Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson says it was an “obvious” decision for the British manufacturer to build an LMP1 car to enter the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship.
Speaking at the Autosport International Show, Tomlinson explained that Ginetta had been considering the move even before Audi’s withdrawal prompted the ACO to freeze the LMP1 regulations until the end of 2019.
Ginetta had been the fore-runners of the LMP3 category, winning the inaugural championship in 2015 with Charlie Robertson and Olympic cycling hero Sir Chris Hoy, then developed the G57/P2 after an unsuccessful bid to win an LMP2 tender.
Whilst ineligible for ACO competition, the G57 has tasted success in the French VdeV championship and fledgling 24H Proto Series, winning the second part of the 3×3 in Dubai last week.
The LMP1 project will be the final rung on Ginetta’s prototype ladder and marks its return top-flight sports car racing for the first time since the Mansell family entered a Ginetta-badged Zytek at Le Mans in 2010.
Tomlinson said that with LMP2 now a spec class, the business case for LMP1 was clear and suggested that three customer-supported teams would play an active role in developing the as-yet-unnamed chassis, which will feature the design talents of Paolo Catone and Adrian Reynard.
It is likely to run with a Mechachrome engine and Xtrac gearbox.
“It was an obvious thing for us to look at,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve always looked at the top category and I think every manufacturer looks at the top category at Le Mans.
“If you’re not doing Formula 1, which we’re not and we don’t have aspirations to do that, then the World Endurance Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours is the highest prize you can go for.
“We looked at P2 and I think it was difficult for the ACO to give us the P2 contract because we’d only just done the P3. I guess perhaps we were six months too early for them to evaluate us truly, but when we didn’t get the P2, it was obvious we could redistribute those resources and look more deeply at P1.
“Now P2 is a spec category, it isn’t everybody who wants to go spec-racing with one engine and a very tight design brief – you buy the car, you’re the customer, you run it.
“We’re not just supplying cars. As the program develops, and the partnership with the three teams that we will probably be partnering with, they’ll have their own ideas about what they want to do and it will be for us to facilitate that and get the correct balance.
“Your running budget in WEC is substantial, so whether you run a wheelbarrow or you run an LMP1 car, your fixed costs are huge.
“The top up to having your own LMP1 car with an engine contract when you spread it out over the five years is not massive.”
Tomlinson, who won the GT2 category at Le Mans as a driver in 2006 with Panoz, is confident that the successes of the G57 and LMP3 Ginetta, which recently won its class in the Asian Le Mans Series Four Hours of Buriram, will translate into LMP1 with Reynard and Catone’s input.
“Ginetta took LMP3 which wasn’t happening, Ligier were not committed to LMP3, Ginetta opened up the category and we made a big success of it,” he said.
“Whichever category we go into, whether it’s GT4, Junior racing or our own one-make series, everybody knows that we’re there for the long run and we make a success of it.
“The G57/P2 was a car that we were always going to do before LMP3 even existed and it’s a great car – we’ve just come back from Dubai where I’m told we broke the LMP2 record.
“So anyone who’s thinking about coming with us to P1 can be assured that we have a great team and we can deliver a car that meets all the criteria and exceeds it.
“But also we’re strengthening with Adrian Reynard and his extra aero facilities over in America, as well as Paolo Catone, plus we have other guys who are joining the team from a strong aero background that we haven’t announced yet.
“Adrian is a personal friend of mine. He has been doing this a long time and he’s extremely good at what he does.
“The original design of the Gibson that won the European Le Mans Series last year was penned by Adrian probably about 1999 – of course it’s been modified as it goes, but he designed it as the 675 chassis and it’s still the car to beat, or the car that didn’t get beat.
“If you can design a car going on for 20 years ago that’s still current, then I’m sure that with what we know, what Adrian knows and what Paolo knows, that we have a winning combination even before we start.”
In addition to technical partnerships, Tomlinson confirmed that Ginetta has also expanded its facilities to be prepared for LMP1.
“I think we’ve already got the resource in place to deliver the project internally with about another three appointments, mainly technical, but those are already underway,” he said.
“We have people waiting to join us who are contractually unable to join us yet or be mentioned.
“We’ve up-scaled the carbon facility which is already in-house, we’ve bought another building next door, another 15,000-square foot building to give us extra room, so we’re already geared up for it.”