2017 saw the new LMP2 regulations come into force, with all cars running on the same engine, with an extra 100 hp, and one of four officially approved chassis. All four chassis manufacturers featured at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and enjoyed contrasting fortunes over the season.
British outfit Gibson Technologies supplied the 600 hp engine while Oreca, Ligier, Dallara and Riley-Multimatic delivered the new generation of LMP2 prototypes. With a performance gain of almost ten seconds per lap at Circuit de la Sarthe, the battle for victory was even closer than ever.
All the teams competing in the World Endurance Championship opted for Oreca, including the Alpine A470 variant based on the new Oreca 07 chassis. Given that they all started out with an identical set-up, the real difference lay in race strategy, the driver line-ups and the care taken over the finer technical details and tuning. The differences could be subtle at times but two teams really stood out: Jackie Chan DC Racing, class winner at Le Mans, and Vaillante Rebellion, crowned with the Drivers and Teams titles at the end of a fabulous season. Hot on their heels was Signatech Alpine Matmut, 2016 winner and a benchmark in the class for many years now.
In the European Le Mans Series six-round season, things were fairly evenly matched between Oreca, Ligier and Dallara. Ultimately, G-Drive Racing (one victory) gave Oreca the title, and the manufacturer enjoyed two other wins with French team Graff. Ligier stayed in the race for the title right to the end, having clinched two wins with American outfit United Autosports. Dallara also had a taste of success with Russian team SMP Racing, which joined the fray latter in the season. It achieved one win and two third places in its four races.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans was the only time we saw all four LMP2 manufacturers on the track together in 2017, with thirteen Oreca (and two Alpine), seven Ligier, three Dallara and a Riley on the grid. This was the latter’s only European appearance. Despite taking a spin off track and suffering alternator issues, it still made it to the chequered flag, finishing 21st in class. The LMP2 class top 5 comprised Oreca (P1r, P2, P5), Alpine (P3) and Ligier (P4), while Dallara made it into the top 10 (P7). In all, the LMP2 class accounted for one third of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans 60-car line-up.
These new regulations, combined with a remarkable level of performance, preparation and reliability, mean the LMP2 category is now more competitive then ever at Le Mans, and in the World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series. We are now keen to see how things play out between the four manufacturers in the upcoming Super Season.
Photo: Jackie Chan DC Racing was the first ever LMP2 team to make it on to the overall podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, after finishing second and third.