Pipo Derani has given the new Ligier JS P217 high marks following its initial rollout and test last week at Magny-Cours.
The Brazilian driver, along with Olivier Pla and Julien Canal took part in a three-day test at the French circuit, prior to the unveiling of the 2017-spec LMP2 car last Friday at Spa.
“It’s run very smoothly since the first day, which is very surprising for a new car,” Derani told Sportscar365.
“What’s very nice is that you can see that all of the hard work that Onroak has put into the car has paid off with a very good first time with the car.
“The car seems very, very balanced and seems to be very promising with how it handles.”
While it was the first rollout for the Onroak Automotive-built prototype, it was also the first time the new spec Gibson V8 engine was run in any of the four approved 2017 LMP2 chassis.
The only other LMP2 car to turn laps so far has been the Dallara, but fitted with an IMSA DPi-spec Cadillac powerplant, in testing at Putman Park near Indianapolis earlier this month.
“We don’t know how this will stack up against the competition, but I take my hat off to [Onroak] for being the first manufacturer to drive the new powertrain,” Derani said.
“It’s not easy because everything needs to come together. The guys from Gibson, the guys from Cosworth were running the electronics, and so far it’s been a very good first test.”
Derani said the handling of the JS P217 is not significantly different from the current JS P2, although he’s noted significant gains in aero efficiency.
The car features an all-new cooling layout with revised radiator placement, compared to its predecessor, not to mention a change in overall dimensions, per 2017 regulations.
“In the end, the car is different with the new regulations you have to work around to make it work,” he said.
“It’s 1.9 meters [wide]; the old one is two meters. That has a big impact in aerodynamics.
“To be honest with you, the handling of the car is very, very good, which is surprising when you’re testing a completely new aero package.
“The car seams easy to drive with a good aero balance which is important for the ultimate lap time for sure but also for the gentlemen to feel comfortable in the car.
“That makes for a huge difference in the end.”
Lap times were not disclosed from the initial test, although it’s believed the ACO’s projections of the more powerful 2017-spec cars being on average 3-4 seconds per lap quicker has already been achieved.
“The car has been a lot quicker than the JS P2, obviously,” Derani said. “That has to do with the engine being more powerful, but I don’t think power itself without a good chassis underneath is enough to make the car that much quicker.
“We’re going to keep working on the development of the car thinking of a fast car to drive for a pro but a comfortable and still fast car for a Silver.
“Having Julien [Canal] with us is a perfect combination of a Silver to give his feedback and his feeling of a new car.
“We’re going to keep working on the development to have the best car possible.”
Derani said it was a great honor to have been selected by Onroak as one of the JS P217’s development drivers, in what marks the 22-year-old Brazilian’s first time in this type of capacity.
“After everything we’ve achieved together, I’m very lucky to be given this chance,” he said.
“It shows a level of trust from them to me, and it’s a great opportunity for myself and Olivier to develop the car, and I hope our work will pay off in a few months’ time.”