The FIA World Endurance Championship has started the week in the best possible way, regarding the future of the race series.
The European Le Mans Series team DragonSpeed announced their plan yesterday, to participate with Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley behind the wheel of an LMP1 car. The team hasn’t decided on a chassis constructor yet, nor the name of the third driver on the car. There is only one small thing to be solved, before it can happen. Hedman is currently only ranked as a Bronze driver, and you have to be a Silver ranked driver as a minimum to participate in LMP1. But it’s most likely a lot easier to be upgraded rather than downgraded – especially when you have the contract for an LMP1 car, and show it to the ACO panel.
The FIA WEC team CEFC Manor TRS Racing announced today that they are going to participate in LMP1 in the 2018/19 too. The car will be a Ginetta, but the engine choice hasn’t been made yet. The team didn’t announce any drivers either. There is been a large number of drivers for the team, since they started in LMP2 in 2016. Formula 1 drivers like Vitaly Petrov and Jean-Eric Vergne are current employees of the team, while Roberto Merhi, Will Stevens, Antonio Pizzonia, and Shinji Nakano was part of the 2016 line-up.
While the revolving door didn’t slow down at all during 2016, we have seen a totally fixed #25 drive line-up through all of 2017. The #24 has had a pre- and post Le Mans lineup, with Jean-Eric Vergne as the constant – with the only exception of Nürburgring, when he had to race in Formula E instead on that weekend.
The LMP1 category really appears to be blooming again, after many had called it all dead after the Porsche exit announcement. Now these two cars have been added alongside Bykolles, who keeps developing their car, and with SMP/Dallara building a car too. Ginetta has announced the sales of 3 cars. If the CEFC Manor TRS car is one of those three will become clear in the near future, plus who the rest of the cars have been sold to.
We guess it’s pretty clear that everybody showing up with an LMP1 car in the 2018/19 will be granted an entry – because officially you have to be selected to be an FIA WEC participant. But after a season with only 26 full season cars, and at least two cars leaving the grid for the upcoming season, there is room for plenty of new cars and teams.