United Autosports is targeting an expansion into the FIA World Endurance Championship, with prospects of a LMP2 program for the 2019-20 season according to team co-owner Zak Brown.
The Anglo-American squad, which fields four cars in both the European and Asian Le Mans Series, could have up to two Ligier JS P217 Gibsons in the globe-trotting championship full-time next season, although Brown indicated that an initial single-car effort would be a more “realistic” option.
“We haven’t hit the bullseye yet but that’s the aim,” Brown told reporters last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps.
“We really like the European Le Mans Series, so I see us as a permanent fixture in [the ELMS] paddock for many years to come. I’d like to see us do the World Endurance Championship and we’re making good progress to get there.”
A WEC program would come at the expense of the team’s initial ambitions for a DPi operation in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which Brown said has now been shelved.
Team co-owner and managing director Richard Dean told Sportscar365 last month that it was evaluating a full-time DPi entry for 2020, with initial talks having been made with Onroak Automotive for the use of one of its Onroak Nissan DPis.
“Unfortunately with the DPi rules and LMP2 going two separate directions, I think there’s much more likelihood we’ll do World Endurance than start a team in America,” Brown said.
“[It’s] really more of just where we’re based; it’s not an anti-IMSA thing at all. I love IMSA and I’d like to do all three if we could.
“I think what’s driven that is the rule changes. If everything’s just an extension of your existing team, which is what WEC would be, that’s more attractive than getting into separate cars.
“I don’t want to be in the second class. But there’s a difference in my mind between LMP1 and LMP2 and DPi and LMP2, which is kind of like DPi light.”
Chassis Switch Not Ruled Out for 2019
Brown has not ruled out a switch of LMP2 chassis, should the Ligier prove to not be competitive next year.
It comes amid increased talks between Onroak and the FIA and ACO over a potential second ‘Joker’ allowance for the Ligier, which along with the Dallara P217, have still been unable to match the outright pace of the Oreca 07 Gibsons in LMP2 competition worldwide.
While hopeful of additional performance allowances given to the Ligier, Brown indicated they will be keeping a close eye on possible developments.
“We won’t race with any manufacturer we don’t think we can win with,” he said. “Whatever we race next year, which we intend to race with Ligier, is because we think we can win it.
“If we thought we couldn’t be competitive with Ligier, I would make a change.”
In addition to operating Ligier LMP2 and LMP3 cars, the team also serves as the official UK importer for the French constructor.