It’s been a long wait, but the 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is finally upon us. What can we look forward to in the LMP2 class? MotorsportWeek.com takes a closer look.
With a grid as strong as this, don’t be surprised if LMP2 becomes the class where the action happens. The class features the largest class of the race with 24 cars, and it sees the WEC top teams partner up against some very strong competition.
For starters, there’s United Autosports. The team is riding an unprecedented wave of momentum, having won three straight WEC rounds in a row. The #22 ORECA 07-Gibson of Phil Hanson, Paul di Resta and Filipe Albuquerque has to be seen as a favorite. This is something that Hanson himself cautiously echoes, as he exclusively told Motorsport Monday on Saturday.
“I think it’s pretty clear that we’re probably the favorites going in,” Hanson said. “I think there’s a few favorites. If you look down the grid, there’s a lot of cars that have been quick all year and have been a tough fight for us. So there’s a few cars that follow the category of what you might call a favorite.
“And then also there’s a lot of teams that have very good success at Le Mans, I think Alpine being the standout one in the last three years, so then you’ve got to account for them.
“And then the more you do that, the more you look down the field and there’s always reasons why you can’t ignore any of the other cars. Because if something happens to the top five or the top six, then the next six come into play.
“So I think if I’m honest, such a long race and literally anything can happen, things you can’t even foresee or can’t even imagine might happen twenty minutes later. You can’t not think that those cars are going to be a competition for you.”
United Autosports will have to contest with their regular WEC opponents, including Racing Team Nederland, Jackie Chan DC Racing, JOTA and defending champions Signatech Alpine Elf. Outside that, there’s a number of European Le Mans Series entrants that could pose a serious threat.
Amongst those are the second car from the United Autosports garage. The #32 ORECA will be driven by Will Owen and Alex Brundle, partnered by Job van Uitert. The Dutchman is taking part at Le Mans for the second time, and was one of the standout drivers during the 2019 edition.
Van Uiter debuted last year with G-Drive Racing’s #26 Aurus 01 Gibson, which is back again this year. In 2020, it isdriven by the ever-strong pair of Roman Rusinov and Jean-Eric Vergne, joined by Mikkel Jensen.
The Russian team missed out on the LMP2 win last year when their starter motor broke on Sunday morning and are surely looking for revenge. Also potentially threatening are top ELMS squads IDEC Sport and Panis Racing, which both can’t be counted out.
To make things even more interesting, the class has attracted a number of one-off entrants that could very easily be in with a shout. One of the more eye-catching is a late entry for G-Drive by Algarve. The team has entered the #16 ORECA for Ryan Cullen, top IMSA DPi star and ex-Audi LMP1 racer Oliver Jarvis and 2015 overall winner and GTE star Nick Tandy.
Juan Pablo Montoya is also back on the grid, joining the never-to-be-estimated Dragonspeed crew, which has entered two cars. The other car stars Rolex 24 at Daytona double winner Renger van der Zande.
With such star power, LMP2 could easily be the one to keep an eye on come Saturday, something that Phil Hanson agrees on.
“Good to hear that there’s a lot of top drivers and big names coming into the sport because it makes it all the more grand and big of an event when you have a strong grid that you’re trying to beat as opposed to a grid of five, for example,” said the LMP2 championship leader. “I’m happy that they are attracting all these big names in the sport because it heightens the event, really.”