Alex Brundle expects LMP2 speeds will be a “monster step up” at Le Mans, with the Jackie Chan DC Racing driver estimating pole time to be close to a 3:26 lap, more than ten seconds faster than last year.
New-for-2017 regulations in the Pro-Am prototype class sees a significant bump in power with the spec 4.2-liter Gibson V8 engine, which produces 600 horsepower, and coupled with chassis and aero developments, it’s resulted in a five-second improvement, on average, at most tracks.
The Englishman, who teams with Tristan Gommendy and team co-owner David Cheng in the Jota Sport-run No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson, admitted the new-gen prototypes could be reaching LMP1 top speeds at Le Mans.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how we stack up against the LMP1s, especially if they doing quite a lot of fuel save,” Brundle told Sportscar365.
“If we’re a pain on a normal track in terms of terminal speed, we’re going to take a big jump here.
“I don’t know enough about the aero configuration and the jump [LMP1s] can make forward in terms of terminal speed [in low-downforce trim at Le Mans]. It’s all a bit of a guess right now.
“We’re going five seconds quicker around a normal track and this is double the length of a normal track. It doesn’t quite work like that, but we’ll be solidly under 3:30 the whole race, I expect.”
Brundle and the rest of the LMP2 competitors will find out in tomorrow’s official test day how the new-gen prototypes stack up to the hybrid-powered LMP1s, which have been impacted by aero cuts for this year.
However, judging by times set at the Prologue at Monza, LMP2s are not expected to be far behind, as the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entry of Romain Dumas was just 3.4 mph slower in trap speeds compared to the pace-setting No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Earl Bamber in the pre-season test.
Top speeds are expected to be in excess of 200 mph, and smashing the current LMP2 track record, a 3:32.301 lap set by the Van Merksteijn Porsche RS Spyder in 2008.
Brundle feels the increased power will help them get by GTE cars much easier but admits “the only issue” could be the five factory LMP1 cars from Porsche and Toyota.
“If their race gets very tight, will they start to become bullies in the braking zones?” he asked. “I’m really hoping they’re quicker than us. I just hope we’re out of the way.
“One thing’s for sure and the [LMP2] cars have taken a monster step up.
“With another opportunity to have a go at the Le Mans [aero] kit with all of the things that all of the manufacturers have learned from the development of the cars, the old cars and their massive knowledge from previously, the performance will be quite impressive.”
With Brundle having achieved a 3:26 lap in Le Mans simulation runs, the second-generation driver expects a hard-fought battle in the 25-car strong LMP2 class, in what’s become a much more enjoyable car to drive.
The LMP2 veteran admitted he’s seen gains in development even prior to the launch of the new-gen cars this year.
“The main thing was when I came back to do a couple of laps at the [Le Mans] test last year, how far things have moved, even from 2014, and that was with the same regulations,” Brundle said.
“The tire technology moves forward a reasonable amount, less so this year because they sort of started from scratch [with a larger front tire and new tire limitations].
“But you do see the development. In terms of the professionalism of the teams and how everyone’s operating as well, it’s massive. That’s what we want.
“Everybody wants to race at the highest level possible; that’s why we’re all here.”