Image credit: Graff Racing.
The newest category of sports car racing, the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) Le Mans Prototype Three (LMP3) class, is drawing attention from around the globe. Today, GRAFF Racing has extended that awareness deep into the heart North American motorsports with the announcement of its All-American driver lineup for the 2016 season.
Bob Corliss (Monterey, California), John Falb (Las Vegas, Nevada) and Sean Rayhall (Atlanta, Georgia) will campaign the full ELMS calendar at the wheel of the French team’s brand new Ligier JSP3, closed-cockpit prototype entry, with backing from internationally renowned Californian clothier Robert Talbott.
The trio of drivers may be new to GRAFF but they are not new to one another. Veteran prototype driver Falb is the two time defending masters champion of the IMSA Cooper Tire Prototype Lites championship (2014 and 2015) and has driven multiple times with outstanding young American talent Rayhall in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Rayhall won the Prototype Lites title in 2013 and adds two career WeatherTech Championship Prototype Challenge (PC) wins and multiple podium finishes as well as two Indy Lights open wheel race victories in 2015. California’s Corliss has been a regular on the Atlantic Championship open wheel circuit and worked with Rayhall in 2013.
The ELMS P3 category becomes the first step on the prototype ladder before moving up to the LMP2 and LMP1 classes with a more manageable mindset to budget, technical, driving and operational elements. The chassis and bodywork of LMP3 can be built by five manufacturers which have been designed by the ACO: Ginetta, Ligier, Adess, Dome and Riley. The regulations are very close to the current LMP2 (closed cockpit, carbon chassis with tubular steel roll cage). The powertrain consists of a Nissan 420 horsepower normally aspirated V8 engine and an X-Trac gearbox. Total cost is under $250,000 per car. The driver line up must be made up of at least one “Bronze” rated driver.
The six round ELMS season tours many of Europe’s most renowned racetracks. Opening with the pre-season test, known as the Prologue, at La Castellet in the south of France on March 22-23, the official first round comes at Silverstone in Great Britain, April 15-16. The three-man American driving crew will travel to the legendary Imola Circuit in Italy on May 13-15. Round Four at the Red Bull Ring in Austria will take place on July 15-17 before the team’s return for an official race weekend at Le Castellet, August 26-28. The final two rounds for the championship come on September 23-25 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and Estoril, Spain, October 21-23.
Pascal Rauturier, Team Manager: “We are really glad to have an American crew which show a world interest for this new category, LMP3, in particular the Ligier JSP3 and the ELMS championship.”
Bob Corliss: “I am very excited to be driving the new Ligier JS53 LMP3 car on some of the world’s greatest race tracks. Team Graff is a top-tier team and both of my co-drivers, John Falb and Sean Rayhall, are excellent drivers. My objective is simply to do my best in supporting the team to be as competitive as possible.”
John Falb: “The ELMS has put together a great platform in the P3 category that is very attractive. There is a manageable number of races on the best tracks in the world with the opportunity to race on the Circuit de la Sarthe prior to Le Mans. Sean was thoroughly impressed with the Ligier JSP3 in December and GRAFF has been very impressive in testing with a long history of racing in Europe. Together I believe we can fight for a championship and I expect there to be tremendous competition in the category. P3 is a great way to further my driving experience with long stints in the car; which is what I love.”
Sean Rayhall: “I’m very excited for this opportunity to race ELMS with Graff, John and Bob. I know from past experience with both of them it will be a strong lineup. With Graff, I believe we will be a top contender for the championship. I raced with Robert Talbott as a partner in 2013 and I’m very happy to have them back with us for this season! I cannot wait to for testing to begin after the Rolex 24 Hours. It will be a very busy year for me racing in WeatherTech Sportscar Championship along ELMS but I love to welcome challenges!”
Ethan Bregman, Onroak Automotive North America: “We’re very proud to have a strong all American lineup taking on top teams from Europe and Asia. As soon as Sean tested our Ligier JS P3, he knew he had to race it. LMP3 presents an incredible value to be able to race a carbon tub, aero prototype car at the most historic tracks around Europe, and we’re excited to see interest in this category extending to the U.S.”