Whether it be under its own name or as technical support to teams like Jackie Chan DC Racing, Jota Sport has become a real force to be reckoned with at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, winning this year for the second time in four years. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane...
Team Jota was founded by Sam Hignett and John Stack in 2000, joining the Le Mans-labelled racing series four years later. It made its 24 Hours début in 2005 with a Zytek 04S (LMP1) for the two partners and Haruki Kurosawa (not classified).
Several appearances later, the outfit now known as Jota Sport finally tasted glory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014. Harry Tincknell (three-time winner Allan McNish’s protégé) teamed up with Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey to drive a Zytek Z11SN – Nissan with a three-year-old chassis to the LMP2 title and overall fifth place. Sam Hignett: “In 2014 we had to come from the very back after an early issue so it didn’t really dawn on us that we could win until the middle of the Sunday morning. Our first win, with an all-British car and driver line-up too, was special for all of us.”
A year later, Jota Sport almost repeated the feat. Gearbox issues had sent the Zytek Z11SN – Nissan of Dolan, Tincknell and Mitch Evans plummeting down the standings before a spectacular fightback saw them finish just seconds behind the LMP2 winners.
For the 2016 campaign, Jota Sport embarked upon a technical partnership with G-Drive Racing which produced a second-place finish in LMP2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Roman Rusinov, Will Stevens and René Rast in an Oreca 05 – Nissan and culminated in the ELMS title. As the collaboration with the Russian entity ended, another partnership began – a full-season entry in the 2017 World Endurance Championship with Jackie Chan DC Racing. The alliance got off to the best possible start with victory in the season opener at Silverstone (UK) for the #38 Oreca 07 – Gibson shared by Thomas Laurent, Ho-Pin Tung and Oliver Jarvis, freshly recruited from Audi Sport. At the next race in Spa-Francorchamps, the Zytek-turned-Gibson officially handed the baton and the “Mighty 38” (or Super 38) moniker to the Oreca 07.
At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the two cars (the other being “FortuneCat37” driven by Alex Brundle, David Cheng and Tristan Gommendy) put in a superb race, achieving a one-two following the disqualification of Vaillante Rebellion’s #13 Oreca 07 – Gibson. “Unlike 2014, this year we had to fight to stay at the front for 24 hours as the pace and reliability of the new breed of LMP2 car is fantastic," Hignett admits. "The result this year is exceptional and will live with us forever. As I have said to the team, first and second in LMP2 and second and third overall at Le Mans is an achievement we can all be very proud of and, having led Le Mans outright for two hours and very nearly caused one of the greatest upsets in Le Mans history, it is something we can always smile about.”
In less than five years, Jota Sport can boast a European Le Mans Series title and two class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one under its own name and one as technical support. So what is the secret of Jota Sport’s LMP2 success at the 24 Hours of Le Mans? “Our people,” Hignett replies. “We have built this team over a number of years and show loyalty and respect towards our family of staff as they do towards Jota. We invest in our talent and help them to excel for which we are all rewarded.”
Jota Sport and Jackie Chan DC Racing will now turn their attentions back to the World Endurance Championship where the #38 crew has opened up a lead of more than thirty points over its most dangerous rivals. “Clearly with the #38, the goal is to win the FIA WEC Championship but there is a long way to go yet!" Hignett says. "The #37 is also now in a good Championship position so there is a lot of focus to capitalise on this.”
The next round of the World Endurance Championship will be held on 16 July at the legendary Nürburgring in Germany.
Photo: Thomas Laurent, Oliver Jarvis and Ho-Pin Tung take the LMP2 class win in the #38 Oreca 07 – Gibson. The Chinese driver was also the fastest LMP2 driver in the race!
Video: YouTube – Jota Sport