This weekend marks a critical point for the future of P2 prototypes within the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s top class.
Throughout the year, the in-race competitiveness of P2s compared to Daytona Prototypes has been a major talking point. While Balance of Performance has managed to achieve similar lap times in qualifying, sustainable pace for the P2s throughout the race has been harder to manage.
Alas, the Extreme Speed Motorsports HPDs and SpeedSource Mazdas continue along with OAK Racing’s entry into this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas.
OAK switches from the Morgan Nissan to premiere its new Ligier JS P2, the Onroak Automotive coupe that is paired with an Honda engine. It’s already shown its pace with Alex Brundle capturing the pole for today’s race.
Looking ahead to 2015, at the moment, only the Mazda SKYACTIV-D diesels are confirmed TUDOR Championship P2 entrants, as part of SpeedSource’s multi-year development program. ESM and OAK’s futures are uncertain within the TUDOR Championship.
Potential Onroak customers are watching the Ligier’s debut with keen interest.
Per OAK team principal Philippe Dumas, there are four interested customers in the Ligier looking ahead to 2015.
“It’s not so easy to enter this U.S. market, but I think it’s the future,” Dumas told Sportscar365. “I think OAK and Onroak made a very important choice to come here. If we do it, it’s because P2s have a chance to succeed in U.S., and our goal is to sell cars.”
Onroak is at a point where it needs customers, if it is to have a full-season TUDOR Championship effort with the Ligier.
Dumas did not rule out an OAK Racing partial season effort, but confirmed that with any full-season customers, OAK would not run against them.
“We would love to have to have a good team in the full TUDOR Championship,” he said. “We may have a few chances to come back next year as the OAK team.
“We’re in the middle. We are a manufacturer, but we also have a racing team. If we can, I would love to come back to the biggest races and fight for the victory.”
Of potential customers, Enzo Potolicchio has confirmed his interest in the car and is close to a decision, while Daytona Prototype team owner Michael Shank looked at the Ligier this weekend.
Potolicchio, who last ran a P2-spec car in 2012 with the current HPD ARX-03b chassis in the FIA WEC, is bullish on the P2 future in America.
“The car is the least expensive part. It’s the running costs that add up,” Potolicchio said. “We’re able here to look at the data at both WEC and TUDOR to make our decision. It is a great, great class. Hopefully it’s getting better and better for IMSA to be sellable.”
Meanwhile Krohn Racing does not count among the number of customers, as it confirmed its joint North American/European program with the Ligier on Thursday.
Still for Tracy Krohn, running at least the marquee North American events is designed to be a part of his team’s platform with the new Ligier.
“The intention is to run with it through 2017,” Krohn said. “This year, clearly the P2 cars have been somewhat inhibited. But they’ve gotten it closer, it looks better and the P2 cars have won some races. It feels pretty good now.”
Potolicchio’s options, like others, are not only the Ligier but also the new HPD ARX-04b coupe.
The HPD coupe’s initial run of six cars for 2015 could be featured within either the TUDOR Championship or FIA WEC.
For Dumas though, the performance of the Ligier JS P2 Honda in the hands of Brundle and Gustavo Yacaman this weekend, as well as the first race for the Ligier JS P2 Nissan driven by Olivier Pla, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal on the FIA WEC side, will tell the tale.
“It’s an important weekend for TUDOR and WEC,” Dumas said. “We have nearly everything to learn this weekend with the Ligier HPD.
“It’s like a test session. If the result comes, great, but the goal is to be ready for Petit Le Mans. I don’t know what will happen next year.
“So we have to win one of the big races, we have the possibility to do it and it was close in Watkins Glen. Let’s work on this side.”