Image credit: Dunlop.
The 2016 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) will boast not only the most rounds but the biggest grid of the relaunched series with 44 cars, representing 34 teams and drivers from14 nationalities.
In a change from previous years 2016 will see the 44 cars divided between three categories; two prototype classes (LMP2, LMP3) and a single LMGTE. The former GTC teams will be eligible to enter the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, for which the list will be unveiled after March 15th.
Record LMP2 Grid
Boasting a record 15-car entries for the entire season from five manufacturers; Gibson, Oreca, Ligier, Morgan and BR 01, the LMP2 class looks healthier than ever. Nissan and Judd will provide the power whilst rubber will come from Dunlop and Michelin.
Of the 15 entries, nine are already known in the ELMS paddock, with, of course, the 2015 Champions Greaves Motorsport back to defend their hard won title. The British team is increasing their entry to two cars in 2016, a Gibson 015S, bearing the coveted n°1, in the hands of drivers champion Gary Hirsch, and a Ligier JS P2 for the Mexican driver Memo Rojas.
JOTA Sport’s #Mighty38 Gibson 015S Nissan will run under the G-Drive Racing banner this season. Krohn Racing and, its owner and lead driver, Tracy Krohn will also return with the n°40 Ligier JS P2, but after an inaugural year with Judd in 2016 the team switches to Nissan power.
Eurasia Motorsport, from the Philippines, and Chinese driver Pu JunJin, are aiming for the podium in 2016 by entering an ORECA 05 Nissan and supplementing their ELMS entry with a Le Mans place as well.
Irish team Murphy Prototypes will also contest another season with the proven n°48 ORECA 03R Nissan in LMP2 and an Ave-Riley in LMP3 (see below).
The 2016 grid also sees five new entries joining the ELMS competitors. American team Dragonspeed have entered an ORECA 05 Nissan for Swedish driver Henrik Hedman. The four additional new teams are all French; SO24 ! by Lombard Racing will run the n°22 Ligier JS P2 Judd for one of the “SO24 !” drivers Vincent Capillaire.
Panis-Barthez Competition , a brand new team created by former French F1 driver Olivier Panis and 1998 Football World Cup star Fabian Barthez, will enter n°23 Ligier JS P2 for the football star. Yves Courage will once again grace the paddocks, as he enters the sole BR 01 in the team bearing his name Courage.
Finally, IDEC Sport Racing, will challenge for the ELMS title in the final Ligier JS P2 Judd entry for French driver Patrice Lafargue.
LMP3 really takes off
One year after the its launch, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s cost limited, entry-level prototype racing LMP3 category has shown huge growth in interest from seven cars in the inaugural season to 20 cars taking to the 2016 grid. Consisting of 19 Ligier’s and one Ave-Riley. Sadly, none of last year’s trail-blazing Ginetta chassis have been entered.
Some of the LMP2 teams, such as Panis Barthez Competition, are also entering LMP3 and using the category to train young drivers with the French team starting the year with a Ligier JS P3 Nissan for Eric Debard.
Race Performance also enters an LMP3 in 2016, the n°8 Ligier JS P3 which will be driven by Swiss Nicolas Leutwiler.
Finally the sole Riley AR-2 Nissan on the LMP3 grid will be for MurphyP3-3Dimensional.com team and will be driven by American Tony Ave.
Anglo-American team United Autosport enters the n°2 Ligier for Alex Brundle and the n°3 car for American Mark Patterson, while Spanish team By Speed Factory, who finished 3rd overall in 2015, will go for the title with the n°5 car driven by Jesus Fuster.
Another 2015 team returning to the LMP3 category is Villorba Corse. The team finished 5th last season and will once again have Italian driver Roberto Lacorte at the wheel of a new car, the n°5 Ligier JS P3.
French team Graff returns for a full season with two cars, the n°9 and n°10 Ligiers will be driven by Eric Trouillet and John Falb.
The LMP3 grid will also see newcomers for 2016. Former 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 winning team Oak Racing has entered two Onroak built Ligiers, the n°4 for Jean-Marc Merlin and the n°24 for team boss Jacques Nicolet himself!
Great Britain will be represented by 360 Racing and n°6 Ligier for Terrence Woodward and RLR Msport with Ossy Yusuf in the n°15 car.
2016 also sees Poland represented on track for the first time in ELMS thanks to Inter Europol Competition and n°13 Ligier in the hands of Jakub Smieschowski.
The second LMP3 Italian team will be Eurointernational with two entries led by Costantino Peroni (n°11) and Britain’s Jay Palmer (n°12). French GT championship front runners Duqueine Engineering will field two cars, the n°20 and n°19 which will be driven by French David Hallyday, while Ultimate will put n°17 Ligier JS P3 in the hands of Jean-Bapstiste Lahaye and M.Racing-YMR the n°18 for Thomas Laurent.
Michelin will supply the control tyre for all LMP3 entries.
Lots of Ferraris …….
Looking at the GTE category, 2016 promises great action in this class. First the Ferraris …..
Danish LMGTE Champions Formula Racing are back and are looking forward to defending its title with Johnny Laursen at the wheel of n°60 Ferrari 458 Italia.
AF Corse will feature two cars to better its championship position with the n°51 Ferrari of Piergiuseppe Perazzini and n°55 for Briton Duncan Cameron.
AT Racing and Alexander Talkanitsa also return to fight for the title with n°56 F458, as are leading British team JMW Motorsport, with the n°76 Ferrari and Robert Smith.
Two other marques will be represented in LMGTE during 2016, Porsche and Aston Martin.
German team Proton Competition will field a 2-car entry with the n°77 Porsche 911 RSR 991 for WEC race winner Marco Seefried and the and n°88 Porsche for Italian Gianluca Roda.
2016 sees a ‘Factory’ effort from Aston Martin Racing who will enter the n°99 Vantage V8 for reigning British GT Champion Andrew Howard. The second Vantage of the LMGTE grid will be run by the 2015 GTC Champions TDS Racing, with the French team deciding to move up to the LMGTE category in 2016, which will be driven by reigning GTC champion Eric Dermont.
The LMGTE control rubber is provided by Dunlop.
The full 2016 ELMS entry list can be downloaded HERE.