The second part of our FIA WEC Super Season Preview focuses on LMP1. Porsche’s shock announcement last season caused serious concern about the future and sustainability of LMP1. Regulations have been tweaked in response to the lack of manufacturer interest in the class. Gone is the LMP1-H (hybrid) and LMP1-L (non-hybrid) two-tier class; this has been replaced by a single LMP1 category. Equivalence of Technology (EoT) rules have been brought in to ensure that all the entrants, regardless of whether they have hybrid technology or not, have the same potential performance. Hybrid cars will still be able to do longer stints, but the rules aim to ensure similar lap times.
To ensure equivalency, all teams had to submit performance data to the ACO. Any team that has been found to have submitted incorrect data will face stiff penalties for the first two rounds. This is because the EoT formula cannot be changed until after Le Mans, after which changes can be made based on data collected from the Spa and Le Mans races.
With a total of 10 cars entered into LMP1, this gives us the biggest LMP1 grid since 2016 and the highest number of non-manufacturer teams in years.
FIA WEC Super Season Resources
[su_list icon=”icon: angle-double-right” icon_color=”#3498db”]
- Official Website
- Live Timing
- Spotter Guide
- Official Instagram
- FIA WEC News
- tRL TV: FIA WEC Videos
Toyota are the favourites to take both the WEC title and the 24 Hours of Le Mans victories, the latter if they can finally shed the curse that has meant victories at La Sarthe have eluded them through terrible luck.
Fielding two TS050 Hybrid cars, they have one of the biggest names in motor sport driving one of their cars with double Formula One World Champion and 2017 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Fernando Alonso. Anthony Davidson moves down to a
They have the budget, the experience, and the drivers. Toyota have to be favourites for taking the both the WEC title and Le Mans victories. But, as they know all-too-well, victory at Le Mans requires a huge amount of luck as well.
Alonso’s arrival means Brit Anthony Davidson is relegated to the role of reserve driver. Argentinian José María López stays with the squad for a second season, despite a hit-and-miss year in 2017.
DragonSpeed are making the jump from ELMS to the WEC with the BR1 and a Gibson engine. The have Le Mans experience and won the ELMS title in 2017 with the ORECA-Gibson LMP2-07, but it’s a big step up. Only one other car completed fewer laps in the Prologue and only one other car lapped slower. They do, however, have strong drivers in Renger van der Zander and Ben Hanley.
SMP Racing are fielding two BR1s and will be using the 2.4l V6 turbocharged AER engine. The biggest news around SMP Racing is the signing of the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion, Jenson Button. The Brit will be making his debut at Le Mans and will contest the rest of the WEC Super Season. Alongside Button will be another former F1 driver in Vitaly Petrov, and IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin. Outside of Toyota, this is probably the strongest driver lineup. That and their strong showing at the Prologue test put them in an ideal position to pick up the pieces should Toyota stumble.
Rebellion move back up to LMP1 with a two-car effort after taking the overall LMP2 honours last season. Built by ORECA around the monocoque of their hugely successful LMP2-07 and modified to comply with the LMP1 regulations, the R13 is powered by Gibson’s new-for-2018 4.5l normally-aspirated V8.
Enso CLM P1/01
ByKolles are returning to the WEC after sitting out most of the 2017 season to work on the troubled Enso CLM P1/01. Having had since July last season to fettle, ByKolles would probably have hoped to fare better against the new machinery at the Prologue test in April. However, they were faster than both the Ginettas and the DragonSpeed BR1. They also managed to run more laps than everyone but the number 7 Toyota.
ByKolles have annoucned that they will be running a second car from Silverstone onwards. Whether it actually appears is anyone’s guess though.
Another team making the move up to LMP1 is CEFC TRSM (Manor) with a pair of Ginetta G60-LT-P1s. Unlike the Gibson and Nissan engines, the Mecachrome is a 3.4l turbocharged V6. Manor were runners up to Rebellion in LMP2 last season, but they also very nearly took overall honours at an incident-packed 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the strong LMP1 grid, it looks unlikely that they would be able to repeat that feat in 2018, especially with the Ginetta seeming to struggle for pace compared to the rest of the entries.
In the next part of our WEC Super Season preview we will be looking at the LMP2 field.