Richard Bradley will make his return to KCMG for the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year in an attempt to defend his LMP2 class win at La Sarthe.
As KCMG decided against a full FIA World Endurance Championship effort in this year in the prototype ranks, Bradley jumped ship to Manor, but will rejoin the Hong Kong-based team for Le Mans.
“I went and cracked on, and I was gutted because we had something good last year, but now I’ve got something very good with Manor,” he told Sportscar365. “I’m having a really good time with them.
“I knew [KCMG] was doing Le Mans and it obviously made sense to continue after the success that we had last year.”
Last year, KCMG took a commanding class victory at Le Mans, with Bradley, Matt Howson and Nicolas Lapierre.
As Lapierre has joined Signatech Alpine this season, he has been replaced by Tsugio Matsuda in the No. 47 Oreca 05 Nissan for this year’s race.
The first mileage that the team completed this season was at the official test day, and Bradley believes it went very well.
“I think a lot of credit has to be given to the team because it was a bit more of a high-profile shakedown for us because that car hadn’t actually turned a wheel since Bahrain,” he explained.
“The car had just been taken out and that was the first actual running we’d done with it. We had absolutely zero technical issues, which is amazing. The team did a very good job there and the performance was promising.
“We never went for outright speed, and I’m not really sure what everyone else did, but we just went through our program and it was very good so I think we can be quite confident going into the race.”
So far this season, the 24-year-old Englishman has secured a 6th and 3rd place finishes at the two WEC rounds with Manor.
The No. 45 Manor-run Oreca Nissan is entered for the full WEC season, minus Le Mans, which freed Bradley up for the big race.
It was the result of the late entry that took Bradley, Matt Rao and Roberto Mehri into the season with limited testing, and barred them from a Le Mans grid slot.
“It’s going very well,” he said. “[Manor has] done a fantastic job in adapting as quick as they had, especially on my car, because we arrived with no testing at all.
“Our only pre-season test was at Rockingham, which was shakedown that got pretty much rained off all day.
“The team adapted well and I think that showed up at Spa. We had so much other stuff happen there that affected us, for example being knocked off at the first corner and falling to last, and then having the drive-through penalty at the end of the race.
“Without those, we would have been a lot closer to the win, even though we were already quite close. We can go to every race in the future aiming for the victory.”
Despite this excursion to Manor, Bradley assures that returning to his 2015 team has been very straightforward.
“Going back to KCMG has been very easy because we’ve got most of our crew from last year so I know pretty much everyone already,” he said.
“Having two teammates who I’ve worked with successfully before, that makes life very easy. I’m having no difficulty at all in that respect and I’m enjoying both opportunities.”
KCMG ended the test 6th quickest, even though the focus wasn’t on raw pace. It was in fact Bradley who set the team’s fastest lap time, putting the crew into a good position heading into the race.
“It’s hard to read into it too much, but our test day went very well. I think we can definitely be aiming for it,” he said of the aim to defend KCMG’s LMP2 win.
“With Le Mans, to be honest, the first thing you have to do is to finish. It’s a very long race, but I think the Oreca Nissans will be the strongest ones. Looking at the Test Day, there are four or five of us who stand out as having a chance and I think we’re in that group.
“It’s nice this year because, at least on mine and Matt’s part, we know how to win this race, so it’s a different kind of confidence.
“Tsugio is incredibly experienced himself, having what he’s won in the past and being very experienced as well, in terms of age and how much he’s done.”
In addition to Matsuda replacing Lapierre, there is one notable difference to KCMG’s entry as compared to a year ago: the livery.
This year, KCMG has ditched the popular blue and chrome color scheme it adopted last season, in favor of a more “traditional” blue and white livery.
“I personally liked the chrome a lot more!” said Bradley. “That’s just a personal opinion though. My dad is quite old-fashioned and he likes the current livery more because he thought he chrome one was a bit too bling.
“It’s important though, because it’s been KCMG’s livery since the start, and when I first joined the KCMG family it was back in 2013 and that was the livery it had on it then. Even when you look at it now, it still looks quite good.”