2024 Le Mans Preview: LMP2 – Football News

2024 Le Mans Preview: LMP2

LMP2 has been a stalwart class at Le Mans for two decades. And the era that began in 2017, with every car powered by the sonorous naturally-aspirated Gibson GK 428 V8 engine, has seen the pace of the ‘junior’ prototype class bring real excitement to the overall race.

In the Hypercar era the LMP2 cars have been reeled in somewhat to allow the top class to race separately. Whilst the LMP2s in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) got a power boost this season, for Le Mans they are back to their previous WEC levels at ~540 bhp.

This is also the first season that the class has not formed part of the FIA WEC. Instead, the majority of the entries came from the ELMS – with others entered via success in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship and Asian Le Mans Chassis.

Whilst other chassis are available in the class, the reality is that the ORECA 07 dominates and fulfils all 16 entries here in both the LMP2 and LMP2 Pro-Am classes. All LMP2s run on Goodyear tyres.

LMP2 – 8 Cars

#9 PROTON COMPETITION DEU G Oreca 07 – Gibson Jonas Ried (DEU) S Maceo Capietto (FRA) S Bent Viscaal (NLD) G

Proton Competition is entering no fewer than five cars in three classes, with the #9 as their solo LMP2 effort (and their class debut at Le Mans) alongside their Porsche 963 Hypercar and a trio of LMGT3 Ford Mustangs.

The effort transfers from the ELMS for Le Mans and includes three drivers, all drawn from their two-car European campaign.

Jonas Ried is a third-generation racer from the owning family of the team. His father Christian, the former WEC ‘Iron Man’, retired from the driving seat just last year to focus on the business side of the team, and his son’s sporting efforts.  Jonas is gaining experience, speed, and consistency. A Sunday morning shunt ended his debut last year in GTE Am.  He’s learning – learning the hard way perhaps, but learning!

18-year-old French rookie Maceo Capietto is quietly building experience via the ELMS and makes his debut at Le Mans this year with a lot to learn.

Bent Viscaal, meanwhile, is quick, and smart – and as the ‘senior driver’ at just 24, he has a big task here in gathering this young squad around him. Recently, Viscaal got his first taste of LMDh race experience with Proton in IMSA – an experience which may serve him well this week at Le Mans.

The #9 crew should be looking to stay out of trouble – and sometimes, that’s all it takes to be in the mix.

#10 VECTOR SPORT GBR G Oreca 07 – Gibson Ryan Cullen (GBR) S Patrick Pilet (FRA) P Stéphane Richelmi (MCO) G

UK-based Vector Sport is entering its third Le Mans 24 Hours, this time as a full-season ELMS entrant after the opportunity to race in WEC disappeared for the team; both with the end of the LMP2 class in the Championship and with the last-minute cessation of their deal to run the Isotta Fraschini Hypercar effort.

The team is bringing two of its regular ELMS drivers to the big race with Vector Sport mainstay Ryan Cullen and 2016 LMP2 winner Stephane Richelmi.

Patrick Pilet completes the lineup, making his 16th consecutive Le Mans start. He was a real star at Le Mans a few years ago as a last-minute replacement for the injured Dwight Merriman, and now he’s been added by Vector Sport to replace Whelen Cadillac-bound Felipe Drugovich.

Vector Sport has had a tricky run towards the race with a very significant testing accident at Spa requiring major repairs to their car. We’ll soon see whether that was a major issue, or whether the team can bounce back into contention.

#22 UNITED AUTOSPORTS GBR G Oreca 07 – Gibson Oliver Jarvis (GBR) P Bijoy Garg (USA) S Nolan Siegel (USA) G

2020 LMP2 class winners United Autosports return with a decadent trio of fast young drivers.

Oliver Jarvis is a world-class racer and provides the ideal anchor for this effort, and he was the fastest LMP2 driver on Test Day. His influence and experience – which includes an LMP2 class win in 2017 – will help the team’s Silver-graded driver, Bijoy Garg, learn – and learn fast – about the uniqueness of this event.

Garg’s performance will be key to the potential result here – as he continues his ascent from the ranks of IMSA’s LMP3 ranks.

Adding further significant punch is 19-year-old Nolan Siegel, a highly-touted IndyCar talent and a young man who has already shown that his single-seater speed is also readily on tap in an LMP2 car. His first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 ended with him being the one driver who failed to qualify, but certainly not for a lack of speed and talent. Siegel will certainly want to make up for that setback in his Le Mans debut.

Jarvis, Siegel, and Garg are a perfect example of three great drivers running for a world-class team. If misfortune avoids them, they can come home with one of the biggest prizes in motorsport.

