Image Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography / JotaSport
Quite some years ago now, many were concerned for the frailty of this category of prototypes. This year has very much put those concerns to bed. There has also been much negativity about the move to a more spec driven formula rather than a true prototype category and clearly for Dome’s S102 and the BR01 this has proved a death knell.
However, when it comes to racing, we hit a new zenith at the 6-hours of Fuji. All bar one car finished within 3-laps of the lead car, and it was a six-hour sprint with much duelling along the way. With next season’s category seeing improved chassis from existing suppliers and an increase in power from the Gibson Technology power unit, SCG doff our collective cap to M. Beaumesnil and team, Chapeau !
Beyond the spell-binding racing on-track there were a couple of intriguing strategy plays from a couple of the leading teams. Firstly from the outset the #36 Signatech Alpine squeezed everything out of its fuel cell to make just 6 stops compared to all other runners. The next notable play was in the later stages when #43 RGR Sport by Morand with Bruno Senna at the wheel took just fuel at the final stop, saving 15-20 seconds and emerging in the lead of the race.
Battle then ensued on-track with Senna facing a fresher tyred chasing G-Drive Oreca in the hands of super-sub Will Stevens (standing in for Rene Rast (DTM-ing for Audi)). Things got very fraught on Fuji’s long straight as the slippery #26 Oreca 05 first swept by squeezed against the pit wall and pit exit. Under instruction from the Stewards (having exceeded track limits), the G-Drive ceded the place back to the #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier. However, the orange G-Drive charge was formidable, and seemingly unstoppable, on this occasion Will Stevens legally took the lead and after a brief tussle the marginal lead solidified to the flag.
Of course it was not a simple two horse race, the strategic move by Championship Leaders, #36 Signatech Alpine of Gustavo Menezes, Nicolas Lapierre and Stéphane Richelmi led to some great battles, most notably with #44 Manor with Richard Bradley at the wheel, someone well experienced in Japan and at Fuji. Gustavo Menezes in the #36 Signatech Alpine received some instruction and had one particularly wild off-road run in his pursuit which we expect lit up the comms with suggestions that he calm the pursuit down.
That battle and decision whilst understandable, quite possibly stymied the chances of another 3-way fight for podium positions in LMP2.
In the end it was a matter of to the victors the spoils. In the Oreca 05 a car known to go well at circuits like Le Mans it was good to see the guys above really hit their stride. Alex Brundle is very much on the return from the intensive days when he was developing the Onroak Ligier. For Roman Rustinov found a superb pace (see below), a modest and understandable amount behind his colleagues. Will Stevens certainly seemed to click with the team, and his pace was phenomenal.
Brief Race Highlights available Here
Summary Stint data for key LMP2 Cars by Driver –
Notes & Thoughts –
- #26 As mentioned above take a look at Roman Rusinov’s pace contrasted against his colleagues in the winning car
- WEC Bahrain Rookie Test runners – #30 Antonio Giovinazzi, #31 Luis Felipe Derani & #36 Gustavo Menezes
- #42 Strakka Racing comparing Jonny Kane & relative newcomer Lewis Williamson
- #44 Manor Motorsport pace of Richard Bradley contrasted with Roberto Merhi
All of the above demonstrate how difficult it is to assess the best rookies and the log jam of talent building up at the top of LMP2 with little prospect of moving to a higher category whether that be in Sports Prototypes or Single-Seaters. In conclusion LMP2 2017-spec looks to be the place to be, value, and category growth would appear to be on the cards.