BR Engineering’s new LMP2 coupe could soon be making its maiden appearance on U.S. soil, as the Russian constructor is evaluating a potential effort with its BR01 Nissan for January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona. (En Français)
Additionally, the Paolo Catone-designed prototype, which is coming off back-to-back podium finishes in the European Le Mans Series, could be seen in FIA World Endurance Championship competition next year as well.
Managing director Benjamin Durand confirmed to Endurance-Info their ambitions of being at Daytona, as a possible first step towards an increased North American customer presence as a constructor.
“No matter the continent, teams want to have [support] and that’s being discussed on how we can implement an interface in the U.S.,” Durand told Endurance-Info.
“There’s been interest in the BR01 [in America] but we know that because we are not part of the selected manufacturers for 2017 it will be more difficult to sell cars.”
The identity of the team that would run the possible BR01 at Daytona is unclear, as the cars were campaigned under the AF Racing banner last weekend at Paul Ricard, rather than SMP Racing, for political reasons.
The name change allowed the team to evaluate Dunlop tires for the first time, as the American-owned tire company had been unable to do business with SMP owner Boris Rotenberg, who is still under U.S. government sanctions.
“There’s a desire to offer different engines and tires for the BR01,” Durand said. “The decision was taken to switch from Michelin to Dunlop before Paul Ricard. Given [the situation], we had to change the entity to AF Racing.”
SMP Racing are no strangers to the Rolex 24, having finished fourth in the GT Daytona class in 2014 with a Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 that was supported by Extreme Speed Motorsports.
While the team currently leads the GTE-Am championship in the FIA WEC, thanks to its class win at Le Mans, Durand confirmed their hopes of returning to the LMP2 class in 2016 as well.
“The decision will be made during the winter, even if the objective is to bring the BR01 to the FIA WEC,” he said.
Rotenberg told Endurance-Info that a WEC program for the BR01s is the preferred track, with a potential customer team to be put into place to run additional car(s) in the ELMS next year.
Murphy Prototypes recently tested one of SMP/AF’s BR01 chassis, with the Irish squad’s plans still in flux for 2016.
“Managing an ELMS and WEC program is complicated financially,” Durand said. “Everything remains under evaluation and it could go through a client program. We have a third chassis that’s ready for assembly.”
With BR not having been selected as one of the four LMP2 chassis constructors for 2017, the BR01’s days are numbered, although all current cars are expected to be grandfathered into the ELMS through 2018, and the 2018-2019 season in the Asian Le Mans Series.
That’s why, Durand said, there’s still a big push to get the Russian prototype in the hands of customers.
“Nobody does all this to lose money,” Durand said. “There’s a real will to win with a Russian product but it has to be profitable. The budget is not unlimited.
“The study of the LMP2 will serve us for other projects [in the future].”
Multiple options are being explored for the constructor’s next project, including building a LMP1 car.
“There are different options,” Durand said. “Clearly we’d like to stay in endurance but we expect rules stability. We do not want to relive the same thing [with LMP2]. A LMP1 [non-hybrid] effort is part of the reflections.”