2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LMP2 Review Part 1

The 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours cemented the argument that this year’s LMP2 class was the most competitive in at least a decade if not more, although the class has struggled for numbers this year, especially in the World Endurance Championship, the 17 car entry for the 24 Hours provided a scintillating battle throughout the full 24 Hours. This class provided everything with stunning speed, intense battles for position and finally a popular class winner in the Jota Sport team. For 2015 this class has a lot to live up after this year.

Millennium Racing:

#22 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Fabien Giroix/Oliver Turvey/John Martin
Although I included this entry in my LMP2 preview post, it seemed as soon as I posted it this entry was withdrawn, as the funding issues which have prevented this car from running in the WEC so far this season reared it’s ugly head again. These funding issues must be frustrating for everyone involved with this Alan Docking Racing ran team, which if it ever makes it on track this year, will prove a formidable challenger for class honours with a very strong team and driver line-up. Let’s hope we see this car in action before the year’s out.

Sebastien Loeb Racing:

#24 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Rene Rast/Jan Charouz/Vincent Capillaire
For this relatively young team, this years Le Mans 24 Hours almost provided a fairy tale for them, as the team came an agonisingly close 4th in LMP2, only 1 lap off the podium. 4th for this new team is still a magical result for the team, of which little was expected pre-race.

The team’s driver line-up performed admirably, with the stand out of the three being amateur Vincent Capillaire, who more than held his own amongst an army of professional drivers in the class. If this team can retain it’s driver line-up and luck from 2014 going into the 2015 24 Hours, expect them to improve on a 4th in class. A truly great effort from this team this year.

G Drive Racing:

#26 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Roman Rusinov/Olivier Pla/Julien Canal
For this team the 24 Hours proved a great disappointment as a team that was right in the mix for class honours early on was eliminated on Saturday evening. The OAK racing team and it’s driver line-up were definite contenders for victory, something we were robbed of seeing with their retirement. This team looks set to continue it’s dominance of LMP2 in the WEC this year, and hopefully we’ll see a much longer run for this team in 2015.

SMP Racing:

#27 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Sergey Zlobin/Mika Salo/Anton Ladygin
The Russian SMP Racing team came to Le Mans with high expectations and hoping for a great result in the 24 Hours. Things didn’t go to plan however during the whole week as both the team’s entries proved accident prone and slightly off the pace in this highly competitive class. Despite this the team was hoping to shed their bad luck before the start of the race.

Sadly this didn’t prove the case as the team was unfortunate to suffer a number of problems throughout the race, something which meant they finished 37th and the final LMP2 car to finish. In reflection, this AF Corse affiliated team will hopefully see that simply finishing the race, after the battle scarred week the team suffered, is enough of an achievement for this year. Expect to see more from this professional outfit in 2015.

Pegasus Racing:

#29 Morgan LMP2-Nissan: Julian Schell/Nicolas Leutwiler/Leo Roussel
This team appeared at a huge disadvantage to other entries in this highly competitive class, as to achieving a good result with many experts giving this small team little hope. The relatively unknown driver line-up and the fact this is the team’s first time back at Le Mans after several years were their reasoning behind the scepticism.
Sadly for this team a misunderstanding with the #1 Audi in Thursday’s evening qualifying session, resulted in a red flag inducing shunt for this entry.

The team subsequently performed brilliantly to re-build the car in time for the race. From here the team’s drivers stepped up to the plate to provide a steady run for this team, which managed to stay out of trouble for the rest of the race, although some mechanical reliability hampered the team as they struggled to a 10th place finish in class,18th overall. For this team they showed they were deserving of an entry and should come back stronger in 2015, hopefully for a much more rewarding race.

OAK Racing- Team Asia:

#33 Ligier JSP-HPD: David Cheng/Ho-Pin Tung/Adderly Fong
For this OAK racing-Team Asia entry, the 24 Hours proved relatively quiet for them as they soldiered on from a poor qualifying to attain an ultimately rewarding 12th overall and 7th in class finish. Not many thought these great looking new Ligier JSP2 coupe’s would complete the 24 Hours trouble free, despite extensive pre-race testing.

This team ran like a metronome and their relatively inexperienced driver line-up drove brilliantly to cope with changeable conditions, and whilst others were throwing their cars off track or suffering reliability issues, they kept going to hopefully the first of many Le Mans finishes for this young team.

Race Performance:

#34 Oreca 03R-Nissan: Michel Frey/Frank Mailleux/Jon Lancaster
The Race Performance have quietly impressed many within the European Le Mans Series showing so far in 2014, as they have proved competitive in both ELMS before the 24 Hours. Despite their impressive showings, not many tipped this car to challenge for class victory in the 24 Hours. Yet the team pulled a masterstroke in teaming rapid ex-GP2 racer Jon Lancaster with regular drivers Frank Mailleux and Michel Frey.

From the start, this car proved competitive as all 3 drivers drove impressively to keep the car in the hunt for victory. Sadly for this team, the car let them down in the final few hours as they were hobbled by a variety of mechanical issues, which left them tumbling down the order as they yo-yoed between the track and garage. The team did at least make the finish, albeit 13th overall and 8th in class. If this team continues it’s upward trend, the team will be hugely competitive next year. Expect big things in the future from this team.

OAK Racing:

#35 Ligier JSP2-Nissan: Alex Brundle/Jann Mardenborough/Mark Shulzhitskiy
Going into the race, this entry appeared one of the favourites for class honours on paper. The OAK racing team are prodigiously successful at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and their driver line-up was arguably the most competitive in the LMP2 class. Ultimately, despite showing blistering pace and leading a portion of the race, the team’s Achilles heel proved exactly it was feared it would be. The new Ligier JSP2 coupe.

Although the team made sure to do extensive testing before the race, a few small problems eliminated this car from contention on Sunday morning, something that left the drivers devastated. It seemed likely if this car stayed healthy, it would have won the LMP2 class. Something the team will be hoping they can prove in 2015.

Signatech Alpine:

#36 Alpine A450B-Nissan: Paul Loup-Chatin/Nelson Panciatici/Oliver Webb
Preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hours, this team appeared to be struggling as they were well off their 2013 ELMS title winning potential. After the first ELMS race the team changed tyre suppliers, hoping this would solve their issues. Yet this car still went into the race and under the radar contender for victory in LMP2. This was despite impressing in qualifying, especially LMPC Prototype graduate Paul Loup-Chatin. Throughout the race the drivers performed impressively and the car stayed out of the garage.

This left the team fighting for the top 3 podium positions in class with only a few hours to go. The team battled on into the final hours, eventually coming home a very competitive 3rd in class, and startling 7th overall. The team and drivers were clearly very happy with their result, and with such a young driver line-up, the team has plenty of potential to improve on their 3rd in class next year.

That’s it for the first half of my LMP2 Le Mans 24 Hours review, feel free to comment or look at any of my other Le Mans posts over the past few weeks. Finally a huge thanks to http://www.Motorsport.com for their amazing high quality photos please visit their site it’s the first for up to date news and scintillating high quality photos. Enjoy!

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