Le Mans: LMP2 stunners and spoilers

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We’re taking a look through the field ahead of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans at the manufacturers and teams entered. Next up is LMP2 (pictured right is the Signatech Alpine entry shading the No. 2 Toyota).

ENTRY LIST

LMP2: The class of the future might need to enjoy the present while it still can. As the four chassis constructors for 2017 will be selected, 2015 might mark one of the last years with so much diversity in the cost-capped class. Nissan still powers 14 of the 19 cars, but with Ligier/Morgan (Onroak), BR, Alpine, ORECA, Gibson and Dome all represented in the class, there’s still plenty of chassis variety.

  • G-Drive Racing: The No. 26 car won at Silverstone and the No. 28 car has come second in both races thus far; it would be a surprise if either or both of these Ligier JS P2 Nissans aren’t in podium contention come sunrise.
  • SMP Racing: In only the second race for the BR01 chassis, experience and laps are the goal for this team. Some good drivers are split in the team’s two cars, notably ex-IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin who makes his Le Mans debut in the No. 37 car.
  • Pegasus Racing: The IndyCar or F1 comparison team here would be Dale Coyne Racing or Minardi. Pegasus presses on with a minimal budget, a less than dominant driver lineup and an aging package, but will look to finish.
  • Tequila Patron ESM: What an odyssey it’s been for Scott Sharp’s team the last six months. From the challenging HPD ARX-04b to the older, venerable HPD ARX-03b and now to a pair of Ligier JS P2 Hondas, Sharp’s one constant in 2015 has been chassis changes. The cars are better, they look awesome in Rolling Stone livery, and the lineups are good, but the class is so deep that for a first-year Le Mans program, a win would be a stretch to predict.
  • OAK Racing: OAK remains the flagship team name for Jacques Nicolet’s operation, even though G-Drive represents Nicolet and Onroak’s best shot at a class win. Still, while Nicolet himself and his pair of gentlemen co-drivers won’t be threatening the class podium, it’s the team’s No. 34 Ligier JS P2 Honda of Le Mans rookies Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Chris Cumming that is a top sleeper in class. They’re all quick – particularly Cumming, as the required Silver driver – and if reliability holds up they’re one to watch.
  • Signatech Alpine: Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Vincent Capillaire in a French-entered, Alpine chassis is about as good of a local bet in class as you can get. The trio’s damn good and underrated; a definite win contender.
  • Jota Sport: The defending class winners will again factor into the outcome in the updated Gibson 015S chassis, and enter fresh off a class win as a wild card entry in Spa. The team is one of the best in Europe.
  • Krohn Racing: Tracy Krohn has been a Le Mans and sports car stalwart for the longest time, but it remains to be seen whether his LMP2 entry can figure into the equation. Nic Jonsson and Joao Barbosa round out a solid lineup in the class’ lone Ligier JS P2 Judd.
  • Greaves Motorsport: The ELMS winners at Silverstone have a respectable lineup and another Nissan GT Academy winner in a seat, in the form of late addition Gaetan Paletou. Like the Dyson/McMurry/TKS entry last year, this car should be shooting for a finish, with anything more a bonus.
  • Strakka Racing: A former Le Mans class-winning team, the lone Dome in the field may find the sledding a bit tougher this year. Still a solid team and the same driver lineup of Kane, Watts and Leventis make a welcome return after a year’s hiatus.
  • Team SARDMorand: The team’s finances, more than its performance, have dominated headlines around this group this year. Pace was impressive at Spa and another decent driver lineup, but hard to project more than a top-five at best.
  • Ibanez Racing: Like the all-gentlemen OAK entry and Pegasus car, it’s hard to see this entry figuring much into the equation in the older ORECA 03R Nissan.
  • Thiriet by TDS Racing: Came second here a year ago in the debut of the Ligier JS P2 Nissan; now armed with another new car in the ORECA 05 Nissan and the same driver lineup, they’ll try to go one better.
  • KCMG: A sneaky win contender if the reliability is there on the new ORECA 05 Nissan. Howson and Bradley have tasted WEC class wins before and Nicolas Lapierre is an excellent choice as the third driver.
  • Murphy Prototypes: Older car, decent but not spectacular driver lineup, and it’s hard to see “Murphy’s Men” doing much more than a top-five at best.