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European Le Mans Series

Hignett (Jota Sport): “It’s About Making Sure We’re Ready for 2017”

Jota Sport ramping up for dual WEC, ELMS LMP2 effort in 2016…

Photo: Drew Gibson/Jota Sport

Photo: Drew Gibson/Jota Sport

The 2016 sports car racing season will be Jota Sport’s busiest yet, as the British squad takes on full seasons of the FIA World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series with two separate crews and two completely different LMP2 cars.

The Sam Hignett-led team will return to ELMS competition with its tried-and-trusted Gibson 015S Nissan, while also stepping up to the WEC with a brand-new Oreca 05 Nissan, in what has seen the 2014 Le Mans class winners nearly double in size for 2016.

“It’s a big project,” Hignett told Sportscar365. “We’re having to move resources around. We are quite a big team anyway, with all the work we do outside of sports cars. So it’s not a massive step up in the staff we’ve got.

“But it needs to be run as two entirely separate programs because the cars come together to race hopefully at Spa and Le Mans.”

Announced in September, Jota’s step into full-time WEC racing comes after partial two-race programs with its Gibson in recent years, which Hignett said he hopes will continue next year, pending a Le Mans invite for their ELMS car.

Their deal to run an Oreca-Nissan in the WEC, according to Hignett, is partly to prepare for 2017, with the arrival of new LMP2 regulations and a single-engine supplier in the ACO-run championships.

“It’s not an ideal situation but our business model is built on running the two separate cars,” he said. “For us that’s the logical thing to do, looking towards the future. It’s about making sure we’re ready for 2017.

“Interestingly, I believe there are no economies of scale for running two cars. In fact, I believe there’s diseconomies of scale because you need to guarantee the quality across both cars.

“So you need to elevate someone into the position of overseeing both cars, an extra set of eyes, effectively.

“Everything else is exactly the same. The number of people you take in an event is pretty much dictated by how the pit stop works. So you have to be able to service both cars independently.”

Driver lineups for the two programs have yet to be finalized, although Simon Dolan will return to the team’s ELMS program with the Gibson-Nissan and be will be joined at Spa and Le Mans by open-wheel rising star Jake Dennis, the first driver to benefit from Jota’s new partnership with Arden International.

Hignett said it’s also their intention to continue and possibly build on alliances with LMP1 teams, after having worked with Audi factory driver Filipe Albuquerque and Nissan’s Harry Tincknell this year.

“We’re talking to lots of people,” he said. “Our main pool of interest comes from the GP2 and GP3 paddocks because of our partnership with Arden.

“The whole idea there was to bridge the gap between the two paddocks and make it possible for guys to come over to sports car racing and make it applicable.

“I think we’ve proved in that we managed to take [Oliver] Turvey, [Harry] Tincknell and [Mitch] Evans and help them get into factory teams.”

While the team’s focus will be on delivering championships in both series, Hignett admits their WEC program could end up only being for a single year, with a heavier focus towards the continental championship once the new regulations arrive in 2017.

“I think we’re more likely to end up with two cars in ELMS than two cars in WEC,” he said. “I think that’s probably the more likely scenario just because of the budgets. It’s all a juggling act with costs.

“Going WEC in 2016 all comes down to our preparation for 2017 and the way our business model works. That’s the way we’re going forward.”

Hignett said they expect to take delivery of the new Oreca 05 in mid-January, prior to the WEC season-opener at Silverstone in April, in what will be one of three weekends where both the team’s LMP2 cars will be in action.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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