Only ten days after Monza’s official prologue, FIA World Endurance Championship contenders are about to meet in Silverstone for the opening round of the season. With nine ORECAs on the grid, it seems that the French manufacturer has taken over the class this season, and that promises a spectacular fight between the six teams engaged in the most competitive category of the championship.

Out of the nine cars of the LM P2 class – no less than one third of the total number of WEC contenders – all of the chassis were born in ORECA’s workshops. Before the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and alongside the ELMS where other LM P2 manufacturers will come and cross swords with the manufacturer from Le Var, this context reflects the success of ORECA Technology design bureau’s latest creation.

G Drive Racing (Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn), Jackie Chan DC Racing (#37 Cheng/Brundle/Gommendy and #38 Tung/Jarvis/Laurent), Vaillante Rebellion (#13 Prost/Senna/Canal and #31 Beche/Heinemeir Hansson/Piquer Jr), TDS Racing (Perrodo/Vaxivière/Collard), Signatech Alpine Matmut (#36 Rao/Menezes/Lapierre) and CEFC Manor TRS Racing (#24 Graves/Hirschi/Vergnes et #25 Gonzales/Trummer/Petrov) are entering these nine cars. It will even be ten from next round on, in Spa-Francorchamps, as a second Alpine A470 will compete in the class with trio Negrao/Ragues/Panciatici on board the #35.

On the legendary track of Silverstone, it will not be a dress rehearsal anymore but a real dive in 2017’s deep end. Enough practice sessions! It’s now time to turn to racing and talk strategy. Motorsport! This new generation of LM P2 should be significantly faster on that track than their older sisters. All teams see in this English battle an amazing and captivating challenge…

Bart Hayden (Vaillante Rebellion): “Considering the gaps seen in Monza between the different teams, the level in LM P2 should be particularly high as nobody seems to be definitely faster. I think we’re ready to race now. Of course everybody’s talking about the rain in Silverstone and for sure the best way to prepare for it is to drive on wet surfaces during private practice sessions. We could have done so on Saturday eve in Monza when it was raining, but that was a risk that we preferred not to run, two weeks only before the first race. Also driving conditions under wet weather can vary a lot so it could be that those tests wouldn’t have necessarily benefited us in the end. Our drivers are ready, the new ones have delivered promising performances and we’re now looking forward to starting. The races are going to be amazing.”

Philippe Sinault (Signatech Alpine Matmut): “It’s hard to say what everybody will achieve this season following on these tests for everybody took turn in first and second places throughout the two days. What’s certain is that it’s going to be incredibly competitive because everybody has the potential to be in the lead. The cars will be identical in our class, and that’s going to remind me of the great days in F3 when we were fighting for tenths of seconds. Cars’ preparation, strategy, homogeneity of crews will all play important parts in this context. We won’t have the #35 in Silverstone because we decided about the programme really late and we wanted to be prudent, including in the interest of the #36. According to the drivers, it should be easier to deal with traffic considering the increased performances of the new LM P2.”

Roman Rusinov (G Drive Racing): “The ORECA 07 performs really well. The chassis is fantastic. We’ve worked on the setup and though we weren’t looking for sheer performance in Monza, I think that we headed in the right direction as demonstrated by the time we clocked. The entire team worked well, including John and Pierre my teammates. It will be a very interesting competition considering the quality of all crews. At the beginning of the championship, reliability will be key. It will be really important to cross the finish line of this first race.”

Graeme Lowdon (CDFC Manor TRS Racing): “We’re really happy with the first tests conducted with the new ORECA 07. With the ORECA 05 we’d been able to familiarise ourselves with the philosophy around this type of cars, but this one takes us an extra step beyond that. With a big leap forward in terms of performances, the level of competition coming up will definitely increase. The work accomplished in Monza has allowed us to gain confidence for this first race even though the timing was really, really tight. The rainy weather in Monza disrupted our plans slightly but we still managed to do a lot. The aim was to make sure that the drivers feel comfortable in the car, and to check their position inside. That’s done now. As for Silverstone, I hope that the weather is nice this year and that it doesn’t snow! I hope we are competitive against all of the other teams. It’s important for this first race to go well for us, with no problems, so that we can gain experience with the cars. We’ve got a great team, with an amazing car and excellent drivers. Well, that’s everything to be able to fight against the other teams and offer great entertainment to the fans this season.”

Xavier Combet (TDS Racing): “Practice sessions were very productive, with test and stint simulations. Everything went as planned. With all the data garnered we’ve got what we need to prepare Silvertsone well. Matthieu posted the best time of the LM P2 in Monza, that’s very positive and reassuring, especially considering the level in the class this year. The cars all race at similar pace. Teams are super professional and we’re getting ready for a tough but very interesting fight. We’ll find out more about our rivals in Silverstone, after the qualifying sessions. More than ever we will have to avoid the pitfalls in order to win. The performances of the new LM P2 can, in that sense, help us a little bit as they should enable us to not get stuck in traffic with the GTEs. I think that we’ve found the right balance between the different categories.”

Robert Friend (Jackie Chan DC Racing): “Practice sessions in Monza went perfectly well since our drivers were able to familiarise themselves with the car and post good times without spending too much time in the pits. We’ve made the most of these two days in Monza to correct some little things or sort out some issues but that’s a totally normal process for such a session. The season ahead is looking good. Our drivers have delivered great performances and I’m sure it’s going to be a fantastic year.”

Quick reminder: the 6 Hours of Silverstone will start on Sunday at midday, local time.

Author Olivier Loisy

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