ORECA and Ligier Automotive are pushing for additional LMP2 entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in order to ensure the category’s future in North American sports car racing.
The two French constructors, which are currently represented in the prototype ranks of the WeatherTech Championship, are making active efforts to attract cars to the newly separated class, which kicked off with four entries but only two full-season cars, in last weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona.
While IMSA has reaffirmed its commitment to the global platform, it has since reduced the LMP2 calendar by two races for this year, in an effort to reduce costs for the existing two teams.
According to ORECA technical director David Floury, there is still “scope” for expansion beyond the current grid, with interest building from several teams for potential race-by-race or end-of-year efforts.
“We are definitely pushing hard to try and get more LMP2 cars on the grid in the U.S.,” he told Sportscar365.
“Clearly there is potential and for sure the separation of DPi and LMP2 changes the picture. But there is still scope to develop it for sure.”
Floury said a “reasonable target” would be to have 5-6 cars in the class admitted it’s difficult to say whether that number could be reached by the end of the year.
He confirmed that it has recently sold an Oreca 07 Gibson to a LMP2 customer that is planning a post-Sebring debut, which would grow the car count to three entries.
“We’re clearly working hard and we would also love to have other constructors involved, to have competition like in WEC and ELMS,” Floury said.
Ligier Automotive’s Pierre Nicolet, meanwhile, echos Floury’s comments although admits that additional entries won’t come overnight.
The Le Mans-based constructor is currently not represented in LMP2 following PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ late-season switch to Oreca.
“When you look at the business model it’s hard for a team to join now and gather the budget,” Nicolet told Sportscar365.
“Everybody would like to be involved but it all comes down to how much budget you can gather for this type of series.
“I think it will take another year to see more LMP2s, but everyone at IMSA is putting in efforts to make more LMP2 joining, so hopefully we can help.”
Nicolet said he’s unsure if a reduced schedule, potentially making LMP2 a sprint-race only championship similar to the new-for-2019 WeatherTech Sprint Cup for GT Daytona cars, would be a solution as some competitors have proposed.
“Is six races enough, is four races enough to gave a real program in LMP2? I don’t think that will attract European teams to join,” he said.
“I think Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans are the tracks for European teams to join. It doesn’t mean they will come in the end. It’s very hard to tell.”
Ligier Opens Customer Sales of Nissan DPi
Nicolet revealed that additional Nissan DPis could be purchased by customer teams for competition in the WeatherTech Championship’s top class.
Previously, Extreme Speed Motorsports held a two-year exclusivity on the package, with those cars now having gone to CORE autosport for 2019.
“We have a package offer with NISMO that makes the total package very competitive in terms of running costs overall,” Nicolet said.
“The lead time is only 6-8 weeks to get a new car, so if anyone wants to join, I’ll be happy to discuss with them.”
While largely battling engine-related issues throughout last year, Nicolet believes the Ligier-built DPi still has untapped potential.
“We didn’t have the success we wanted last year with the car and with other teams joining,” he said.
“But with Cadillac, we are the only two manufacturers to provide a DPi for a customer program.
“Hopefully we can match the number of Cadillacs someday. That would be the target for sure.”