Era Motorsport will focus on competing in North America next year, with team owner Kyle Tilley confirming that the Indianapolis-based squad is not planning to enter European races with IDEC Sport in 2022.
Tilley’s team partnered with French outfit IDEC for an LMP2 program in the European Le Mans Series this year, in an arrangement that also included a 24 Hours of Le Mans entry.
However, that association has drawn to a close as Era Motorsport concentrates on its IMSA program with full-time drivers Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel.
Tilley explained that the decision to focus on North America was made because Bronze-rated driver Merriman preferred competing in the WeatherTech Championship.
He cited the rules-based differences between LMP2 cars in ELMS and IMSA, including less power in the former series and different tires, as a key contributing factor.
“IDEC never had any involvement with anything we did in the U.S but they were our partner team for ELMS,” Tilley told Sportscar365.
“It was a tough one this year: the car is so much more enjoyable to drive in the U.S because there’s more power and better tires. Any team with a Bronze, I don’t know why you wouldn’t just do IMSA because, for me, the LMP2 regs in IMSA are pretty much nailed.
“It’s the same for everybody, obviously with different skill levels and certain car setups for different situations.
“Right now for an Am to be in the top 10 sounds easy, but our amateur particularly struggled in Europe. And all of a sudden having less power and less grip made it a lot harder for him. He didn’t quite get his head around it as well [as in IMSA].
“Whereas he comes back to the U.S and enjoys driving the car again. So for us it was always going to be a full-season IMSA program this year and nothing in Europe.”
Tilley explained that focusing entirely on IMSA next year will be a benefit to the team as it places all of its weight on one side of the Atlantic.
“Even last year our U.S program was the priority, but I think it was tough on all of us because a lot of our staff were also working on the car in Europe, as well as alongside the IDEC staff,” he said.
“With the COVID restrictions and protocols that they still have in Europe, it wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.
“From Dwight’s standpoint, he couldn’t always bring his wife [to races] because of the travel waivers that were needed, and even with the events she could come to, restaurants and things like that weren’t open.
“I personally love racing in Europe and the level of competition in ELMS is probably the best in the world anywhere in LMP2.
“So I would love to stay in the ELMS, but I’m more than happy to be here in IMSA.”
The No. 17 IDEC Sport crew of Merriman, Dalzel and Tilley entered the first four ELMS races this year and achieved a best result of fourth in the Pro-Am category at the 4 Hours of Barcelona. Their highest overall finish was 11th at the Red Bull Ring.
“IDEC did a great job and I’m very thankful for all their help,” said Tilley.
“I still have a great relationship with Nic Minassian and all of those guys. But Dwight has decided that, for now at least, ELMS wasn’t for him. He didn’t enjoy it. That was it.”
According to Tilley, the call not to race in Europe next year was made before the recent announcement of additional performance reductions for the LMP2 class in ELMS and the FIA World Endurance Championship for Hypercar stratification purposes.
“It was already decided,” he explained. “The further changes just cemented our decision.”
Era “Quietly Confident” About Daytona Defense
Tilley is joining Merriman and Dalziel in the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds on next year’s IMSA schedule, while Paul-Loup Chatin completes the Era Motorsport crew for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The same quartet won the 2021 edition of the race and Tilley is optimistic that Era can head to Florida with a strong package that is capable of producing a repeat victory.
The team will enter Daytona with a brand-new Oreca 07 Gibson after an accident during the early stages of Motul Petit Le Mans caused one chassis to be written off.
“There’s no two ways about it: it’s going to be hard,” said Tilley, who has kept busy in the off-season by participating in rallies.
“But I’m pretty confident that we have one of the quickest LMP2s in the States. We’ve learned a lot having to go up against people like JOTA and United in ELMS this year.
“I think that has translated very well into our pace with the car in the U.S, so I’m pretty confident with the car.
“Obviously, with any 24-hour race, you need to put it through the night and get it close to the lead lap so you can go racing for the last five or six hours.
“We’re aiming to get Dwight’s drive time done and see where we end up after that. It’s the same approach we had for 2021: stay out of trouble and we’ll see how it goes.”