolistic behaviour a very traditional two-fingered British salute.
Whilst respecting the in-house desires, within our Brit-pack of engineering nouse we have the skills and talents to pull together a privateer class-battling platform, indeed in the Gibson 05 we have an ageing but updated chassis that still wins regularly. Derby-based Gibson Technology could clearly apply themselves to an LMP1 tub. The AER P60 2.4 V6 Turbo (from Basildon) successfully completed 48hours of running or 9,000km of the 2015 Le Mans 24 hours in the back of two Rebellion R-Ones, a car which utilises the X-Trac transmission (from Thatcham).
We have the tools, components, skills and talents to revitalise British interests in endurance motorsport, and when the manufacturer marketing euros are diverted either to other series or away from our sport once more, British teams can seize the opportunity to demonstrate that you can’t keep a good man off the top step for long!
Harking once more back to my restaurant example, LMP2, yes it was fine, but I wouldn’t go back!