By the end of 2012, the future of the European Le Mans Series was unclear. The grid at Donington saw only a handful of cars, putting questions about the fate of the Le Mans-labeled championship.
Taken over by Le Mans Endurance Management (LMEM) last year, the Gerard Neveu-led organization helped turn around the struggling series and see new light on the horizon.
For 2014, the majority of the teams have vowed to return, as well as a number of new programs that should increase the overall car count of the championship.
Here’s a rundown of the confirmed, likely and rumored entries for the LMP2 class:
Seven teams contested the entire 2013 season and that number is expected to exceed ten this year. The 2014 season will see no fewer than five different chassis (Oreca, Morgan, Zytek, Tiga, HPD, plus the Alpine-badged Oreca). Additionally, a sixth chassis could run late in the season to prepare for 2015.
Defending LMP2 champions Signatech-Alpine is expected to re-enlist with its Alpine A450, which would now carry the No. 1 numberplate, while also likely to take on the FIA WEC. Voted “2013 Man of the Year” by the ELMS, team principal Philippe Sinault is keen to keep the title honors in Bourges.
Their main opposition will again by Thiriet by TDS Racing, the south France-based squad, which is also expected to continue with its Oreca 03 Nissan with driver Pierre Thiriet.
Jota Sport has already announced its intentions of returning with its Zytek Z11SN Nissan, with Simon Dolan already confirmed. As for Dolan’s 2013 co-driver Oliver Turvey, the open-wheel star could be seen in the FIA WEC, although the ELMS is also under consideration.
A second Zytek-Nissan could also be on the grid for former champions Greaves Motorsport. The Tim and Jacob Greaves-led organization are still evaluating different options.
Murphy Prototypes plans to continue its program with the Oreca 03, but without Brendon Hartley, who has become a Porsche factory driver in LMP1. Jonathan Hirschi, who drove in select races with the Irish squad last year, could continue with the Greg Murphy-owned team.
Belgian squad Boutsen Ginon Racing also hope to be back with their Oreca 03. The Olivier Laine-led team is aiming to align a driver lineup for the entire season.
Race Performance has experienced ups and downs in 2013, but Michel Frey is a man who should not be written off. The Swiss owner/driver revealed that he’s working on a European program with two cars, one being an all-gentleman driver lineup.
The only team to field a Morgan LMP2 in 2013, Morand Racing has already confirmed that it will return, but with to-be-announced drivers. Christian Klien, who drove in the season finale, is believed to be part of the adventure.
There will be at least a second OnRoak Automotive-developed chassis on the grid in 2014, with Pegasus Racing confirming this week that it will enter a Morgan-Nissan for Julien Schell, Niki Leutwiler and a to-be-determined third driver.
Woodard Racing Organisaton has chosen to purchase a brand-new HPD ARX-03b, which will see Johnny Mowlem as one of the confirmed drivers. The Daniel Woodard-led team will share the car between the ELMS and the Asian Le Mans Series.
After taking a sabbatical in the class, Sebastien Loeb Racing is poised to return to the track with its Oreca 03. The lineup could feature Leo Thomas, while the team held a test recently in Navarra for drivers Sacha Bottemanne, Kevin Estre, Jean-Karl Vernay, Andi Zuber and Oliver Webb.
The big news for 2014 will be the Tiga LM214, based on the WFR-01 that Embassy Racing had previously campaigned. It will now be in the hands of Mike Newton’s Tiga Race Cars team.
There is also news from Stephane Raffin, who is hoping to field one or two cars in 2014, with the aim of an all-French effort. After a trial run last year with an ancient Lola, the team is expected to utilize a new-generation car.
An American team could also debut in the series this year with the ex-Gulf Racing Middle East Lola B12/80.
Expected Entries: 11 cars
Additional: 2-3 cars
LMPC Update: With LMP3 replacing the current PC championship in ELMS in 2015, there is no confirmation we’ll see the Oreca FLM09 on the grid this year. Only only team took part in the entire championship last year, the ORECA-run Team Endurance Challenge.