Having won the Asian Le Mans Series LMP3 title, Tockwith Motorsports has secured an invite to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eight years after driver Nigel Moore raced a Ginetta-Zytek LMP1 at La Sarthe.
The UK-based team had planned to run in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup in 2016, but after struggling with Balance of Performance in an Audi R8 LMS ultra, team principal Simon Moore chose to change course mid-season.
From the Paul Ricard European Le Mans Series round onwards, Simon’s son Nigel and teenage co-driver Phil Hanson competed with a Ligier JS P3 Nissan, starting off with class pole in their series debut.
“In the R8, we had a problem with the BoP even with the one or two changes that had been made by the series organisers,” team principal Simon Moore told Sportscar365.
“We were going to wait until the end of the year to change to the LMP3 category, but this just spurred us on to change earlier.
“We’re so close with United [Autosports] geographically, and we’ve worked with them for years.
“It just made sense to go down the LMP3 route, so we purchased a Ligier [JS P3 Nissan] from Richard Dean at United Autosports, the Ligier UK importers.
“The ELMS organisers were good enough to let us enter part way through the season, with Paul Ricard being our first race in the LMP3 category.
Following the team’s successful LMP3 debut at Paul Ricard, Moore made the decision to pursue a Le Mans entry as soon as possible.
“After a good showing at Nigel and Phil’s first LMP3 race, the decision was made to order an LMP2 in preparation for the 2017 season, where the Le Mans 24 Hours was talked about,” Moore continued.
To do this, he purchased a Ligier JS P217 Gibson from Dean, and then started planning for an Asian Le Mans Series effort in LMP3.
“One of the ways we could see of getting an entry at the time was doing the Asian Le Mans Series,” Moore explained.
“It was also a good gap-filler for the winter months, and a good way of getting more track time and racing experience for Phil.”
Class wins at Fuji and Sepang, along with a second-place finish in Zhuhai, was enough for the team to take the LMP3 title and secure the Le Mans invite.
However, racing in the French endurance classic won’t be an entirely new experience for Moore.
In 2009, at the age of 17, Nigel Moore teamed up with Dean and Lawrence Tomlinson in a Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S LMP1 entry for the race.
At the time, Nigel was the youngest British driver to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In 2016, both Nigel and Phil also took part in the Road to Le Mans support race, as part of the Le Mans Cup calendar.
This year however, Nigel will return to the 24-hour race for his second attempt, while he will be joined by Hanson and a yet-to-be-announced third driver in the new Ligier.
“Nigel did LMP1 at Le Mans all those years ago, and we sort of went from there really,” said Simon. “The aim was to get back to Le Mans again, and we’ve done it.
“We came back into LMP again and got our booking in for this year. It’s been a good turnaround.
“LMP-wise, we knew we could be up there with Nigel, it’s just carrying a young driver (Hanson).
“Luckily, we’ve got a driver who we do a lot of testing with and we can’t see why we can’t get him up where we want him.”
In addition to a full-season ELMS effort with the Ligier LMP2, the team has also laid out plans of entering up to four FIA World Endurance Championship rounds as well, making Tockwith one of the busiest prototype teams this year.