Paris, Feb 5th 2016- For the fourth season since the relaunch of the European Le Mans Series in 2013, Europe’s leading endurance race series starts 2016 with the unveiling of a fantastic grid of 44 entries, the largest so far.
In a change for 2016 the 44 car entry will be divided between three categories on the ELMS grid, with competitors taking part in the Le Mans Prototypes 2 (LMP2), Le Mans Prototypes 3 (LMP3) or Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance (LMGTE) classes. The former GTC teams will be able to enter the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, for which the list will be unveiled after March 15th.
The LMP2 category will be composed of a record 15-car entries for the entire season. There will be five manufacturers : Gibson, Oreca, Ligier, Morgan and BR 01, two engine manufacturers : Nissan and Judd and two tyre manufacturers : Dunlop and Michelin.
Of the 15 entries, nine are already known in the ELMS paddock, with, of course, the 2015 Champions Greaves Motorsport back to defend their hard won title. The British team is increasing their entry from one to two cars in 2016 with the first Gibson 015S, bearing the coveted n°1, will be in the hands of drivers champion Gary Hirsch, while the second Britain Gibson 015S will be the n°41 Ligier JS P2 for the Mexican driver Memo Rojas.
Vice-champions in 2015, French team Thiriet by TDS Racing, will be aiming for the title in 2016 with the n°46 ORECA 05 of Pierre Thiriet.
N°38 Gibson 015S Nissan of Simon Dolan will this season run under the name G-Drive Racing. Krohn Racing and, its owner and lead driver, Tracy Krohn will return with the n°40 Ligier JS P2, but in 2016 is switching to Nissan power.
Eurasia Motorsport, from the Philippines, and Chinese driver Pu JunJin, are aiming for the podium in 2016 by entering an ORECA 05 Nissan (n°33). Irish race winners Murphy Prototypes stay faithful to ELMS with another season with the proven n°48 ORECA 03R Nissan.
In the n°29 Morgan Nissan of Pegasus Racing, team owner Julien Schell has announced French female driver, Ines Taittinger, who is eager to begin her journey to Le Mans with a season in the European Le Mans Series.
After having competed in the last three races in 2015, Algarve Pro Racing will renew its entry with the n°25 Ligier JS P2 driven by Michael Munemann. Race Performance also returns after one season away from the ELMS paddock after a successful campaign in the Asian Le Mans Series which saw the team secure the title. The n°34 ORECA 03R Judd will be in the hands of Nicolas Leutwiler.
In addition five new entries will join the 2016 grid
The ELMS paddock will be happy to welcome an American team with Dragonspeed, entering a ORECA 05 Nissan for Swedish driver Henrik Hedman. The four additional team will all run under the French banner. SO24 ! by Lombard Racing will run the n°22 Ligier JS P2 Judd for one of the “SO24 !” drivers Vincent Capillaire. The brand new team created by former French F1 driver and 1998 Football World Cup star Panis-Barthez Competition, will enter n°23 Ligier JS P2 for the football star, and one will have the opportunity to see again French manager Yves Courage in the paddocks, as he enters the sole BR 01 in the team bearing his name Courage. IDEC Sport Racing, will challenge for the ELMS title in the final Ligier JS P2 Judd entry (n°28) for French driver Patrice Lafargue.
20 LMP3 on the 2016 ELMS grid, from which 19 Ligier JS P3
Created by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest in July 2014 and launched on the 2015 ELMS grid, the LMP3 category has quickly found great responses from the teams and the drivers. With seven entries in 2015, the 2016 field has grown by nearly three times with a mammoth 20 car entry for the coming ELMS season. Some of the LMP2 teams, such as Panis Barthez Competition, are also entering LMP3 and using the category to train young drivers. The French team will start the year with a Ligier JS P3 Nissan for Eric Debard. Race Performance also enters an LMP3 in 2016, the n°8 Ligier JS P3 which will be driven by Swiss Nicolas Leutwiler. Finally the sole Riley AR-2 Nissan on the LMP3 grid will be for MurphyP3-3Dimensional.com team and will be driven by American Tony Ave.
United Autosport will enter the n°2 Ligier for Alex Brundle and the n°3 car for American Mark Patterson, while Spanish team By Speed Factory, who finished 3rd overall in 2015, will go for the title with the n°5 car driven by Jesus Fuster.
Another 2015 team returning to the LMP3 category is Villorba Corse. The team finished 5th last season and will once again have Italian driver Roberto Lacorte at the wheel of a new car, the n°5 Ligier JS P3. The French team Graff started its ELMS LMP3 story in Estoril with a podium finish at the season finale. In 2016 the team returns for a full season with two cars, the n°9 and n°10 Ligiers will be driven by Eric Trouillet and John Falb.
Newcomers in LMP3
Oak Racing has decided to enter the ELMS grid in 2016. The former 24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 winning team will feature two Onroak built Ligiers, the n°4 for Jean-Marc Merlin and the n°24 for team boss Jacques Nicolet himself!
Great Britain will be represented by 360 Racing and n°6 Ligier for Terrence Woodward and RLR Msport with Ossy Yusuf in the n°15 car. For the first time Poland will be on the grid thanks to Inter Europol Competition and n°13 Ligier in the hands of Jakub Smieschowski.
The second LMP3 Italian team will be Eurointernational with two entries led by Costantino Peroni (n°11) and Britain’s Jay Palmer (n°12). French GT championship front runners Duqueine Engineering will field two cars, the n°20 and n°19 which will be driven by French David Hallyday, while Ultimate will put n°17 Ligier JS P3 in the hands of Jean-Bapstiste Lahaye and M.Racing-YMR the n°18 for Thomas Laurent.
Michelin is the tyre manufacturer for all LMP3 entries.
Strong entry for LMGTE category for the 2016 ELMS Season
Danish LMGTE Champions Formula Racing are back and are looking forward to defending its title with Johnny Laursen at the wheel of n°60 Ferrari 458 Italia. AF Corse will feature two cars to better its championship position with the n°51 Ferrari of Piergiuseppe Perazzini and n°55 for Duncan Cameron. AT Racing and Alexander Talkanitsa also return to fight for the title with n°56 F458, as are leading British team JMW Motorsport, with the n°76 Ferrari and Robert Smith.
For the 2016 season German team Proton Competition will field a 2-car entry with the n°77 Porsche 911 RSR 991 for WEC race winner Marco Seefried and the and n°88 Porsche for Italian Gianluca Roda.
Aston Martin Racing team will enter the n°99 Vantage V8 for reigning British GT Champion Andrew Howard, while the second Vantage of the LMGTE grid will be run by the 2015 GTC Champions TDS Racing, with the French team deciding to move up to the LMGTE category in 2016, which will be driven by reigning GTC champion Eric Dermont.
Dunlop is the sole tyre manufacturer of the LMGTE entrants.
With the largest full season entry for many years, six races, including a return to Spa-Francorchamps, and an exciting support race package, the 2016 ELMS season promises to be the best yet. Rendez vous with the teams and drivers on March 22nd and 23rd for the first time at the Official ELMS pre-season test session on the circuit Paul Ricard in the South of France.