ByKolles would consider 1997 Formula 1 world champion and 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve for a future FIA World Endurance Championship race seat in the manufacturer’s Vanwall LMH car, according to company owner Colin Kolles.
Villeneuve was one of four drivers to handle the ByKolles-built Vanwall Vandervell LMH during a two-day test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this week.
The 51-year-old Canadian shared the wheel with Esteban Guerrieri, Tom Dillmann and Super GT class champion Joao Paulo de Oliveira.
Kolles explained that the Barcelona test was about seeing if Villeneuve enjoyed driving the non-hybrid LMH car, which is powered by a 4.5-liter Gibson V8 engine.
Villeneuve finished second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2008 driving for Peugeot, while in recent years he has competed in NASCAR events and the occasional GT race.
“We got a phone call and then we agreed and arranged to do it,” Kolles told Sportscar365.
“It was a very spontaneous action. We know the surroundings and the people, so there is a certain degree of trust, and therefore this was possible. The intention of Jacques is very clear: it’s a very high target, but the intention is to win Le Mans.”
When asked if Villeneuve could be considered for a race seat with the Vanwall operation, Kolles said: “Yes. This was the purpose of the exercise, to see if he enjoys it.
“And then, further steps have to be discussed and a lot of testing has to be done. If you haven’t run in a downforce car for many years, you have to get used to it again.
“The purpose was not to have a shootout between drivers. The purpose of the exercise was to see if he enjoys it.”
ByKolles is planning to enter at least one Vanwall LMH car in the WEC’s Hypercar class next season, with Guerrieri and Dillmann expected to form part of the driver lineup.
Kolles explained that a second entry is possible, but this depends on securing the necessary finances to field it.
A second Vanwall LMH chassis was introduced at Mugello last month before taking part in further tests at Paul Ricard and Barcelona.
After Barcelona, where ByKolles shared the track with other teams, it transported its Vanwall prototype further inland in Spain to Aragon where it will run on Saturday.
DTM driver Esteban Muth is understood to be joining Guerrieri and Dillmann for that session, which is due to include some running in the hours of darkness.
ByKolles Gearing Up for Homologation
After putting another track test in the books, ByKolles is moving closer to its target of homologating the Vanwall Vandervell LMH for use in the WEC next season.
According to Sportscar365’s information, the manufacturer has booked a wind tunnel test at Sauber for early next year, which would be a key step in achieving FIA homologation.
“We are trying to have the best possible spec because you are not allowed to re-homologate,” said Kolles.
“We are trying now to have everything ready for the homologation. The car is ready but we’re trying to optimize it for the best possible level.”
According to ByKolles head of operations Boris Bermes, the team has been working on a wide range of items during its track tests with the Vanwall LMH, which rolled out for the first time in April.
“The testing [at Barcelona] has made progress in the understanding of the tire, and torque control which is an important point for the engine,” Bermes told Sportscar365.
“And for the drivers to get used to the package as it is in WEC, because the car is now in full WEC spec. Reliability in parallel is one of our highest priorities. We have made some long runs.
“We don’t have a proper [performance] comparison in Barcelona because it’s not a WEC track, so we don’t have the proper data to compare. What we can say is that we are going in the right direction on the performance.”