Recently crowned European Le Mans Series LMP2 champions 10Star DragonSpeed confirmed earlier on Tuesday their intentions to enter the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The team will debut in 2018 as the part of newly dubbed “super season,” stretching from April 2018 to June 2019 and featuring a return to the Mobil 12 Hours of Sebring and two runnings of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“The whole team is thrilled and up for the challenge. Having won sports car titles in GT3 and LMP2, the natural progression for our highly talented and motivated crew is to move up to LMP1,” said team principal Elton Julian. “We’re carefully studying potential partners who can help us put together a program which will deliver the progress and success we want for DragonSpeed. Everyone is on the same page in terms of the package and approach we need, and we can’t wait to get started.”
The LMP1 class has been shrouded in unknowns since Porsche revealed that their LMP1 program will end after this season, creating the possibility of a factory effort from Toyota Gazoo Racing competing against a slew of privateer teams.
Despite the uncertainty, Julian feels it serves as a great opportunity for privateer teams like his. “I look back to 2005, when I first drove at Le Mans. You had a single works team with Audi plus a great supporting cast of privateers running six different chassis and four different engines. In fact, the pole went to one of the privateers,” he explained. “If Toyota continues – and we all hope they will – I think over the next couple of years we can bring back that variety and tradition of privateers being genuinely competitive in the top class.”
Drivers Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley shared Julian’s enthusiasm about facing the challenge of LMP1 competition.
“The chance to progress to the premier level of endurance racing with such a successful and close-knit group made this an easy decision,” said Hedman. “Step by step, we’ve grown together and achieved a lot. I applaud the ACO and FIA for the new schedule and the opportunity it has created. I’m committed to preparing myself and applying everything I’ve learned over the past few seasons to racing the new generation of LMP1 cars with Elton and the team.”
Added Hanley, “I’m really happy to continue with DragonSpeed on its journey. Moving up to the WEC and LMP1 is a great chance for us to fight for overall podium results, especially at Le Mans given the issues the hybrids have had there the last few years. Henrik never stops improving and his commitment is an inspiration to the entire team. Having enjoyed one-off drives with a few WEC LMP2 teams this season, I can say for certain that DragonSpeed are up to the job.”