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Four WEC Teams to Contest ELMS Opener at Paul Ricard

45 cars confirmed for ELMS season opener at Paul Ricard later this month…

Photo: MPS Agency

Four full-season FIA World Endurance Championship teams will contest the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard next weekend, in one-off appearances.

TDS Racing, Signatech Alpine, Gulf Racing and Spirit of Race will stay in the south of France after this weekend’s WEC Prologue to contest the 4 Hours of Le Castellet on April 15.

Their inclusion brings the total number of cars up to 45, which sets a record for an ELMS season opener.

Nineteen will compete for overall honors in LMP2, with 18 lining up in LMP3 and eight in LMGTE.

ENTRY LIST: 4H Le Castellet

The TDS LMP2 squad will run an Oreca 07 Gibson for Matthieu Vaxiviere, Francois Perrodo and Loic Duval in the opening three rounds of the ELMS.

Vaxiviere was originally slated to feature with Roman Rusinov’s G-Drive Racing venture, which is also run by TDS, for the full campaign.

However, growing concerns over a discrepancy in that entry’s all-professional driver lineup resulted in an adjustment to the G-Drive crew’s composition.

Rusinov will instead race alongside former Rebellion LMP1 driver Alexandre Imperatori (Gold) and Silver-rated Andrea Pizzitola.

ABB FIA Formula E Championship points leader Jean-Eric Vergne, who was signed to G-Drive’s roster for 2018, will miss the Paul Ricard event to concentrate on the Rome ePrix which falls on the same weekend.

In addition to the extra TDS entry, two-time ELMS champion Signatech Alpine will return to the ELMS grid for the first time since its second LMP2 success in 2014, with Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet the nominated drivers.

WEC GTE-Am outfits Gulf Racing and Spirit of Race have also been added, bolstering the GTE class grid which originally stood at six cars.

Gulf’s full-season WEC drivers Ben Barker, Michael Wainwright and new signing Alex Davison will share the blue and orange Porsche 911 RSR, marking the team’s first ELMS appearance since 2015.

Spirit of Race, meanwhile, has Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci confirmed in the AF Corse-run  Ferrari 488, although their WEC team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella is not listed.

The Swiss outfit already has a full-time ELMS entry booked, featuring Matt Griffin, Aaron Scott and Duncan Cameron.

The ELMS pre-season tests will take place at Paul Ricard on Monday and Tuesday ahead of the race weekend which gets underway on Friday, April 13.

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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