In the latest “Silly Season” update, Sportscar365 takes a look at the confirmed, likely and possible teams for the LMP1 and LMP2 classes in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year.
Confirmed Entries (5 cars)
Porsche Team – The two-time World Champions will return with a pair of updated Porsche 919 Hybrids with a heavily revised driver lineup. Neel Jani is the only driver to defend his world title, joined by Nick Tandy and Audi refugee Andre Lotterer in the No. 1 car, with Earl Bamber replacing the newly retired Mark Webber in the No. 2 lineup alongside Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard. A return to a third entry for Le Mans is unlikely. (2 cars)
Toyota Gazoo Racing – Two updated Toyota TS050 Hybrids are confirmed for the season, with the likelihood of a third entry for Le Mans, and possibly the opening two races of the season, to potentially be announced this month. While driver lineups will be announced on Feb. 2, look for a largely unchanged full-season squad, except for WTCC ace Jose-Maria Lopez replacing Stephane Sarrazin, who will likely move to the third car.
While Giedo Van Der Garde and Ryo Hirakawa have been mentioned as possible drivers to fill the third car, Pipo Derani has been the latest driver rumored to be taking one of the three seats that could feature in the first three races of the season. (2 cars)
ByKolles Racing – As the only remaining LMP1 Privateer entry, Austrian-licensed team will return with at least one CLM P1/01, with a likely move away from its troubled AER powerplant, which was attributed to majority of its issues this year. Look for a similar driver lineup to 2016, despite Robert Kubica’s test with the team in Bahrain, which was more or less a favor from team owner Colin Kolles. (1 car)
Confirmed/Likely Entries (5-6 cars)
Rebellion Racing (Oreca) – Making the move from LMP1 Privateer, the Anglo-Swiss team will field a pair of Oreca 07 Gibsons for Mathias Beche, Nelson Piquet Jr and David Heinemeier Hansson (No. 13) and Nicolas Prost, Bruno Senna and Julien Canal (No. 31). (2 cars confirmed)
TDS Racing (Oreca) – The French squad will make the step to the WEC with an Oreca 07 Gibson for newly crowned GTE-Am champion Emmanuel Collard, Francois Perrodo and rising open-wheel star Matthieu Vaxiviere. A second car is likely, under the G-Drive banner for Roman Rusinov, Will Stevens and Pierre Thiriet. (1 car confirmed; 1 additional car likely)
Signatech Alpine (Oreca) – The defending LMP2 champions will return with a similar effort, although a revised driver lineup with Gustavo Menezes having been upgraded to Gold rating. The American is expected to remain with the team, alongside the already re-signed Nico Lapierre, with the Silver-rated seat still yet to be announced.
A second car could again be for Jackie Chan DC Racing, although David Cheng is understood to be in discussions with other teams, with the scaling back to a partial-season program also possible. (1 car confirmed; 1 additional car possible)
Possible Entries (3-6 additional cars)
Manor (Oreca) – While having announced plans for a LMP1 program in 2018, the British squad has yet to finalize a LMP2 return this year, with talks ongoing with prospective funded drivers for either a 1 or 2-car Oreca 07 program. (1-2 cars)
KCMG (Dallara) – The Hong Kong-based team has been tipped to return LMP2 competition, potentially as the only Dallara P217 entrant. A second-year effort in the GTE-Am ranks, with a Proton-run Porsche 911 RSR, has already been ruled out for the Paul Ip-led organization. (1 car)
RGR Sport (Ligier) – After a strong maiden season, the future of the Ricardo Gonzalez-owned squad is unclear, amid a struggling Mexican economy, which has taken a severe hit in recent months. An active effort is still being made to be on the grid with a Ligier JS P217, potentially with an additional funded driver alongside Gonzalez and Filipe Albuquerque. (1 car)
WRT (Ligier) – After getting a taste of LMP2 racing at Spa-Francorchamps last year, a full-season entry into the WEC or ELMS hasn’t completely been ruled out, should the Belgian squad secure the necessary funding. A lifeline from Jacques Nicolet could be possible, should RGR Sport’s program not materialize, in order to ensure a Ligier JS P217 would be on the WEC grid.
Jota Sport (Oreca) – With Roman Rusinov set to take his G-Drive backing to TDS Racing and Simon Dolan reportedly standing down, the future of the 2016 European Le Mans Series championship-winning team is unclear. Talk of a parallel WEC/ELMS program has gone quiet in recent weeks.
ART Grand Prix (Dallara) – The French single-seater squad could field a Dallara LMP2, ahead of operating the SMP Racing in the LMP1 Privateer class in 2018. However, there’s been little news as of late.