While fresh off a historic victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Onroak Automotive is set to soon lay a foundation in the U.S. of its own, as the French constructor sets its sights on 2017 and beyond in the emerging North American prototype market.
Plans are moving forward for Onroak — constructors of the Ligier LMP2, LMP3 and CN cars — to open a workshop and full support network by the end of the year.
According to company president Jacques Nicolet, the initial infrastructure is already being put in place, headed up by his son, Pierre, who is serving as CEO of the newly formed company.
“We created Onroak Automotive North America last year,” Jacques Nicolet told Sportscar365. “We’re [currently] based in Costa Mesa, Calif. with our friends from Stand 21.
“For this year, the project is to open a workshop. At the moment we’re studying what will be the best place for our activities.”
The Nicolet’s, along with Onroak North American representative Ethan Bregman, have been scouting for potential locations, with two of the leading candidates currently being Indianapolis and Charlotte.
“In Indianapolis, we had a great time meeting with the Chamber of Commerce to look at that as a potential location for us,” Bregman told Sportscar365. “We’ll be meeting with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce this week to look at that.
“It’s our goal to have a fully functional location in the U.S. by the end of the year, to be fully prepared for the new DPi season.
“It would be parts, support, service, all based here in the U.S. for our customers.”
While the majority of the design work and construction of its race cars is currently in its two primary bases at Le Mans and Magny-Cours, Bregman said its new U.S. location would have the capability to take on U.S.-based projects of its own in the future.
“We’re sizing the space to be able to do that,” he said. “We’re not planning on just having a room in somebody else’s shop.
“It will be a full location that will grow with us as the needs grow, for any series.
“Obviously we love IMSA but as a constructor, people want track day cars. The JS P3 is a fantastic track day car.
“We expect there to be a larger demand in the U.S. and to have all of the necessary stuff to meet that and to even create new specific products for the American market.”
Onroak, which was an exhibitor at the PRI show for the first time in December, has high expectations for the new DPi platform, with Bregman indicating they’ve been in dialogue with multiple manufacturers for potential bodykit and engine packages for next year.
The Ligier JS P17, Onroak’s global LMP2 car, is expected to run for the first time this summer, with three well-known drivers handling testing and development duties.
Bregman said they expect to have cars to U.S. customers in time for IMSA’s November test.
“We have very high expectations,” he said. “For sure we’ll be here racing next year and we feel very confident to have a strong support system behind us.”
A final decision on the team’s workshop location is expected to be made in the coming weeks.
“For our company, it’s important to be [in the U.S.] and to be there with the American spirit,” Nicolet added.