Cool Racing has announced its driver lineup for the 2022 European Le Mans Series, with reigning champion Yifei Ye and LMP3 front-runner Niklas Kruetten joining for the team’s overall title bid.
The pair will contest the six-round season co-driving the No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson with team boss Nicolas Lapierre.
Ye sealed last year’s ELMS championship crown with Robert Kubica and Louis Deletraz as the designated Silver-rated driver in Team WRT’s lineup.
The 21-year-old from China will remain in the series following his promotion to FIA Gold status, with Kruetten coming on board as the required Silver for Cool Racing.
Kruetten finished second in the 2021 LMP3 standings sharing a Cool-run Ligier JS P320 Nissan with Matt Bell and Nicolas Maulini, and is now set for his graduation to the LMP2 class.
Lapierre, meanwhile, is confirmed for his seventh full season in the top tier of ELMS.
The former Toyota LMP1 driver runs the Cool Racing program with Alexandre Coigny under their CLX Motorsport parent company.
Lapierre shared the wheel with Bronze-rated Coigny last year, while the pair were joined by Antonin Borga at the opening four rounds and Charles Milesi for the final two.
With Coigny no longer involved in the LMP2 driving squad, Cool Racing is now set to compete for overall honors after previously focusing on the Pro-Am classification.
“We have a strong lineup and the team showed some promising pace throughout last season, so we are ready to fight for the championship this year,” Lapierre said.
“We hope our application to race at Le Mans will be successful, as we want to challenge for victory there also, so it should be a great season for the team.”
Ye is set to balance his continuing prototype program with GT3 drives in Porsche machinery, as part of his Porsche Motorsport Asia Pacific Selected Driver role.
He will make his Porsche debut this weekend, driving for Herberth Motorsport in the Asian Le Mans Series.
“I am very excited to join Cool Racing alongside Nico and Niklas in the European Le Mans Series,” said Ye.
“After winning the championship last year, I believe that I have the experience, speed, and the consistency to compete at the top.
“Cool Racing has shown some very promising performance during the second half of last season, and for 2022 I will have two fast teammates in Nico and Niklas, and it’s great to be part of such a strong lineup.
“Racing in LMP2 again this season will help towards my goal to race in LMDh in 2023 and I am very much looking forward to competing in the category again.”
Ye and Kruetten raced against each other in the 2020 Euroformula Open, with Ye winning the title and Kruetten placing fifth to earn rookie champion status.
Both drivers switched to sports car racing at the start of last year, with Ye slotting into LMP2 and Kruetten, who is two years younger, gaining experience in the LMP3 ranks with Cool Racing in Europe and United Autosports in the U.S.
“I am excited to stay with Cool Racing for a second year, and to get the chance to step up into the main program,” said Kruetten.
“We had a good season in the LMP3 category and I’m happy to be joining two very fast and experienced drivers in LMP2, with Nico and Yifei. I’m sure that we can have a great season and our goal is to challenge and fight for the overall championship.”
In other recent ELMS news, 2019 champion IDEC Sport will retain the LMP2 lineup of Paul-Loup Chatin, Patrick Pilet and Paul Lafargue that the French squad had last season.
Additionally, reigning GT4 European Series champion Bailey Voisin and Porsche Carrera Cup GB competitor Josh Caygill have signed with United Autosports in LMP3.