24 Hours of Le Mans 2010 – LMP2 Preview
The LMP2 category at the 78th 24 Hours of Le Mans will see twelve cars battling for the class victory, three more than the nine cars that were initially invited. Seven manufacturers will be entering the LMP2 category at Le Mans, with a total of eight different types of chassis running in the race.
(#26 Highcroft Racing and #42 Strakka Racing)
The HPD ARX-01c will make its debut at Le Mans this year and there is no doubt about it that this car is the top favorite for the LMP2 class victory on June 13. Current American Le Mans Series champion Highcroft Racing is one of the two teams entering the ARX-01c this year. Their number 1 driver will be 2009 Le Mans overall winner David Brabham. Scotsman Marino Franchitti and three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner from Germany will join the Australian. The trio will be the team to beat in LMP2.
The second HPD ARX-01c will be run by Strakka Racing, the British team already showing the capabilities of the car in the first two races of the Le Mans Series. At Spa the #42 car blasted away the opposition by lapping a few seconds per lap quicker than any of its rivals. Danny Watts and Jonny Kane are top drivers who should be able to to challenge the Highcroft drivers. Nick Leventis, the third man on the car, will have to do his best to keep up with his two teammates.
(#40 Quifel-ASM Team, #41 Team Bruichladdich)
Two Ginetta-Zyteks will be competing at Le Mans. 2009 Le Mans Series champion Quifel-ASM Team is hoping to repeat its 1000 KM of Spa win in France, but being one of the top favorites last year the team already retired after completing just 46 laps into the 77th 24 Hours of Le Mans. This season did not start the way the Portuguese had planned, due to new bodywork not working the way it should have worked. At Le Mans however Olivier Pla will do his best to be the top French driver in LMP2 and has already shown he is very quick in the Zytek. The very experienced Warren Hughes and ‘gentleman driver’ Miguel Amaral will join Pla again at Le Mans. Amaral and Pla won the 2009 LMS title together, so there is no question about their pace. The only question remaining is can they beat the ARX-01c.
Team Bruichladdich is entering the second Ginetta-Zytek. Tim Greaves and Karim Ojjeh will drive the white and red liveried #41 Zytek. Greaves and Ojjeh were set to join by young Norwegian driver Thor-Christian Ebbesvik, but a big shunt during the Spa 1000 KM means Ebbesvik will miss Le Mans. At Le Mans Gary Chalandon will take his seat. Chalandon races in the Formula Le Mans class of the Le Mans Series and already sampled the car in pre-season testing at the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit.
(#24 and #35 OAK Racing)
After a season with the troubled Mazda engine OAK Racing has switched to Judd. The results were fine so far this season and as a result the French team, which will be the only team running Pescarolo cars at Le Mans, is currently second and fourth in the Le Mans Series. In both 2008 and 2009 OAK Racing finished third in LMP2 at Le Mans and the team aimed for an improvement of that position this year. In order to achieve their aims OAK Racing has signed Czech driver Jan Charouz to race in the #35 OAK Racing Pescarolo 01 Judd, which he will co-drive with French drivers Matthieu Lahaye and Guillaume Moreau. Should LMP2 again see a high attrition rate this year this car should be reliable enough to take a decent finish. The second car, the #24, will have Jacques Nicolet, Richard Hein and Jean-Francois Yvon, who already raced at Le Mans in the ‘80s.
(#25 RML, #29 Racing Box)
Lola is the manufacturer with most cars racing at Le Mans this year and two of those cars will be Lola LMP2 coupes. RML is the most experienced Lola team in LMP2, with Mike Newton, Tommy Erdos and Andy Wallace. After a disastrous year in 2009 with a Mazda engine breaking down on almost every race the team has switched to a new power plant, the HPD LM-V8. So far this change has been very positive, considering the fact that RML is currently leading the LMP2 category in the Le Mans Series.
Racing Box will enter the second Lola coupe in LMP2. Even though the Lola is great Racing Box always seems to miss out on a perfect result. Last year started well but ended in disappointment and this year the team decided to run both cars on different tyres and had different driver line-ups in the races as well. For Le Mans though they seem to race on Dunlops, even though the official entry list still says Pirelli. Luca Pirri, Marco Cioci and Piergiuseppe Perazzini will be driving the #29 car.
Kai Kruse’s team was disappointed not to be selected immediately for Le Mans, but the withdrawal of several teams meant the Automobile Club de l’Ouest was able to invite the KSM Lola to Le Mans during the 1000 KM of Spa weekend last month. The #39 Lola B07/46 Judd, an old car compared to the Lola coupes, will run a Judd engine this year instead of the Mazda engine they ran in 2009. Both in 2008 and 2009 KSM suffered an enormous accident at the Dunlop Chicane (leaving the mechanics with a lot of work) and in 2009 their race came to an end when the Mazda engine expired, setting the car on fire. With the Judd engine one problem is probably solved, now if only the car can stay on the track during qualifying.
(#28 Race Performance)
A last minute invitation will see the Radical SR9 return to Le Mans. Initially not invited the team was only called up last week when the Automobile Club de l’Ouest announced it would use a 56th pit box. Pierre Bruneau and Marc Rostan know each other, Le Mans and the car well, while Ralph Meichtry is a newcomer. For this team running at Le Mans can probably be seen as a victory, a finish would be something special.
(#37 Gerard Welter)
After years of not being accepted the WR Zytek is on the list for 2010. At Paul Ricard the car was quite quick but did not finish the race and at Spa it did not race. Hopefully for Philipe and Stéphane Salini and Tristan Gommendy the car will be more reliable at Le Mans, in that case it might still be racing when the chequered flag comes out on Sunday afternoon.
(#38 Pegasus Racing)
A brand new car making its race debut at Le Mans, the Norma M200. Moving up from VdeV in 2009 the team raced its old Courage LC75 up until the 1000 KM of Spa last month. Their new challenger was completed only a few weeks ago and Le Mans can therefore be seen as one big test session for the French squad, a rather tough test session.