United Autosports has been able to rely on its “well-structured” operation amid the team’s expansion to a three-car LMP2 effort for the 24 Hours of Le Mans according to co-owner/managing director Richard Dean.
The Anglo-American squad has added a third Oreca 07 Gibson after previously running a two-car team in the last three editions of the French endurance classic.
In addition to its full-season FIA World Endurance Championship entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Phil Hanson and Fabio Scherer, United has added two additional cars, partially made up of its European Le Mans Series driving roster.
Its ELMS LMP2 drivers Nico Jamin, Manuel Maldanado and Jonathan Aberdein have been joined by reigning ELMS LMP3 champion Wayne Boyd, Formula E ace Alex Lynn and team regular Paul di Resta.
Coupled with its four-car LMP3 entry in next weekend’s Road to Le Mans race, the event will mark the team’s largest-ever effort, with more than 120 personnel expected to be on-site.
Dean said a lot of planning has specifically gone into this event months in advance.
“When you say you go from one car to two or two cars to three, it sounds easy and you just duplicate what you’ve done,” he told Sportscar365.
“But it does add other complications, which is not so much around the logistics and personnel but around the planning for the car prep, the car spares, etc.
“Each department has been focusing on their own issues: logistics, planning, people…
“I think because we’re running two cars in ELMS and one in WEC, it’s not been quite as difficult as you’d imagine.
“Of course there’s some people that cross over but there’s also a few people who are unique to each program.”
Dean said some crew from its ELMS LMP3 effort have stepped up to the LMP2 operation for Le Mans.
“When you take the fact that most the people we’ve got are full-time, there’s a lot of good, quality people in the ELMS LMP3 team that have been desperate for an opportunity to get involved in a LMP2 car,” he said.
“When you take our WEC, ELMS and IMSA LMP2 programs and our ELMS LMP3 program and the fact that IMSA is not running this weekend, it’s a little bit easier.
“But we’ve then complicated it further with four cars in the Road to Le Mans race.”
While the logistics behind the seven-car total effort may sound daunting, Dean said the “biggest issue” for Le Mans has been working through the ACO’s COVID-19 protocols and the country-specific regulations.
It’s something the team has already faced first-hand this year, with both Scherer and Job van Uitert having been forced out of the team’s WEC and ELMS races at Portimao and Monza, respectively, due to positive COVID-19 tests.
“There’s not one set of rules as we know,” Dean said of the Le Mans COVID protocol. “It’s if you’ve got one vaccine, you’ve got no vaccine, if you have two vaccines, etc.
“That department is particularly busy and under pressure.
“We’re doing our own COVID testing here daily. With a big operation like this, it’s got its risks as well.
“If we do get a positive test case — unless we’re in control of how we managed people — it could take a lot of people down and have a big consequence for it.
“The biggest pressure is from that side. When you throw in a little bit of Brexit confusion as well with carnets and things… I think we’ve got 12 trailers here.
“It’s a big operation but we’re well-structured.
“Every department has permanent people that work in there that’s responsible for that department.
“I think when you don’t have somebody responsible and you’re asking people to do a dozen jobs, things fall between the gaps. Thankfully [that’s not the case] so far.”
While returning as defending race winners in LMP2, Dean doesn’t necessarily believe their chances of a repeat win increases by having the third entry.
“The fact that it is a 24-hour race just spreads that opportunity of a win coming from any direction,” he said.
“Why not one of our three cars? We’re definitely going to be competitive.
“If we’ve done our homework and planning right and we can get through the race, it would be nice to think that we can get into Sunday morning and all three cars will still be in contention.”
Albuquerque: Three Cars Increases Chances for Team Victory
Former Audi LMP1 factory driver Albuquerque, who was part of the manufacturer’s three-car Le Mans effort in 2014-15, says he believes there’s still strength in numbers.
“I think having two is important so we can try different ideas,” he told Sportscar365. “I think that’s the minimum. With three, it opens the window of probability for the team to win.
“That’s great and that’s why Audi was putting in a third car.
“When you were talking back in the time of having complex cars — a little bit like Toyota has now — if they had a third car it’s like 33 percent more of having a chance to win.
“If one has a problem and another has an accident, they’re done [if only with two cars].
“For United they have a great chance to win again with great lineups in all three cars.
“Two cars helps to do different strategies on reading in the pre-test, other than that, it just increases the chances for the team itself to win.”