DragonSpeed will make the step up to LMP1 competition, having confirmed Tuesday intentions to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s ‘Super Season’ in 2018/19.
The Elton Julian-owned squad, fresh off winning the European Le Mans Series LMP2 title with G-Drive Racing, has confirmed Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley as two of the drivers for its single-car program, and is currently evaluating multiple chassis and engine options.
The France-based team, however, has close links to ORECA, which has been working on a possible LMP1 car for next season.
“The whole team is thrilled and up for the challenge,” Julian said. “Having won sports car titles in GT3 and LMP2, the natural progression for our highly talented and motivated crew is to move up to LMP1.
“We’re carefully studying potential partners who can help us put together a program which will deliver the progress and success we want for DragonSpeed.
“Everyone is on the same page in terms of the package and approach we need, and we can’t wait to get started.”
The team’s move to the WEC comes after two seasons in the ELMS, initially fielding an Oreca 05 Nissan for Hedman, Hanley and Nico Lapierre in 2016, prior to a ramped up two-car Oreca 07 Gibson operation this year, where it won the LMP2 championship under the G-Drive banner with Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel.
DragonSpeed is the second privateer team to officially commit to LMP1 next year, joining SMP Racing with its planned two-car program with Dallara-built BR1 cars, with ByKolles Racing also likely to return with its CLM P1/01 NISMO.
“I look back to 2005, when I first drove at Le Mans,” Julian said “You had a single works team with
Audi plus a great supporting cast of privateers running six different chassis and four different engines.
“In fact, the pole went to one of the privateers.
“If Toyota continues, and we all hope they will, I think over the next couple of years we can bring back that variety and tradition of privateers being genuinely competitive in the top class.”
Both Hedman and Hanley, meanwhile, will continue for a third season with the team.
“The chance to progress to the premier level of endurance racing with such a successful and close-knit group made this an easy decision,” Hedman said. “Step by step, we’ve grown together and achieved a lot.
“I applaud the ACO and FIA for the new schedule and the opportunity it has created. I’m committed to preparing myself and applying everything I’ve learned over the past few seasons to racing the new generation of LMP1 cars with Elton and the team.”
Hanley added: “Moving up to the WEC and LMP1 is a great chance for us to fight for overall podium results, especially at Le Mans given the issues the hybrids have had there the last few years.”