#24 NIELSEN RACING GBR G Oreca 07 – Gibson Fabio Scherer (CHE) G David Heinemeier Hansson (DNK) S Kyffin Simpson (USA) G

A first effort in the LMP2 ‘Pro’ class at Le Mans is another step forward for David ‘Sven’ Thompson’s ambitious outfit.

Nielsen Racing expanded to a two-car effort in the ELMS this year. Their loyalty to ACO rules racing now sees them as regular invitees to the big race.

The driving squad of the #24 is an interesting one – with defending LMP2 class winner Fabio Scherer, who delivered under pressure with a broken left heel, joining ELMS full-season Silver David Heinemeier Hansson. The pair have good chemistry, decent speed and consistency, all of which will be major bonuses for the gruelling race week ahead.

Completing the trio is Kyffin Simpson, another blindingly quick young talent, now a full-season IndyCar driver who’s finding his feet in a very tough field.  The Caymanian seems to light up when aboard an LMP2 car.  He’s produced some spellbinding stints and some great results. He arrives at Le Mans after his Indy 500 debut last month – and will certainly be one to watch!

This is a classic example of a team that, if everyone produces their best on track, in the pits and on the pit wall, could emerge with quite a result!

#25 ALGARVE PRO RACING INV PRT G Oreca 07 – Gibson Matthias Kaiser (LIE) S Olli Caldwell (GBR) G Roman De Angelis (CAN) G

Algarve Pro Racing, the reigning European Le Mans Series, Asian Le Mans Series and Le Mans LMP2 Pro-Am winners, return again in 2024 to field two of their trio of ELMS LMP2 racers for Le Mans.

Second-year Le Mans driver Matthias Kaiser has started 2024 strongly, and former Alpine Academy trainee Olli Caldwell looks stronger with every race in an LMP2 car – his second-best time on Test Day is a testament to that growth.

With defending ELMS LMP2 Champion Alex Lynn on Cadillac Hypercar duty, his place in the #25 is taken by young Canadian Roman de Angelis, a racer who looks very likely to be in a Hypercar seat himself by 2025. De Angelis may be new to Le Mans, but he is a proven champion in IMSA and a class winner at the Daytona 24 Hours.

As for APR’s prospects of victory? Underestimate them at your peril. This team is strategically brave and clever, technically strong and with an engineering team that always fields a rapid ORECA. Don’t count them out.

#28 IDEC SPORT FRA G Oreca 07 – Gibson Paul Lafargue (FRA) S Job van Uitert (NLD) G Reshad de Gerus (FRA) G

The 2023 LMP2 pole sitters IDEC Sport return with a new-look squad built around the returning Paul Lafargue, a past ELMS LMP2 champion.

Job van Uitert has been quite unlucky not to have had a decent shot at a Hypercar seat thus far. A good result here, though, could change that. His speed is still top-notch, and a few more years in competition have helped the affable Dutchman to become a more complete, team-focused, driver – making him one to watch.

Reshad de Gerus is equally capable of blinding single-lap pace – but he’s still on the journey that van Uitert has nearly completed. This is a potential podium-finishing squad – but to do that, they all must be error-free in a field that will punish imperfection of any sort!

#34 INTER EUROPOL COMPETITION POL G Oreca 07 – Gibson Jakub Smiechowski (POL) S Vladislav Lomko (GRD) G Clément Novalak (FRA) G

The racing bakers from Poland, and the reigning LMP2 class winners at Le Mans. Inter Europol Competition returns with mainstay driver Jacob ‘Kuba’ Śmiechowski as the sole returning member of last year’s team in the #34.

Without LMP2 in WEC, Kuba has raced in IMSA this year, with Inter Europol in alliance with PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports.

His team-mates Vladislav Lomko and Clement Novalak each join from the team’s pair of ELMS LMP2 entries this season. Lomko arrives on the back of a race win at Paul Ricard alongside Sebastian Alvarez and Tom Dillmann, whilst Formula 2 alumni Novalak has impressed all season in prototypes, following his unfortunate pit lane injury at Daytona.

Ironically, Inter Europol arrives in 2024 with a better form book than they did up to this point last season, even without their Le Mans win. No longer overlooked, this team will be in the mix once again, baking up another masterpiece!

#37 COOL RACING INV CHE G Oreca 07 – Gibson Lorenzo Fluxa (ESP) S Malthe Jakobsen (DNK) G Ritomo Miyata (JPN) P

COOL Racing has been growing in confidence and ability year by year with multi-time Le Mans class winner Nico Lapierre proving to be a strong leader – all while balancing his duties as an Alpine Hypercar driver.

In 2024, this team fields a car with a super strong trio of drivers that has already won earlier this year in ELMS at Barcelona, of which two of those drivers are touted as the future stars of two Hypercar manufacturers.

