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European Le Mans Series

Lapierre Signs with DragonSpeed; Minassian Joins Lineup for Sebring

Nicolas Lapierre, Nicolas Minassian sign with DragonSpeed for Sebring…

Photo: John Dagys & SMP Racing

Photo: John Dagys & SMP Racing

A pair of French prototype stars will be a part of DragonSpeed’s foray into the LMP2 ranks next year, with the Elton Julian-owned squad confirming Nicolas Lapierre for its European Le Mans Series program, to be joined by Nicolas Minassian for the Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Lapierre, the reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 winner, will join the lineup in the team’s Oreca 05 Nissan alongside Henrik Hedman and a to-be-confirmed third driver in the six-round ELMS season.

He’ll also be at the wheel with Minassian and Hedman at Sebring, which will mark both the Florida-based team’s LMP2 debut race and also the first outing for the car on North American soil.

“I tested with DragonSpeed in November, and felt at home straight away,” Lapierre said. ‘The team may be new to LMP2, but they are a strong unit and really motivated.

“The only time I’ve raced at Sebring was in 2011, when I won with ORECA’s LMP1 Peugeot. Since then I’ve been jealous every March of the drivers who are going there.

“But I’m finally back, and together with DragonSpeed I believe I can push hard to win this fabulous event again.”

The former Toyota factory driver joins DragonSpeed after making selected starts in two other Nissan-powered Oreca 05s this year, which included class victory at Le Mans with KCMG and top honors in October’s ELMS season finale at Estoril with Thiriet by TDS Racing.

Minassian, meanwhile, is set for his first race in an Oreca 05 after playing a large part in development of the BR Engineering BR01, which will make its IMSA debut next month at Daytona with SMP Racing.

“What a great opportunity and pleasure, especially having known Elton for more than 20 years,” Minassian said. “Getting the call to do one of the greatest endurance races in the world was a big Christmas present!

“DragonSpeed is a team on the rise, with a great car in the Oreca and a great crew. I can’t wait to tackle Sebring again and go for the win. A big thank you to Elton and the team for putting their trust in me.”

The team has also confirmed that it has established a European base at Paul Ricard, next door to ORECA’s headquarters in a space rented from PKM, a damper supplier to the French constructor.

Team principal Julian is upbeat about their chances at both Sebring and in their first ELMS season.

“With these driver signings, we’ve added two more key elements to our 2016 program,” he said.

“Having drivers of Nico’s and Nic’s pedigree will be hugely beneficial to our performance, Henrik’s progress, and our learning curve with the Oreca-Nissan package.”

Hedman added: “This must be one of my best Christmases ever. To be joined by drivers of Nico’s and Nic’s caliber is a dream come true.

“We can’t be sure how IMSA’s performance balancing will affect us, but we can definitely be confident of our lineup behind the wheel.

“I will have to up my game to do them justice, but I’m up for the challenge and will be getting as much seat time as I can this winter.”

U.S.-based testing is set to begin early next month in the ramp up to the team’s LMP2 race debut at Sebring in March.

While having previously been announced for the LMP2 effort, it’s understood Frankie Montecalvo is no longer part of the team’s ELMS program.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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