When the ACO announced the regulations for the 2017 LMP2 cars, it raised eyebrows in the paddock. The most significant change was from an open chassis system, where anyone could build and sell a car, to a limited license system. The aim was to keep a lid on the rising costs as LMP2 grew in popularity.
The ACO set about selecting the 4 manufacturers it wanted to supply chassis, and settled on Oreca, Onroak (Ligier), Dallara and Riley-Multimatic. Gibson was chosen to supply the engine and the formula was ready.
Unfortunately the performance gaps between the chassis has been significant, especially in low downforce format. The Oreca has proven to be both versatile and fast at regular circuits, and untouchable at Le Mans. The ACO has responded, allow the other manufacturers to develop ‘joker’ updates – updates to certain aspects of the car, despite the 4 year homologation period.
Ligier JS P217
Onroak are permitted upgrades to both aero kits – low downforce (Le Mans) and high downforce (regular – any other circuit). The fastest Ligier qualified 4 seconds off the fastest Oreca at Le Mans, so the low downforce kit needed some attention. But the high downforce kit upgrade is one. The Ligier has been a match for the Oreca in ELMS races, and United Autosports sit second in the championship. The Ligier has 2 victories, which is as many as the Oreca. It’s a similar story in the US – the Ligier took the win at Laguna Seca, and JDC Miller Motorsports came close to the victory with an Oreca at Mosport.
Dallara are permitted upgrades to the low downforce Le Mans kit only. The low downforce Dallara kit proved to be a bit of a lemon throughout testing. It produced an incredible straight line speed, but was undriveable in the corners. Rubens Barrichello reported that the car felt like it was gliding, disconnected from the road. All of the Dallara teams switched back to the high downforce kit and the quickest Dallara was 2.5 seconds behind the Oreca (although 1.5 ahead of the Ligier).
What’s surprising is that Dallara are not being permitted an upgrade to the high downforce kit. The car does seem fast, and did take a victory at Paul Ricard, but given the upgrade to the high downforce Ligier, it risks being leap frogged. DailySportsCar has reported that Dallara aren’t happy with the situation and are in talks with the ACO.
Riley/Multimatic Mk 30
The Riley-Multimatic Mk 30 is the most troubled of the new generation of LMP2 cars. The car has proven both unreliable, and off the pace of the other cars. Visit Florida Racing replaced their Riley with a Ligier and the Le Mans entry had a difficult race. Since then, Riley has stepped back from the partnership and Multimatic has taken control. Joest were brought onboard by Mazda to run the DPi program, and it has to be assumed they’re having input on the base chassis as well.
Multimatic are being allowed to update both aero kits, and the base car itself. Although the car won’t be a full redesign, it does mean that significant upgrades can be made.
The ACO say that the upgrades are designed to allow the teams to match the Oreca, not pass it. This is what makes the Ligier and Dallara choices interesting – the Ligier is proving to be a successful car in high downforce configuration, so the updates could move it a bit too far ahead. And even after all this is done, this leaves Oreca as the only manufacturer with a joker available. How long before Oreca invoke it, moving ahead again?
Watch for some politics regarding 2018 LMP2 aero kits.