DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian said his team was in a “big thrash” to make it to this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans after receiving a late call-up to take part in the FIA World Endurance Championship round at Circuit of The Americas.
The American squad, which is fresh off LMP2 class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, had initially expressed interest to contest the race but was denied an entry by the WEC due to lack of available garage spaces.
That changed less than three weeks ago when Team LNT withdrew its two Ginetta G60-LT-P1 AER entries from the event, which served as a replacement round to the initially planned Six Hours of Sao Paulo.
“Henrik [Hedman] wanted to go to Brazil,” Julian told Sportscar365. “When Brazil was canceled and they brought it here, we were like, ‘We totally have to go.’
“We made the call and they said, ‘Sorry no.’ I was like, ‘Maybe you don’t understand, I want to come!’
“We wanted to bring a wild card entry. But when you walk up and down the pit lane, there really are no [extra] garages. They weren’t lying.”
Julian said the team had to adjust its post-Daytona schedule to make this weekend’s race, although it came at the opportune time during its U.S.-based Oreca 07 Gibson’s rebuild.
“We had planned to test at Sebring at the beginning of March,” he explained.
“We have some IndyCar tests coming up so obviously the major focus after the [Rolex] 24 was to get the car stripped and get it ready for rebuild, with that timeframe.
“As soon as I got the call from the WEC to tell me that Ginetta was not coming, then it was a big thrash to get here.
“We’ve done it lots of times. It was a big turnaround for everybody, for Michelin as well.”
The process included putting the car into WEC specification, just two months after it had converted the car from European Le Mans Series to IMSA spec, which largely involves electronics.
“It’s better to do it from the tub-up but the car was already in that state because it was getting rebuilt from a 24-hour race,” Julian said.
“Some of the stuff, as typical, was delivered here after we already rebuilt the car.
“We’re lucky we’ve been doing it for a while.”
Pre-Le Mans Race “Practical” for Team
Julian said competing in a WEC race in the build up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where the team is hopeful of securing two invites, is a “practical” move from a preparation standpoint.
DragonSpeed had contested the 2018-19 WEC season with a car each in LMP1 and LMP2 although has since focused its sports car efforts around a returning ELMS program featuring reigning champion Memo Rojas and a full-season IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship entry with Hedman and Ben Hanley.
Hedman and Hanley are rejoined by Colin Braun, who was also part of the team’s Daytona class-winning lineup, this weekend.
“With the ambition of a Le Mans entry for Henrik, we always thought it’s practical to do a WEC race leading up to the 24, if you haven’t been racing in the WEC or ELMS,” Julian explained.
“I think we have to acknowledge it’s different competition here [to IMSA]. It’s not a mandatory Bronze. We’re back in the ELMS spec [of racing].
“We have nine cars [in LMP2], five Bronzes. It’s a decent race. Clearly, the target is to win Henrik’s race first, then whatever pieces we can collect beyond that is gravy.”