United Autosports will delay its expansion into North American prototype racing by a year, according to its managing director Richard Dean.
The British squad, which currently fields cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and Michelin Le Mans Cup, has ambitions to launch an LMP3 program in the United States with a view to expanding into DPi in the future.
But its original plans to do so in 2020 have been put on hold, with Dean explaining that the team’s recent switch from Ligier LMP2 chassis supply to ORECA was a primary cause of the delay.
“It’s definitely something that we’d like to do, but it won’t be next year,” he told Sportscar365.
“We definitely need to have a presence there beyond what we’ve currently got with our Andretti affiliation. We’d like to get a bit more involved there.
“I’d like to do a DPi program and start out with an LMP3 program, but with the new DPi car coming out in 2022, we’ve got a little bit of time to build up to that.
“What put that back a year, and certainly stopped up from contemplating it for 2020, was the switch from Ligier to ORECA.”
Dean said this move required an “immense workload” as United purchased three Oreca 07 Gibsons, one for its debut WEC season and the other two to race in ELMS.
“We’re also moving to a new building,” he said, “So when you add in that this year has been a shift into a new facility and a wholesale change of three LMP2 cars into three Orecas across two programs in our first WEC, we thought that next year was probably going to be too much.
“We would probably look at it [North America] next year, for 2021.
“We’ve got a truck and kit and equipment, and they’re all based at Andretti’s workshop in Indianapolis.
“If it’s a one-car [DPi] thing we’d probably do something from Andretti’s place, but if it was more, we’d need to look at another shop.”
2020 European Programs Taking Shape
United is set to return to the ELMS with two Orecas next year, according to Dean, who added that at least two LMP3 cars will be fielded in the ELMS and the supporting Le Mans Cup.
While United’s choice of second-generation LMP3 chassis supplier has not been confirmed, Sportscar365 understands that it is likely to return to the Ligier package.
Four chassis types are available for the 2020 rules refresh, with Ligier, Ginetta, Duqueine Engineering and ADESS all building cars.
United, which until July this year was the exclusive UK distribution agent for Ligier, currently operates two LMP3 cars in ELMS and four in Le Mans Cup, each as separate programs.
Drivers for the team’s 2020 LMP2 return have yet to be decided, but Dean explained that all current drivers have the option to stay on for another season.
“Everybody who is currently with us has the opportunity to remain,” he said.
“That will run through to [the 2019 finale at] Portimao and then we’ll make a decision after that if they stay.
“But if they don’t, we’ll start working on options. We’re talking to people now, just in case.”