LMP1 took a major hit in 2016. Audi’s withdrawal left the WEC’s top class with only two manufactures for 2017. In addition, Rebellion opted to move down to the new look LMP2 class. This left only ByKolles as the only privateer effort and a grand total of 5 cars for sportscar’s premier class. However it appears LMP1 is shaping up for a major comeback in 2018.
First we got whispers that Team Joest is keen to run the still-born Audi chassis and now 2 additional constructors are building their own chassis with an eye on the 2018 season. Russian squad SMP will run a brand new chassis jointly developed by BR Engineering and Dallara and today Ginetta announced their plans to run a non-hybrid car starting in 2018.
“I’m hugely thankful to the ACO for the opportunity to run at the front and challenge for overall podiums,” said Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson. “The Ginetta design team’s ability has already been proven by the class dominating Ginetta LMP3 and G57. With Adrian and Paolo on board, the performance of the Ginetta LMP1 is going to be amazing. We are now offering a genuine ladder for our customers all the way from first race to Le Mans which is incredibly exciting for me.”
Ginetta is not messing around. They have made a major push in recent years to become a constructor of Prototype level racing machines. They were the first to launch a LMP3 car and while they weren’t tabbed with one of the four approved contracts for LMP2, they seem undeterred setting their sights on the top-level of prototype racing. Unlike BR Engineering/Dallara who has SMP to run their car, Ginetta is aiming to build the cars and have customer teams to run them in competition. The British squad is planning to begin testing after this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It is understood that some of Ginetta’s existing LMP3 teams have expressed major interest in becoming potential LMP1 customers. Among the teams those showing the greatest interest are PRT racing and ARC Bratislava (yes, that is the actual team name, no official word has been given on how this will affect their homeland’s #1 new hit show, Miami Vice)
“After competing for many years in worldwide GT racing, Ginetta gave me the opportunity to move into prototypes with their LMP3,” said ARC Bratislava team owner Miro Konopka. We are incredibly excited about this new chassis which will allow me to expand my motorsport platforms to include the WEC and every team and driver’s ambition, to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”
This is all very good news. As we saw with Audi, any manufacturer can leave at any time, for any reason, without warning. Couple that with Audi’s parent company Volkswagen also owning Porsche and LMP1 was in a very tenuous position for a while there. While it is still a huge hit to see Audi go, the apparent growth in the LMP1 Privateer sub-class is good for the sport. Creating an environment where privateers feel they can race along the might of the big boys is good for the long-term health of the sport.
While I don’t think the privateers (outside of Joest) will be able to keep up with the might of Porsche and Toyota I do think more competition will benefit the sub-class. As Richard Hammond has taught us nothing improves the breed like the white-hot crucible of motorsport.