David Heinemeier Hansson believes LMP2 is the place to be as an amateur driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship this season, with a more exciting package in the new-look prototype class as compared to GTE-Am.
The Dane is about to embark on his fifth season in WEC, joining the newly-renamed Vaillante Rebellion squad as the Swiss team moves from LMP1 Privateer to a two-car Oreca 07 Gibson entry in LMP2.
It will Heinemeier Hansson’s third LMP2 season and first since leaving Tequila Patron ESM at the end of 2015.
Last year, he joined Khaled Al Qubaisi and Patrick Long in the Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, finishing second in the GTE-Am standings.
However, a shot at his second GTE-Am class championship wasn’t as attractive as moving back to LMP2, especially given the performance of the 2016-spec Porsche that will be competing in the Am class this season.
“I think with the way the winds are blowing right now, if you want to compete in the WEC as an amateur, LMP2 is the place to be,” he told Sportscar365.
“Not only are the new generation of cars incredibly exciting with the monumental leap forward in performance and challenge, but I also think that it’s a bit of a weird year for GTE-Am.
“There is lots of uncertainty around BoP, and the balance between the cars. I certainly didn’t have an interest in returning in a Porsche that was shown to be not competitive at all in the GTE-Pro package that was campaigned last year.
“That kind of made it easy to say it’s not going to work to continue where we are, and it also made it easy to try and see if I could find something in LMP2, given the fact that LMP2 is getting [massive] not just in WEC but at Le Mans, which is my prime event.”
As the largest class in the field, both for the full season and Le Mans, LMP2 is shaping up to be as strong as ever, but Heinemeier Hansson doesn’t believe the same to be true in GTE-Am.
“By far the two most important aspects of it are: do you have a deep grid, and is that grid of high quality?,” he explained. “The answers to both of those questions are a resounding ‘yes’.
“For GTE-Am, I think unfortunately the answer to those two questions isn’t as resounding of a yes. There’s only five cars in the class, and a mix of quality in the entries.
“When I look at it now, it’s looking a little light and probably the lightest it’s done, in all the time I’ve been at this level of racing.
“I do hope that it does pick up next year. Hopefully there will be a Porsche that’s competitive again, and there will be more manufacturers and more options.”
As a driver who has spent four WEC seasons in prototypes and two in GTs so far, Heinemeier Hansson is one of the most versatile amateur drivers on the grid, and he says this has helped him secure the most competitive rides possible each season.
“I enjoy GTs, I enjoy LMPs, I enjoy having a great shot at being competitive in a good team,” he said. “That’s more of a determinant for me than whether it’s LMPs or GTs.
“If next year there’s a wonderful chance in a resurgent GTE-Am class to compete with a competitive car, a competitive lineup and a competitive team, I would absolutely consider that.
“As a gentleman driver who does not bring an entire budget to a team, I need to go where the deal is, and see where that goes. That’s been the deciding factor in all of the racing I’ve done at this level.
“When I learned to drive race cars, I drove everything with wheels and a steering wheel. I never had an allegiance to just one type of car or one brand I drove.
“I think that flexibility is certainly helpful when you can’t afford to pay for a whole budget. When you’re bringing a partial budget, you have to go where the deal is.
“There aren’t that many teams and that many deals and that many rides at the level of the WEC.
“Having some flexibility of which class, which car and which team is certainly helpful to ensure you keep driving, which ultimately is my motivation, to keep driving in the WEC, in competitive rides that have chances to win races and win championships.”
It isn’t just the LMP2 class that Heinemeier Hansson is looking forward to this season, however, but also the Rebellion team and his new co-drivers.
“It’s a super-strong lineup. I’m really happy to be racing with [Mathias] Beche and [Nelson] Piquet [Jr.],” he said.
“LMP2 in the WEC is just so tough. There’s no room for slack in the lineup. Even if someone is just off by a little bit, it’s really tough to make it through a six-hour race and come out on top.
“The fact that we really just have a stellar lineup through and through is super encouraging for the season.
“The last time I really had a crack at it at this level of lineup and competition was in 2013 with OAK driving with [Olivier Pla and Alex Brundle].
“That ended up with second at Le Mans and second in the championship. I hope that with the team that we have, we can at least be in the mix.
“I think the competition in LMP2 is tougher than it’s ever been, but that also just makes it all the more fun.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a good challenge but Rebellion is perhaps one of the best premier privateer racing names in prototypes in the world. I feel very comfortable with their capabilities.”