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s protegé and reserve driver Ritomo Miyata arrives as the reigning champion of Japan’s two highest categories of motorsport – SUPER GT GT500 and Super Formula, and that alone speaks volumes to his immense talent. He came to Le Mans for the first time last year as an observer. Now he comes back as a serious competitive factor.

20-year-old Malthe Jakobsen has been sitting patiently with phone in hand, waiting for the call-up from Peugeot Sport where he is their test and reserve driver. So highly-rated is the Danish dynamo that fans were already frustrated that the French factory didn’t give him the call to fill in at Spa, but perhaps a Le Mans victory is all it will take to catapult him to the premier class!

This leaves French newcomer Lorenzo Fluxa as the one driver who doesn’t yet have Hypercar ties, but he is quick – and showed as much on his ELMS debut this year. This is a capable and supremely quick trio in the #37 car – tough to race against, and very tough to beat. If they avoid mistakes, they will be a factor!

LMP2 Pro-Am – 8 Cars

The LMP2 Pro-Am class is mechanically and technically precisely the same as LMP2. The only difference is in the driver line-ups where a Pro-Am entered car must field at least one FIA Bronze-rated driver. In this case all eight cars field just one apiece.

The Bronze drivers here, though, are a very select bunch. They’re all quick, all experienced and, if they can stay on the lead lap these cars might well find themselves mixing it with the LMP2 class proper in the overall order!

They will not however have to qualify the cars on Thursday, but they’ll have to shoulder the load of at least six hours of driving during the race itself – and there will be bragging rights to be had among this fraternity!

#14 AO by TF USA G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am PJ Hyett (USA) B Louis Delétraz (CHE) G Alex Quinn (GBR) G

A sure-fire fan favourite, the #14 AO by TF effort shifts from Pro car status in the ELMS to Pro-Am at Le Mans, with PJ Hyett bringing Spike the LMP2 Dragon from IMSA to Le Mans!

AO Racing loves to have fun and draw an audience, particularly from kids and their families. And Spike will certainly do that – just as Rexy did here last year!

Do not presume, though, that this means AO Racing is anything other than deadly serious about their racing. Hyett’s LMP2 debut in the Asian Le Mans Series showed that the American who’s been racing for less than two years is right at home in LMP2. His speed was right there from the very start and the consistency is following at pace!

Add into the mix Englishman Alex Quinn – making his Le Mans debut this year – and the world-class talent of multiple Sportscar Champ Louis Delétraz and this is a dragon with real teeth – a definite podium prospect!

#23 UNITED AUTOSPORTS USA INV USA G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am Ben Keating (USA) B Filipe Albuquerque (PRT) P Ben Hanley (GBR) G

The two-time and final GTE Am winner at Le Mans, Ben Keating brings his Wynns-liveried IMSA ORECA to Le Mans with his new-for-2024 team United Autosports.

The Texan auto dealer is famously one of the quickest of the Bronze drivers. His progress will in no way be impeded by a pair of top Pros in the #23 ORECA.

Late-blooming LMP2 mainstay Ben Hanley seems to get quicker with age, and still has plenty of fighting spirit in him – you’ll want to watch closely when he’s behind the wheel! Filipe Albuquerque is a champion at Le Mans and in LMP2 amongst other categories, and a long-time United driver – he’s a trusted hand when the chips are down.

Keating’s presence alone makes this car a major player for the LMP2 Pro-Am victory, but the supporting cast may push them over the top.

#30 DUQUEINE TEAM FRA G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am John Falb (USA) B James Allen (AUS) G Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (FRA) G

It’s a first-ever two-car effort from Duqueine at Le Mans as they handle both the Isotta Fraschini Hypercar and their own LMP2 Pro-Am efforts.

John Falb is a regular in LMP2 and is set to make his fifth Le Mans start, searching for a race-winning result here as he’s done in the European and Asian Le Mans Series.

The quick but relatively inexperienced Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer, a Le Mans rookie, joins from the team’s regular ELMS line-up, as does the very rapid Aussie James Allen, part of last year’s LMP2 Pro-Am winning trio and the reigning ELMS LMP2 Champion.

Allen is at times overlooked, but that would be a mistake. He’s able to take the fight to just about anyone here, and could be the difference in keeping this effort in the battle if they can get the car to Sunday morning in good order.

#33 DKR ENGINEERING LUX G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am Alexander Mattschull (DEU) B Rene Binder (AUT) G Laurents Horr (DEU) G

The Luxembourg-based DKR Engineering team has a long history in GT and LMP3 racing with plenty of wins chalked up. LMP2 was a much more recent addition to their programmes but has enjoyed rapid success, including the Asian LMS overall title two years ago.

For Le Mans, the team switches away from the traditional ‘Nemo’ colours to a new and striking livery. DKR has based their LMP2 Pro-Am effort around the rapid and affable Alexander Mattschull, a Le Mans Cup champion making his first start in the big race.

