Davey Euwema is a 23-year-old writer and motorsport enthusiast based out of Rotterdam, the Netherlands and the Sportscar Editor at MotorsportWeek.com and Motorsport Monday. In this column series, he shares his thoughts, stories and experiences from the world of sportscar racing.
Le Mans class winner Alex Lynn made headlines last week when he was announced as Paul di Resta’s LMP2 team-mate at United Autosports for the 2021 edition of the great race.
Arguably, there’s few better United Autosports could have signed. After two years racing factory GTE machinery, alongside his budding Formula E career, Lynn has grown into one of the top endurance drivers on the market following Aston Martin’s departure from factory racing at the end of last year.
He’s also already got his fair share of prototype experience. The former Williams test driver debuted in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2016 with Manor and joined G-Drive Racing for a full campaign with the ORECA 07-Gibson in 2017.This resulted in his Le Mans debut and maiden WEC win at Spa-Francorchamps.
In between, he also pulled off the not-so-small-feat of helping Wayne Taylor Racing to an overall win in the Twelve Hours of Sebring in a Cadillac DPi-VR, so it is safe to say the 27-year-old is handy behind the wheel of a prototype.
While recent observers might see Lynn as a GT racer, one could argue he’s actually more of a prototype man. Lynn himself labels his United Autosports move as ‘coming home’.
The deal between the Briton and the top prototype squad is a good one for both, no doubt, but it also serves as something of the latest example of a trend that has steadily increased over the past couple of months and is only likely to get even bigger: drivers and teams looking to the future of the sport and opting to make a transition into prototypes rather than GTs.
Lynn’s move is the latest in a line of top GT stars moving into prototypes. His Aston Martin team-mate Nicki Thiim did it, racing alongside another GT ace, Kelvin van der Linde, in a Phoenix Racing-entered LMP2 car at the Asian Le Mans Series.
Peeking into the 2021 entry list for both the WEC and European Le Mans Series show more examples: the likes of former DTM racers like Robin Frijns, Jonathan Aberdein and Robert Kubica, GT stars like Charlie Eastwood, Patrick Pilet and Harry Tincknell (although the latter already had prototype chops), are all racing LMP2s in 2021.
Teams are getting in on the act as well. Aside from the aforementioned Phoenix Racing, established squads like Team WRT are moving towards prototypes.
Recently, Black Falcon announced a Ligier LMP3 programme for the Road to Le Mans and even Risi Competizione, staple of Ferrari GT racing, will contest the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an ORECA 07-Gibson this year.
So why is this focus shift happening? Why are teams and drivers usually associated with GT3 and GTE making a transition to prototypes?
The answer, of course, lies in the future: the arrival of Le Mans Hypercar and LMDh. With the new prototype regulations proving popular with major manufacturers, more and more of them are moving to commit to a top line prototype program for 2023 and beyond.
For teams and drivers alike, the opportunity to race for overall victory at Le Mans and Daytona as well as part of being as a top-level factory programme is simply too good to pass up.
And even if you don’t make it to a factory seat, the expected influx of customer-based entries into the class is a very tempting alternative.
Eight manufacturers are currently publicly committed to either LMH or LMDh. Hypercar currently counts Toyota, Peugeot, Ferrari, ByKolles and Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus amongst its ranks, while Audi, Porsche and Acura have committed to LMDh.
While that is already more than enough to provide us with some very interesting grids, it could become even greater. RACER’s Marshall Pruett recently reported that the likes of Bentley, Lamborghini and BMW could potentially also join later down the line.
In that light, Lynn’s prospective switch back from three years of GTE to the cockpit of a prototype makes perfect sense.
Even if the Briton won Le Mans and developed himself into one of the best sportscar aces currently going, memories in racing can be awfully short and he needs to make sure that he is at the top of the list of as many manufacturers as possible.
What also helps is that this trajective of LMP2 to a top Hypercar seat has already proven itself to work. Lynn’s United Autosports team-mate, Paul di Resta, spent three years turning heads in the secondary prototype class and has been rewarded with a spot in Peugeot’s Hypercar squad.
The same goes for Jean-Eric Vergne, who reinvented himself with G-Drive Racing after leaving F1, and will now join Di Resta at Peugeot. Last but not least: Mikkel Jensen, who went from LMP3 to LMP2 and is now set to make the next step when Peugeot joins the WEC in 2022.
So with that in mind, Lynn is well within his right to return to prototype racing to try and get himself a seat for 2023 and beyond.
The same goes for all of those other drivers and teams gunning to be a part of sportscar racing’s next great Gold Rush. Who will end up where? Only time will tell…