DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian is confident of getting its BR Engineering BR1 Gibson on track in Sunday’s Le Mans Test Day, following the decision to continue its LMP1 program.
The American squad is building up a new BR1 chassis in the Le Mans paddock ahead of the single-day test, following Pietro Fittipaldi’s accident in qualifying at Spa, which resulted in a destroyed chassis and broken legs for the Brazilian.
While Fittipaldi is expected to make a full recovery and return to racing by August, Julian said a massive amount of work has been put in to essentially build and prep a brand-new car in the matter of days by his crew.
“Basically, from the radiators forward, everything is new,” he told Sportscar365. “Everything [at the front half] was destroyed.”
Julian said a new tub had to be built following the accident four weeks ago, as DragonSpeed’s Gibson-powered BR1 requires different engine pickup points compared to the AER-engined chassis that SMP Racing campaigns.
With a shakedown on the adjacent Le Mans airfield ruled out for logistics and timing reasons, the car’s first mileage will come in Sunday’s test.
“The number one target is to get Renger [van der Zande] his ten laps and to shake down a car that we know something about it and to make it a runner in time for the 24,” Julian said.
“We’re up against it, we know it. On the plus side, we know a lot of the hard pieces, the bearings, suspension and pickup points are proven stuff. It’s going to be [things like] a starter motor, battery, etc that could stop you in the race.
“We can trust that the boys can build it right and from there on out, we do need a little bit of luck.”
BR1 Accident Findings Set to Be Released
While the results from the FIA’s investigations into Fittipaldi and Matevos Isaakyan’s separate accidents at Spa are expected to be released this weekend, Julian indicated they have already determined the issue that sent Fittipaldi into the barriers.
As for any assurances on the BR1’s safety regarding Isaakyan’s backflip at Spa, he said that “there’s no assurances in racing. But there’s our own studies, there’s our own knowledge.”
The team opted to run BR’s high-downforce aero kit at Spa but will utilize the low-downforce package this weekend.
Julian, meanwhile, has kept his car’s overall expectations in check for the race.
Van der Zande, in his Le Mans debut, will be joined by Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley in the Michelin-shod LMP1 entry.
“Our target has always been to finish ahead of the LMP2 cars. The whole point in this program is to get Henrik ahead of the P2 cars. Then whatever we gain after that is gravy.”