United Autosports is set to adjust its LMP2 driver lineup for the remaining Michelin Endurance Cup races due to its announced crew being ineligible under the IMSA rules.
The FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series title-winning squad finalized Jim McGuire, Guy Smith and Phil Hanson as its Endurance Cup trio in November.
IMSA permits a maximum of one Platinum or Gold-rated driver for the Endurance Cup races after Daytona, however Hanson and Smith are both rated Gold in the FIA’s categorization.
The team therefore needs to swap out one of its Gold-rated drivers for a Silver-rated driver, while McGuire fulfills the requirement for a Bronze competitor.
It is unclear whether Hanson or Smith will step aside, or whether that will be for all of the Endurance Cup races, but Dean indicated that a Silver driver has been recruited.
Of note, Hanson is signed to United’s WEC LMP2 effort and faces a double-duty weekend at Sebring when IMSA is also in action for the 12-hour race. This factor appears set to influence how United approaches its driver conundrum.
“It gets complicated around our priorities for the Sebring weekend, about whether we can move people from IMSA to WEC and back,” team co-owner and managing director Richard Dean told Sportscar365.
“So we’ve been looking into whether we’re better off keeping people in one series and not moving them backwards and forwards.
“Once we’ve made that decision, we know who it’s going to be.”
Dean iterated that United did not request to have either Smith or Hanson derogated to a Silver driver rating to ensure the originally announced lineup could contest the Endurance Cup.
IMSA eliminated driver derogations last year after initially making several changes from the FIA ratings.
“We haven’t asked them,” Dean said. “I think the problem there is that when you start opening that door, everyone is going to try and push it open.
“So why would they do it from us and not expect everybody else to ask for the same thing? The driver gradings are what they are.”
When asked about the identity of United’s Silver-rated signing for the remaining IMSA races, Dean responded:
“The reason we’re not going to answer it this week is because the Silver is also going to be announced in our ELMS car. And we haven’t announced that yet.”
United confirmed earlier this week that Hanson and Tom Gamble will return to the wheel of the No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson in ELMS, as the only LMP2 entry for the team.
Dean explained that United’s other LMP2 commitments, including the four-race IMSA program and an expansion to two cars for the WEC, made the continuation of a two-car ELMS effort untenable.
“We ran out of cars, really,” he said. “We have two in WEC and one over here.
“[The team went] without buying another car, and all the investment that entails for what is effectively a short window for the life of these cars.
“Plus how stretched you can be with staff, crew and race engineers. And the program with Josh Pierson in WEC, with his [young] age, there’s a lot of testing involved in that.”
Hanson, Smith and McGuire are able to contest this weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona together — alongside Will Owen — because the event permits LMP2 lineups to have two Gold-rated drivers.