Two of the most successful LMP2 teams last year, Jota Sport and G-Drive Racing, are set to join forces for the 2016 season, running a two-car program in the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series.
As previously announced, Sam Hignett’s Jota Sport squad will compete with a Gibson 015S in the ELMS and an Oreca 05 in WEC, but it has since been revealed that Roman Rusinov and G-Drive will work together with the British team this year.
“It came about towards the end of last year, [when] we started to discuss with Roman [Rusinov] about the G-Drive deal,” Hignett told Sportscar365.
“The whole thing came from running a Gibson and Oreca in the ELMS to running a Gibson in ELMS and an Oreca in WEC.”
The program will work with Jota Sport as the team, but G-Drive as main sponsor.
This harks back to previous Jota efforts including collaborations with Zytek Engineering, Charouz Racing Systems and Muscle Milk Pickett Racing.
“The team is now branded as G-Drive Racing, exactly as happened with OAK Racing,” Hignett said. “Jota need to be considered in this instance as the facilitator for the deal, a sort of service provider.
“It’s a rebranding exercise, exactly the same as that.”
Rusinov, Nathanael Berthon and recently-announced René Rast will dive the Oreca 05 Nissan in WEC while the ELMS Gibson will be driven by Simon Dolan, Giedo van der Garde and Harry Tincknell.
Both cars will compete at the Spa-Francorchamps WEC round and 24 Hours of Le Mans, but with Jake Dennis taking Harry Tincknell’s Gibson seat for those two races.
Hignett believes running an Oreca in WEC is the best way of future-proofing Jota Sport ahead of the new LMP2 regulations in 2017.
“I’ve always attributed a fair amount of our success to the relationship we’ve had with the manufacturer, and if we look back at last year, that was Gibson,” he said.
“When Gibson didn’t win one of the four slots as a future LMP2 manufacturer, we had to look elsewhere for another manufacturer.
“We don’t want to continue in 2016 with a standard Gibson, and then at the end of 2016 [just be] another team with a check to buy another car from a manufacturer, when the likes of KCMG and TDS already have a good relationship with ORECA.
“For me, we need to invest now in ORECA, because they are the only people with a product out there that is ready to rock and roll, and is somewhat close to 2017 style.”
Nevertheless, with the team continuing to run the Gibson in ELMS, challenges are likely to arise from using two different cars simultaneously.
“Running two different chassis and two different engine manufacturers puts in a challenge in itself,” Hignett said.
“In terms of running the two different series, the challenges are minimal. No races clash, and there is a substantial time gap [between rounds].”
Another challenge for Jota this year will be rectifying the bad luck it has had over recent years, which includes losing the win at Paul Ricard last year after exceeding drive-time for Filipe Albuquerque by less than two minutes.
“Everytime we race, we do a detailed analysis of what went right and what went wrong,” Hignett said. “It’s a learning process, each year you evolve, each year you learn, and so each year you become better.
“It’s a race against your learned competition, be it TDS, Alpine or whoever it might be, to learn faster, progress faster and become better faster than any of them.”
In addition to G-Drive, Jota has also linked up with British single-seater team Arden International to provide more opportunities for drivers who wish to transfer between sports car and open-wheel racing.
“What we’re trying to do is learn a lot from our partnership with Arden, who we’re very closely linked to now and who have a very good name in the single seater world,” Hignett added.
“We’re trying to take the best bits of what they do, and the best bits of that relationship, to put it into sports car racing, so as a team, we learn and we progress as fast as possible.”