Having designed the Peugeot 905 and later the 908 HDi FAP, Paolo Catone is a man of challenge. (En Français)
The Italian’s new task has been the design of the BR01 from BR Engineering, which is on track to make its debut in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship with SMP Racing.
While the Russian-backed LMP2 project has faced recent manufacturing delays, Catone is still confident of the car breaking cover early next year, ahead of an intensive pre-season testing and development program.
“We’re doing our best to be at the rendezvous,” Catone told Endurance-Info. “It’s a bit more complicated than expected but it’s the [oddities] of building a new car. With subcontractors also working for Formula One and large manufacturers, it creates some long delays. A week late for them adds up to a three-week delay for us.
“We have a little less time for the final tests. However, the goal remains unchanged even if the period is quite short. Given the timing, it will be a big challenge for us. We will be operational in January for the assembly of the car, which will be in France.”
One of the challenges faced with the upstart BR Engineering squad, which recently relocated from Italy to the South of France, has been securing all of the necessary components for the car’s build.
“We have subcontractors scattered everywhere,” Catone said. “With Peugeot, everything was done in 365 days, not one day more. But the means [for this project] is not the same. Here, we’re not talking about LMP1.
“Human resources is also different. We had to find suppliers and coordinate everything. Building a LMP2 is less complicated than LMP1.”
While some manufacturers, such as ORECA, have opted to build prototypes around a monocoque that could be used for both LMP1 and LMP2, the BR01 has been specifically designed and optimized for LMP2 only.
“The BR01 is the first real new LMP2 car,” Catone said. “From the beginning, the project was focused on LMP2. Today we’re at 900 kg. We can’t go to LMP1-L with the same car as that should be 800 kg.
“We could redo the monocoque with zylon to save 20 or 30 kg but this is an investment in itself. I asked the customer at the beginning of the project. If we had to do both, it would be very expensive and not necessarily optimized for the other.
“If you go to LMP1, it would be with another project that would be from scratch using the knowledge that we know.”
Despite a recent increase in the sale of a cost-capped car, Catone admits the project will likely not turn a profit unless they are able to sell a significant number of cars to customers.
“With a 450,000 Euro [cost cap], a manufacturer doesn’t make money,” he said. “The only place possible is with spares. And you have to sell between eight to ten cars to start making money.
“BR Engineering hopes to sell cars but it’s not the primary goal.”
However, that hasn’t ruled out the potential of still seeing some customers cars, as SMP Racing team principal Boris Rotenberg previously revealed that they are in discussions with teams on both sides of the Atlantic.
Catone, meanwhile, confirms the BR01 has already seen significant development since the initial wind tunnel model pictures, which were released earlier this month.
“The 2015 season will serve as a learning season,” Catone said. “If the car is competitive, it will advertise itself.”