One of Japan’s most most successful teams is targeting a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year in a potential two-pronged approach that would include a prototype program in the FIA World Endurance Championship as well as a Garage 56 entry. (En Français)
In an Endurance-Info exclusive, representatives from SARD (Sigma Advanced Racing Development) revealed ambitions of fielding a LMP1-L entry next year, with a to-be-announced chassis and engine package.
The Shin Kato-owned operation is closely linked to Toyota, having been a longtime factory team partner and currently running a Lexus RC F in Super GT competition for drivers Hiroaki Ishiura and Oliver Jarvis.
“SARD could start next year in LMP1-L in the FIA WEC, and therefore the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” team representative Hideki Noda told Endurance-Info. “Discussions are currently underway with a team and a manufacturer that are already well established.
“We hope to field a car in 2015, perhaps for a partial-season program before a full presence the following season.”
Noda, a former open-wheel and sports car driver, has recently turned his attention to assisting with the team’s Le Mans program.
SARD are no strangers to the 24-hour classic, having fielded the first-ever Japanese car to qualify for Le Mans, the Sigma MC73, prior to running a factory Toyota 89C-V in the World Sportscar Championship.
Additionally, SARD became the first team to win a 24-hour race with a hybrid-powered car, taking a Toyota Supra HV-R to victory in the Tokachi 24 Hours in 2007.
The challenge this time around, though, comes with competing in the new-for-2014 LMP1-L class, which has seen slim competition thus far from Rebellion Racing and Lotus, which will debut its car later this month at Circuit of The Americas.
“We know that LMP1-L will not have the [exact lap] times of a LMP-1H but we cannot spend that kind of money to be in the hybrid class,” Noda said. “Nevertheless, it’s our belief that we will be competitive. We will do everything to be there in 2015.”
Plans are also being put into place for a potential Garage 56 entry for next year, featuring a concept that “has nothing to do with LMP1-L” according to Noda.
More should be known on this project by November, should it be granted an invite from the ACO.
Kato, meanwhile, denied rumors that SARD had been exploring the possibility of running a Toyota TS040 Hybrid at Le Mans next year, citing the costs involved for such a project.
Instead, all focus is around the proposed LMP1-L entry, with further meetings with its undisclosed manufacturer partner scheduled in the coming weeks.
An announcement is expected by fall, should SARD’s LMP1-L program get the official green light.