Whilst the privateer LMP1 entrants are effectively in the same class as the factory prototypes, differences do occur within the regulations to accommodate for privateers.
Unfortunately these regulations do not balance the privateer and the factory cars today very well. Therefore effectively it is a battle for privateers honours behind the factory cars, almost to the degree that it appears to be an independent subclass. This is however something which the ACO in recent months have said they intend to try and address when the next generations of LMP1 regulations are released.
That would be a good move, in my honest opinion to try and close the gap in performance between the two, whilst not affecting what has become a highly advanced form of motorsport engineering.
The reason I think it requires addressing is that whilst at the moment it is fantastic to have such strong manufacturer presence at the front of the field history throughout the sport has shown us on more than one occasion, in more than one series what happens to the series when the manufacturers decide to spend the money elsewhere. It is at that point it would be better to learn from the lessons of the past and have a sustainable as is possible in racing, LMP1 class to move the series forwards for the next generation.
In 2016, we have only three privateer LMP1 entrants entered under the ‘LE MANS” PROTOTYPE 1 class per the name in the FIA Technical Regulations. Rather simply the difference is that these cars do not carry Hybrid units unlike the factory LMP1-H entrants, which are required to do so per the regulations.
In addition to not carrying Hybrid power, various other performance breaks are therefore included. For example the minimum weight is reduced, whilst the fuel flow and fuel energy is much higher for the non-Hybrid cars to accommodate for the loss of a Hybrid system in an attempt to somewhat performance balance these entrants to the factory LMP1 entrants.
The two teams entered in the class are running different chassis. Rebellion Racing has two cars entered running the Rebellion R-ONE chassis whilst ByKolles is running a singular CLM P1/01 chassis.
The AER V6 GDI unit, a twin turbo V6 developed specifically for the LMP1 2014 regulations by Advanced Engine Research, powers both teams, whilst Dunlop will supply the tyres for both teams in 2016.
James Rossiter, Simon Trummer and Oliver Webb will pilot the ByKolles CLM P1/01 for the opening two rounds of the championship at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps whilst Pierre Kaffer will be in the car from Le Mans onwards instead of James Rossiter.
Rebellion racing in 2016 sees Nicholas Prost start his seventh season with the team alongside Nick Heidfeld whilst Reigning FIA Formula E Champion Nelson Piquet Jr joins the team for the 2016 season. Dominik Kraihamer, Alexandre Imperatori and Matheo Tuscher pilot the sister Rebellion entrant.
The LMP2 class in 2016 features eleven cars with seven different named chassis. 2016 marks the final year of the current LMP2 regulations with major regulation changes due in 2017. Currently all cars in the class are running Nissan’s very successful Nissan 4.5 L V8 powerplant.
Manor Racing – John Booth and Graeme Lowdon join the FIA WEC grid this season with two Oreca 05 chassis and some very familiar faces piloting them.
The drivers for Manor are Tor Graves. former Manor F1 driver Will Stevens and former Indycar pilot James Jakes in the #44 entrant. Meanwhile in the #45 entrant another former ‘Manor’ F1 driver Roberto Mehri races alongside former KCMG Oreca pilot Richard Bradley and Matthew Rao.
G-Drive Racing – G-Drive enter a single Oreca 05 Nissan for the season, driven by Roman Rusinov. Former GP2 driver Nathanael Berthon and Audi’s Rene Rast in the 2016 FIA WEC season.
SMP Racing – The Russian SMP BR01’s return for SMP racing for the first full season of competition in the FIA WEC with two cars in the field.
The BR01’s previously set the pole position with Mikhail Aleshin at the Rolex24 in IMSA’s Weathertech SportsCar Championship.
In the WEC, the #27 features sportscar racing veteran Nicholas Minassian alongside Maurizio Mediani and David Marozov. The sister car is driven by former F1 pilot Vitaly Petro in addition to SMP racing’s regular pilots of Kirill Ladygin and Victor Shayter.
ESM – Extreme Speed Motorsports had the dream start to the 2016 season over the USA in the IMSA Sportscar Championship claiming overall victories in the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours.
However the FIA WEC sees change for the team. Nissan, not HPD in the FIA WEC due to the different homologation rules power the team. The team is also run in association with Oak Racing running two of the companies Ligier JS P2’s driven by Scott Sharp, Ed Brown and Johannes Van Overbeek in #30. Whilst Ryan Dalziel, Pipo Derani and Chris Cumming complete the lineup in car #31.
Signatech Alpine/Baxi DC Alpine – The two Alpine A460s, which are effectively a branding partnership between Oreca and Alpine are piloted by David Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung and Nelson Panciatici in the Baxi DC entrant whilst the Signatech Alpine is driven by Gustavo Menezes, former Toyota LMP1 pilot Nicolas Lapierre and former GP2 driver Stephane Richelmi.
RGR Sport by Morand – A joint effort between Ricardo Gonzalez’s own RGR Sport, and Morand Racing sees another Ligier JS P2 on the grid with a very impressive driving squad of Ricardo Gonzalez, alongside Audi pilot Felipe Albuquerque. The pair are joined by Bruno Senna.
Strakka Racing – Strakka has been in the WEC since the very beginning switching to the LMP2 class in recent years. The team went through a tough period with the much delayed DOME which was replaced midway through last season by the venerable yet highly successful Gibson 015S making Strakka the last team to run an open-cockpit Prototype in FIA WEC full season competition. The car will be piloted by Strakka’s usual line-up of Nick Leventis Jonny Kane and Danny Watts.
Next up … GTE Pro and GTE AM.