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Combet: TDS Drivers Requested Additional ELMS Rounds

TDS LMP2 squad wanting maximum track time during WEC sophomore year…

Photo: TDS Racing/Clement Marin

TDS Racing boss Xavier Combet says his FIA World Endurance Championship drivers asked if they could race in the opening three rounds of the European Le Mans Series to form a dovetail program.

The French outfit is returning to the WEC for a second season in the LMP2 category, with 2013 Le Mans winner Loic Duval joining Francois Perrodo and Matthieu Vaxiviere in its driver lineup.

The trio finished second in last weekend’s ELMS season-opener at Paul Ricard in its Oreca 07 Gibson.

In addition to that appearance, TDS will also contest the four-hour races at Monza next month and the Red Bull Ring in July, prior to the flyaway WEC rounds.

It has emerged that the decision to run a dual program, totaling eight races in 2018, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, was a decision made by the drivers for the benefit of Bronze-rated Perrodo.

“It was asked from the drivers, so we said yes,” Combet told Sportscar365. “It’s really good for Francois because he can fight with some other bronze drivers.

“Even if he improves a lot and he fights with the Silvers in the WEC, I think it will be a good test for him and a way for him to measure where he is if he is against drivers of similar ranking.

“I am sure they would have wanted to do a full ELMS season but because of the ‘Super Season’ we will not always have the car in Europe.”

“We have two cars from now until the Red Bull Ring. We’ll also have two cars at Silverstone [in August] but in different paddocks, then the WEC car will go off to Asia.”

Perrodo finished 14th in last year’s WEC campaign alongside Emmanuel Collard, with Vaxiviere joining the pair for all but one of the races.

TDS signed ex-Audi LMP1 star Duval to lead its driver lineup this year in place of  Le Mans veteran Collard, who does not currently have a drive secured.

“Last year was a good year in terms of experience and the aim is to come back and get a better view of the championship,” said Combet.

“It was another decision made by the drivers, not a team decision and we expect good performances from Loic with his level of experience and known driving ability.

“I would say the goal for the team is to get better and try to achieve podiums.

“Manu [Collard] is a great driver, but we want to achieve the best speed across the three drivers in the car, which is why we are happy to have Loic.”

Combet said that running extra races in the summer would not pose any logistical problems because the team already has a full-time presence in the ELMS with Roman Rusinov’s G-Drive Racing outfit.

The G-Drive Oreca will be an additional entry to the WEC season opener at Spa next month in preparation for Le Mans in June, although Combet would not be drawn to comment on whether it will make any more appearances beyond those two outings.

For Spa, Rusinov will be joined by ex-Formula 1 racer Jean-Eric Vergne and Andrea Pizzitola.

Double-Duty Possible for Duval at Spa

In the TDS car, Duval’s presence in the lineup has not yet been finalized, although Combet said the team would do all it could to get the Frenchman to Belgium.

The Audi factory driver is tied up with the opening round of the DTM series at Hockenheim on the same weekend, although the Saturday DTM race finishes in time for Duval to complete a closing stint at Spa.

“The DTM race finishes around 1:30 p.m. so maybe we will have some time to have him in the car for the last stint, but that is a big risk,” said Combet.

“We are looking at having a reserve, but it’s a bit early to say at the moment.

“We are looking at all the options – if we have to say to Loic “no it’s not possible” or to have spare drivers in case he is too late.”

LMP1 Not on TDS Radar for Now

Combet says that he would like to see his team compete in the LMP1 category at some point in the future, but resource limitations mean TDS is unlikely to jump to the top prototype class anytime soon.

The team is entering its seventh year as an LMP2 outfit, having switched from a previous long-term spell in the Eurocup Megane Trophy.

Other LMP2 teams have shown recent interest in the LMP1 privateer formula, with Rebellion Racing and Manor joining the class for 2018-19 and Jackie Chan DC Racing previously monitoring a potential program.

“We have the right people for LMP2, but we would have to expand the team if we want to be in LMP1,” said Combet.

“We can see that in LMP1 there are maybe 40-50 more people, and the budget [is also bigger]: I cannot imagine that LMP1 costs only 30 percent more than LMP2.

“If we have the right sponsors and we can decide about the cars, drivers, engine etc then of course, we will go LMP1. But these parameters are really hard to find.

“Maybe it’s in the future, and that the reason we try to be the best in LMP2 is to show that we can be a good team capable of being in LMP1, but for this we need more partners.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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