The first U.S.-based customer of the Oreca 05 is set to begin its testing program for 2016, with DragonSpeed’s newly completed LMP2 contender scheduled for a shakedown at Paul Ricard on Friday.
The Elton Julian-owned team arrived in the South of France this week to make final preparations to the Nissan-powered coupe, which will contest the European Le Mans Series, and debut at the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
Henrik Hedman and Frankie Montecalvo, the team’s first two confirmed drivers, will take part in Friday’s rollout, which will mark both pilot’s first laps in a LMP2 car.
“It’s important to get both Henrik and Frankie some seat time,” Julian told Sportscar365. “The first half of the morning will be a straight-up shakedown of a brand-new car.
“But we have every intention of getting to work right away. We have the people from ORECA with us. We’ll have the chance to pick their brains and make changes and our own assessment.”
Julian said the car will be sent to its Florida base immediately following the rollout, to be prepped for an extensive winter testing program at both Sebring and Circuit of The Americas.
It will race at Sebring in ACO-spec, despite IMSA rules allowing for larger displacement engines. Julian said they will remain with the standard 4.5-liter Nissan V8 powerplant.
“I was telling Henrik this,” Julian said. “Testing for Sebring and doing Sebring will be like doing more than half of a season of ELMS.
“So when you go to your first ELMS race you will have experience in a P car. You won’t be new at your first championship race.
“But when the time comes, we’re there to race and we’re there to try to win, of course.”
The team’s focus will then turn to the ELMS, which expands to six rounds next year, Julian still evaluating options for a European base, to be located in the South of France near ORECA’s headquarters.
He said one one of the options could be inside Paul Ricard at the new “SRO Race Centre by MMC” complex, which formerly housed JMB Racing.
“I like the six rounds,” Julian said of the ELMS schedule. “We bought into a five-rounder and some people made noises that it was unsellable. But adding Spa really completes the series.
“I think it took it from a flavor of a national championship into something more substantial.”
While yet to finalize their third driver, talks have continued with an ex-LMP1 factory driver to join Hedman and Montecalvo in the cockpit next year.