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United Looking to Add Second Oreca for LMP2 Title Defense

United Autosports considering second WEC entry as part of plans to defend its 2020 titles…

Photo: United Autosports

United Autosports could add a second Oreca 07 Gibson to its FIA World Endurance Championship program next year, according to the title-winning outfit’s managing director Richard Dean who says a two-car entry for 2021 “makes a lot of sense.”

United joined the WEC full-time with a single car for the 2019-20 season, which finishes up next weekend at the 8 Hours of Bahrain.

The team clinched the LMP2 drivers’ and teams’ championships after Paul di Resta, Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson took victory in September’s 24 Hours of Le Mans round.

Dean said that United plans to continue in both the WEC and the European Le Mans Series LMP2 ranks next year, while it could add a second Oreca in the former to make it two cars in each competition.

United crews finished first and second in the 2020 ELMS LMP2 standings while it also triumphed in the LMP3 category with Wayne Boyd, Tom Gamble and Rob Wheldon.

“We’ll remain with two cars in ELMS LMP2 and we’ll remain with two cars in LMP3,” Dean told Sportscar365.

“We want to go and defend the titles. In WEC, it’ll definitely be one car. We’d like to add a second car there.

“It makes a lot of sense to have two cars there for a whole host of reasons, from shared resources to shared information and data.

“It’s a long way to go to a faraway place like Fuji, knowing you could have a first-corner incident with one car and you’re out of the race. [Having] two cars gives you a better chance to stay in contention.

“With the new calendar, there are new opportunities and it makes a little more sense to run two.

“We’d like to add a second car, but that’s far from confirmed. There’s a lot of work to do, to get to that point.”

When asked if United might consider running an LMP2 car in the WEC’s proposed sub-division for lineups with Bronze-rated drivers, Dean said this could present an option.

United tested its ELMS Orecas at Portimao earlier this week, while its roster of drivers included a current Bronze-rated WEC GTE-Am competitor.

It also previously ran a car in the Asian Le Mans Series’ similar ‘LMP2 Am’ sub-category, in addition to its overall 2018-19 title-winning effort with di Resta and Hanson.

“You can never rule anything out,” suggested Dean. “We ran it in Asia and I wouldn’t rule it out, but I think our preference would be to have two cars to go for the ‘overall’ class win.”

A two-car program in the WEC would enable United to contest next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with four cars, combining the full-season entries with its automatic entries earned this year.

While United achieved a total of four auto-entries for its various 2020 successes, the Le Mans supplementary regulations state it can only use up two of the invitations.

“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” said Dean at the prospect of potentially running four cars at Le Mans.

“September is not that long ago. The lack of sleep that we all went through and the stress at the end of it is sticking with me.

“Maybe after the season’s finished we’ll forget about the painful side of Le Mans and start to look at the opportunities there.

“I won’t rule out finding a way to take up at least one of the invitations that we’ve won.”

Daytona Plans Take a Step Back

Last month United announced an intention to enter the Rolex 24 at Daytona with two cars in LMP3, but those plans have stalled after the confirmation of the driver lineup composition rules for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s new category.

Dean admitted that the possibility of competing without a Bronze-rated driver did not match his initial expectations when United provisionally declared its involvement.

“I wrongly presumed that they would mirror what goes on in the ELMS where it’s mandated to have a Bronze in the car, and you have to have a Bronze in for almost 50 percent of the race,” he said.

“Now you can run three Silvers and a Gold, it definitely changes things. It’s set me back to zero again. I thought I was pretty advanced [with plans] but was wrong to assume where they were going with it.

“They’ve changed it completely now, so we’re going to have to start again on how we get to that driver lineup to be able to compete, and the budget to be able to do the event.”

Dean added that if Daytona entries were closing today, United “wouldn’t have a car on the grid.”

“We’ve been pretty busy with other things as well, so I haven’t had my full attention focused on it,” he said. “I’m going to have to do it pretty quick otherwise we’re going to miss out.”

Elsewhere, the team has “suddenly had some inquiries” about potential Asian Le Mans Series programs, following the championship’s move to Abu Dhabi for the 2021 season.

Dean indicated that the new February format should be more attractive to European teams based on its easier logistics requirements compared to South East Asia.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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