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DragonSpeed to Step Up to LMP1

DragonSpeed will make the step up to LMP1 competition, confirms plans to contest FIA World Endurance Championship’s ‘Super Season’ in 2018/19…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

DragonSpeed will make the step up to LMP1 competition, having confirmed Tuesday intentions to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s ‘Super Season’ in 2018/19.

The Elton Julian-owned squad, fresh off winning the European Le Mans Series LMP2 title with G-Drive Racing, has confirmed Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley as two of the drivers for its single-car program, and is currently evaluating multiple chassis and engine options.

The France-based team, however, has close links to ORECA, which has been working on a possible LMP1 car for next season.

“The whole team is thrilled and up for the challenge,” Julian said. “Having won sports car titles in GT3 and LMP2, the natural progression for our highly talented and motivated crew is to move up to LMP1.

“We’re carefully studying potential partners who can help us put together a program which will deliver the progress and success we want for DragonSpeed.

“Everyone is on the same page in terms of the package and approach we need, and we can’t wait to get started.”

The team’s move to the WEC comes after two seasons in the ELMS, initially fielding an Oreca 05 Nissan for Hedman, Hanley and Nico Lapierre in 2016, prior to a ramped up two-car Oreca 07 Gibson operation this year, where it won the LMP2 championship under the G-Drive banner with Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel.

DragonSpeed is the second privateer team to officially commit to LMP1 next year, joining SMP Racing with its planned two-car program with Dallara-built BR1 cars, with ByKolles Racing also likely to return with its CLM P1/01 NISMO.

“I look back to 2005, when I first drove at Le Mans,” Julian said “You had a single works team with
Audi plus a great supporting cast of privateers running six different chassis and four different engines.

“In fact, the pole went to one of the privateers.

“If Toyota continues, and we all hope they will, I think over the next couple of years we can bring back that variety and tradition of privateers being genuinely competitive in the top class.”

Both Hedman and Hanley, meanwhile, will continue for a third season with the team.

“The chance to progress to the premier level of endurance racing with such a successful and close-knit group made this an easy decision,” Hedman said. “Step by step, we’ve grown together and achieved a lot.

“I applaud the ACO and FIA for the new schedule and the opportunity it has created. I’m committed to preparing myself and applying everything I’ve learned over the past few seasons to racing the new generation of LMP1 cars with Elton and the team.”

Hanley added: “Moving up to the WEC and LMP1 is a great chance for us to fight for overall podium results, especially at Le Mans given the issues the hybrids have had there the last few years.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. The Riparian Candidate

    October 31, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Great news!

  2. Anonymous

    October 31, 2017 at 8:11 am

    So they are looking at multiple chassis and engine options, which means they aren’t the one’s who bought the 3 Ginetta chassis. So who could that be, Manor? ARC Bratislava? Signatech Alpine? Rebellion?

    Actually Rebellion and Alpine would buy the Oreca chassis.

    Good News all the same that another team are moving up to LMP1

    • Tyler Sanders

      October 31, 2017 at 8:50 am

      It is going to be interesting to see who bought the 3 Ginetta chassis’s

    • Johnny

      October 31, 2017 at 9:59 am

      Could be Strakka Racing. A British race team buying a British chassis. They want to get into lmp1 in 2017 but they abandoned it. They said they do want to return to wec when they have a chance so this could be it

  3. Tyler Sanders

    October 31, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Good news to see more teams joining LMP1.

  4. Pierce

    October 31, 2017 at 9:52 am

    The Three Ginettas sold were for a 2 Car team with the third as a spare

  5. N8

    October 31, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Hedman’s already one of the weakest Am’s in ELMS. I don’t see how this team is going to do anything other than participate with him in the car against all-Pro lineups in LMP1.

    • guest

      October 31, 2017 at 10:12 am

      Does it matter with attrition and so few entries? P2 lead an impressive chunk of Le Mans this year.

    • Peter Tabmow

      October 31, 2017 at 4:38 pm

      In fact, out of the five ELMS Bronze driver practice sessions this season, Hedman was quickest once, second three times, and third once, out of seven regular LMP2 Bronze drivers…

  6. Jenner

    October 31, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Ha! Looks like Dips still not racing in the French countryside still.

    Have a great race in Detroit, watch out on those late night Taco Bell runs, wear a bulletproof vest.

    • Bostonfred

      October 31, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Jenner. Why troll Detroit? It is a city on the way back. Both private and public sectors working hard to transform a place that fell on hard times. Every time I visit Detroit I m amazed by what I see. Have you ever even been there?

    • Mo

      October 31, 2017 at 10:32 am

      I would rather watch several manufacturers race against one another in Detroit than to watch 1 manufacturer attempt to outlast equally fragile privateers for 24 hours.

      • TF110

        October 31, 2017 at 12:39 pm

        You do that then. Why are you talking about this on an article pertaining to lmp1?

