A leading LMP2 team has warned that it would be “too risky” to end up with only a single constructor in the class, amid the recent trend of teams moving to Oreca 07 Gibson machinery in both the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship.
Last month’s ELMS round at Silverstone saw the two-car Panis-Barthez Competition and United Autosports squads each swap one of its Ligier JS P217 Gibson entries to Orecas, while United also debuting an Oreca in the WEC season-opener in place of its initially entered Ligier.
While Orecas dominate the ELMS grid, with 13 of the 18 entries at Silverstone, all but one full-season WEC LMP2 team now run Orecas, following United’s late switch and Racing Team Nederland’s off-season move from a Dallara P217 Gibson to a TDS Racing-run Oreca.
A similar situation exists in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which currently sees two full-season entries, also both being Orecas.
Panis-Barthez team manager Simon Abadie told Sportscar365 that his team’s switch came down to tire optimization, with Abadie claiming that the Dunlops ‘work better’ with the Oreca chassis.
However, the migration over the last 12 months from multiple other teams is understood to also be down to the freeze in the category’s development, despite Ligier and Dallara’s one-time ‘jokers’ approved by the ACO last year, which were unable to bridge the performance gap to the Oreca.
While being one of the latest teams to park a Ligier, Abadie has warned that the entire ELMS LMP2 grid could eventually become a defacto spec class.
United is known to be working on acquiring an additional Oreca chassis to replace its second Ligier by as soon as the next round at Spa-Francorchamps, which would leave Inter Europol Competition and second entries from Panis-Barthez and IDEC Sport, as well as a Dallara from Carlin as the only non-Orecas on the grid.
“For me, it’s too risky to have only one [constructor],” Abadie told Sportscar365. “It’s very important to have all the teams fighting, but between different [constructors].
“It’s hard for Ligier to sell their car, but in the end, it’s a sport. ORECA has done a good job, so that’s it.
“It’s like in Formula 1, Mercedes is doing a good job, it’s a sport.
“For me, it’s important for us to continue in the same spirit. I hope we can have more [constructors] and I also hope that it opens more windows for the drivers.”
ORECA President Hugues de Chaunac has admitted the current situation is a “pity” due to the lack of competition but by the same token has praised his company’s level of support.
Both United and Panis purchased Oreca chassis from IMSA teams JDC-Miller Motorsports and CORE autosport, respectively, largely due to chassis availability on short notice and amid the start of the WEC season.
However, it’s understood additional Oreca chassis are currently in build to meet the recently increased demand.
“On one side, it’s a pity because we like competition with the other car manufacturers,” de Chaunac told Sportscar365. “For sure, we like it. On the other hand, we are just doing our job.
“If some teams like United and Panis-Barthez decide to change right now, it’s also because of the results of the very hard work that we have done on the technical side, but also on the customer support side.
“For me, customer support is one of our priorities, to ensure that we have a good advantage on it.”
Abadie said Panis-Barthez is currently undecided on whether they’ll make the full switch to Oreca machinery for 2020.
“For next season we don’t know what will happen,” he said.
“We will start with one Oreca and maybe one Ligier. We don’t know yet. We think the car is not too bad but maybe it’s difficult to sell the Ligier so we decide to use the Oreca only.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report