He’s joined in the car by the reliably quick Rene Binder of Austria, who finished third in LMP2 outright last year, and the very rapid Laurents Hörr of Germany.

The team needs to be squeaky clean to be a factor, and Hörr’s pace needs to come with perhaps a little less risk than sometimes previously demonstrated, to keep the #33 with the pack come Sunday!

#45 CROWDSTRIKE RACING by APR INV PRT G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am George Kurtz (USA) B Colin Braun (USA) G Nicky Catsburg (NLD) P

George Kurtz is the returning winner in LMP2 Pro-Am with Algarve Pro Racing. He is also the reigning IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup and Asian Le Mans Series Champion. That little tally should be proof enough of the progress of the team’s Bronze anchor man – and that’s just in prototypes!

Kurtz is serious about his racing and does a whole lot of it.  As with many others in this class, he looks to build a squad that is deep in talent – and has done so again this year.

Colin Braun, 16 years removed from his first Le Mans start, shared the Le Mans class win, the Asian Le Mans Series title, and even a GT World Challenge America title with Kurtz. Braun is seemingly as rapid as ever he was, still a good pick in GTP for IMSA’s top class yet racing in LMP2 this year due to factors out of his control.

Meanwhile, Nicky Catsburg is another returning Le Mans winner. He took the final GTE AM class win last year with Corvette, plus the WEC class Championship, 2022/23 Asian LMS GT3 title, the overall win at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and a class win at the Spa 24 Hours too – he had quite a year!  He’s a blank slate in LMP2, but few if any believe ‘The Cat’ will be anything other than competitive!

With the multi-title winning Algarve Pro Racing handling the effort again, there seem very few weak points for this effort – another car certain to be in the hunt!

#47 COOL RACING CHE G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am Naveen Rao (USA) B Matthew Bell (GBR) G Frederik Vesti (DNK) P

Naveen Rao and Matt Bell reunite for the first time since their days in what was then known as IMSA Prototype Challenge to give COOL Racing a different look to their Pro-Am effort.

Rao is quick but relatively inexperienced, though his experience does include LMP2 in both the US and Asia.

Bell is rapid and highly motivated – he switches from Team Virage in ELMS to this car for Le Mans. The final piece is Frederik Vesti, a regular part of COOL Racing’s 2024 ELMS effort. Vesti was the runner-up in FIA Formula 2 last season and is also the reserve driver for Mercedes-AMG Formula One Team, eager to prove a point to those who overlooked him this offseason.

COOL Racing has evolved into a highly capable squad and should give this trio all they need in terms of strategy and error-free service to stay in contention.

There are other teams that look more capable of contesting podium finishes. But as always, the stats and form book can say one thing, the race, however, always decides!

#65 PANIS RACING FRA G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am Rodrigo Sales (USA) B Mathias Beche (CHE) G Scott Huffaker (USA) G

For Le Mans, Panis Racing’s ELMS LMP2 effort switches to LMP2 Pro-Am. This year, the team is now operated by TDS Racing after Tech 1 ran the effort for many years.

The Le Mans campaign revolves around past Asian Le Mans Series Champion Rodrigo Sales, the rapid American Bronze who’s capable of being as fast as any of his peers. He’s joined by ex-LMP1 racer Mathias Beche, who’s as rapid and savvy as ever, and Silver-ranked Scott Huffaker, always in demand for LMP2, a three-time Sebring 12 Hours class winner.

TDS knows how to win here, but a clean and consistent run is needed for them to bring home another Le Mans win as the force behind Panis Racing.

#183 AF CORSE INV ITA G Oreca 07 – Gibson Pro/Am François Perrodo (FRA) B Ben Barnicoat (GBR) P Nicolas Varrone (ARG) G

Numbered #183 for Le Mans as the regular #83 is taken by the privateer Ferrari 499P, AF Corse fields this ORECA 07 for Francois Perrodo.

Perrodo has emerged as a long-term, championship-winning Gentleman driver and has carried that form from GTE Am to LMP2 with aplomb, taking the ELMS title last season.

He’s partnered with the very highly rated Ben Barnicoat. The bad news for the opposition is that the Brit is just as quick in an LMP2 as in his title-winning Lexus in IMSA’s GTD Pro class, but that’s good news for AF Corse!

Completing the trio is a new addition for 2024 – Nico Varrone, the final GTE AM race winner here last year (in fact, all three of Corvette’s winning drivers are in the LMP2 Pro-Am class this year – and all in different cars!) and yet another fantastic young prospect who’s eager to tackle whatever opportunities he can get his hands on.

If Francois is on form – and he usually is – this is another car that can and should be contending for honours!

Read DSC’s Hypercar preview HERE >>>

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