        • Travis McBee

          October 31, 2017 at 12:58 pm

          Because Jenner brought up the fact about DPi not being eligible at Le Mans…

    • Wut?

      October 31, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      Wut?

    • David Chaste

      October 31, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      The WEC is more likely to be defunct before the WSC. Nascar could even buy it outright and run it how they please.

      So DPis are running in the healthier championship.

  7. Steven

    October 31, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    but, but,but IMSA/DPi fanboys said LMP1 was dead???? How can this be, lol.

    Good for DragonSpeed to step up next year. Have to wonder if Oreca may be doing some major overtime and grinding to present the Oreca 09 a little quicker for the LMP1 teams.

    • Mo

      October 31, 2017 at 5:39 pm

      I think they were talking about manufacturer backed LMP1.

  8. Cosmo DeLuca

    October 31, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    So Racer was right.

  9. Degner

    October 31, 2017 at 6:54 pm

    “If Toyota continues, and we all hope they will, I think over the next couple of years we can bring back that variety and tradition of privateers being genuinely competitive in the top class.”

    Competitive how? Hanley can drive but Hedman is slow, period… in a P2 car. How is someone slow in a slower category supposed to be “competitive” in a faster category. This is about money and the desire to have the quickest car on the block – nothing more.

    That’s fine, nothing to object to but to say you’re going to be genuinely competitive is ridiculous. That pairing won’t be competitive even with the other privateers – whoever they are supposed to be.

    And to all who have the fantasy that somehow the privateers will beat Toyota if they chose to stay – just how is it that you expect that to take place???

    Toyota will be fielding a car they’ve been developing with manufacturer money and engineering resources for years! And the others? You know the answer.

    And save the 2017 Le Mans P1/P2 argument for the trash bin. The only reason P2 cars could be competitive was attrition. Why was there attrition??

    Because Toyota and Porsche were pushing each other in terms of performance – and therefore reliability.

    That will NOT be the case if Toyota stay. They will be able to focus almost entirely on running a slow comfortable pace. None, repeat none of the P1/P2 privateers will challenge them, especially at Le Mans. And the P2 cars? Yep. They’ll beat several (or whatever the number is) of the P1 privateers – but not Toyota.

  10. ArButNot

    October 31, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    I’d have to agree with Degner. Moreover, let’s see which LMP1 privateers actually show up and how consistently they repeat showing up.

    Turning up at a trio of race meetings and potentially getting blown away at all of them by a returning Toyota team tends to dampen enthusiasm and close cheque books. If there are more than a trio of LMP1 privateers, I’d guess they jump in and out of select WEC races based on performance, hometown proximity of those providing the funds, and racing incidents. That’s not exceptional but rather the norm for privateers in a very high cost racing format.

    And with all due respect to Mr. Julian, running against the Toyota factory is considerably different than going up against Dave Maraj’s Champion Audi squad and Hugues de Chaunac’s Audi France-funded PlayStation Team Oreca in 2005. Those were factory-supported privateers – not the factory.

    In any case, what do you reckon the LMP1 privateer enthusiasm-curve looks like?

  11. Luc

    November 1, 2017 at 5:12 am

    Agree as well. It’s not (with all respect) that DragonSpeed is a well-funded enough team which can take on the might of Toyota. Thy don’t have the resources, capacity and drivers. The only one privateer who could take the on the factories (or factory at that time) was Pescarolo, who had Andre de Cortanze in the tech dept and some truly excellent drivers.

    ByKolles can dream what they like, but they will NOT WIN anytime. The will be blown away, again. That car is a couple of years old and will not be able to be developed any further in a sense that they will become competitive. Yes I know they were way quicker at LM than in the past, but think about this: they were exceptionally slow before. I still have to laugh when ByKolles rued their missed opportunity in winning LM. Who were they kidding?

    I think LMP1 will lack the strength in depth LMP2 had this year.
    I hope that Signatech Alpine will go to LMP1, that looks like a proper team with some good drivers. Don’t think that in LMP1 there will be a discussion on driver ratings, so they can pair Lapierre with Panciatici and Menezes. If they have 2 cars, this could bring more excellent drivers to them, such as ex-factory pilots.

    • Travis McBee

      November 1, 2017 at 9:48 am

      They could’ve paired Panciatici with Lapierre and Menezes in 2016, but didn’t.

      • Luc

        November 1, 2017 at 11:06 am

        You sure on that?
        Panciatici is Platinum, so is Lapierre. Where they able to have 2 Platinums per car?

        • Travis McBee

          November 1, 2017 at 4:52 pm

          I’m sure on that, if you remember back in 2016, Menezes was silver…

        • Travis McBee

          November 1, 2017 at 4:53 pm

          And yes, you could have two platinums in the car, alongside one silver or bronze. Look at Strakka, both Kane and Watts were platinum and Leventis was silver.

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