One of the worst-kept secrets in the FIA World Endurance Championship paddock was officially announced Saturday, with Morand Racing and SARD confirming its joint two-car effort for the LMP2 class.
The Japanese-Swiss squad, to be run under the Team SARD-Morand banner, will field Judd-powered Morgan EVO LMP2 cars with a mix of drivers from both of the race-winning outfits.
Christian Klien and Koki Saga will share the wheel of the No. 39 car with a to-be-announced third driver, with Pierre Ragues and 2014 European Le Mans Series champion Oliver Webb in the No. 43 entry.
The third driver for the No. 43 car will be the winner of the team’s “Race to 24″ show and will make their debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and complete the remainder of the FIA WEC season.
The Benoit Morand-led organization makes the step up to the globe-trotting sports car championship after two successful seasons in ELMS competition, which included an overall victory last year.
“For a young team like us, it is an honor to share our destiny with SARD,” Morand said. “SARD’s long history demonstrates that this team has always been searching for new challenges while combining a professional spirit with a family environment.”
Founded in 1972 as Sigma Advanced Racing Development, the Japanese team is no stranger to success, having established a long-term relationship with Toyota both domestically in Super GT competition and also at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A SARD-run Toyota 94C-V prototype claimed a runner-up finish at the French endurance classic in 1994, with Jeff Krosnoff, Eddie Irvine and Mauro Martini at the wheel.
While initially having planned to field a LMP1 entry, the team decided to begin in the cost-capped LMP2 ranks with an existing chassis and engine package. Former Japanese star Hideki Noda will serve as SARD’s team manager.
“SARD became a team of worldwide reputation thanks to their long relationship with Toyota, but they remain very humble,” Morand said. “Hideki Noda previously was a driver of very high standard outside Japan and his global comprehension of motorsports will be very helpful.”
The pair of Onroak Automotive-developed prototypes, pending the entry approval from the FIA WEC, will run on Dunlop tires, with the powerplants badged as SARD.