With the first two races of the TUDOR United SportsCar Series already in the books, their European counterparts in the European Le Mans Series are preparing to take to the historic Silverstone Circuit in Great Britain on April 18-19 for the opening round of their 2014 season. As in the USA, the P1 category has been relegated to the history books, and the series will include some great encounters and fantastic track battles throughout the three categories of LMP2, LMGTE and GTC.
In advance of the first race of the season, the 12 LMP2 prototypes will participate in an official test session at Circuit Paul Ricard on April 1-2. Among them will be three new teams making their debut appearance in the ELMS.
Sébastien Loeb Racing will race an ORECA03 Nissan, driven by Vincent Capillaire. The German Pegasus Racing team will be fielding a Morgan Nissan in the hands of Frenchman Julien Schell and Swiss driver Nicolas Leutwiller. Larbre Compétition will run a Morgan Judd for Jacques and Pierre Nicolet.
JOTA Sport, winner at Silverstone last year, will be keen to repeat the his performance with its ZytekZ11SN -Nissan, driven by a dynamic trio consisting of Simon Dolan, young Harry Tincknell and Audi factory driver Filipe Albuquerque. A second team from the United Kingdom, Greaves Motorsport, will be entering two Zytek Z11SN Nissans at Silverstone and while its driver line has yet to be finalised, Tom Kimber-Smith and Chris Dyson have already been announced for the No.41.
Signatech Alpine will be back to defend its ELMS LMP2 championship title, and will be at Silverstone with two Alpine A450 Nissans, one driven by champions: Nelson Panciatici (LMP2 2013), Paul-Loup Chatin (LMPC2013) and a certain Oliver Webb, a young British 22-year-old who has come from single-seaters and who made his debut in endurance racing last year.
Two further ORECA03 chassis will be entered by Race Performance and Murphy Prototypes. Powered by Judd engines, No.34 will be driven by Frenchman Franck Mailleux and Swiss Michel Frey, while the line-up of the “Irish” No.48 Murphy ORECA Nissan will be announced shortly.
TDS Racing will be embarking on a brand new adventure with a Ligier JS P2 but, as the car is not yet available, the French team will be looking to garner points for its 2014 title bid with a Morgan-Nissan at Silverstone. It will be driven by Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badley and Tristan Gommendy. The last Morgan Judd on the LMP2 grid comes from Switzerland and carries the name of a new ELMS team, Newblood by Morand Racing, which intends to make its mark this year thanks to a well put-together, young line up of Austrian Christian Klien, Swiss 2013 LMPC Champion Gary Hirsch and Frenchman Romain Brandela.
Eight Ferrari 458 Italias, four Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, a 997 GT3 RSR and an Aston Martin make up the list of 14 cars entered in the LMGTE category. The Italian AF Corse team F458 will put its two F458s, Nos. 54 and 55 respectively, in the hands of Piergiuseppe Perazzini and Marco Cioci, Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin (reigning LMGTE Driver Champion).
The Swiss Kessel Racing team will also be lining up with two F458s for Michael Broniszewski, Giacomo Piccini and Marco Frezza (No.80) and Kolawole Aluko, Thomas Kemenater and Matteo Cressoni (No 81). JMW Motorsport will announce its drivers in the next few days, while the last three cars from the Prancing Horse marque will be with teams which are new to the category.
SMP Racing, winner in GTC last year, will be fielding an LMGTE Ferrari for its top drivers Andrea Bertolini of Italy and Russians Viktor Shaitar (2013 GTC Champion) and Sergey Zlobin, plus Austrian team, AT Racing, will field the Belarussian father-son duo of Alexander Talkanitsa Senior and Junior. The final Ferrari 458 in LMGTE will be operated by the French Team SOFREV-ASP and will be driven by the famous football champion Fabien Barthez alongside Anthony Pons and Soheil Ayari.
IMSA Performance Matmut will this year enter two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs in the ELMS. The first will be entrusted at Silverstone to the French trio of Erik Maris, Jean-Marc Merlin and Eric Helary. The second will be driven by Raymond Narac who will link up once again with Nicolas Armindo for the season, plus Belgian Laurent Pasquali.
The No.82 Porsche 977 GT3 RSR of Crubilé Sport team will be in the hands of François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Sébastien Crubilé. The last 911 GT3 on track will be Belgian. Prospeed Competition, in addition to running a WEC entry will also be on the LMGTE ELMS grid with Paul van Splunteren on board. Finally the British Gulf Racing UK team will enter two cars at Silverstone, a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for Michael Wainwright, and the only Aston Martin Vantage V8 on the grid for Roald Goethe and Stuart Hall.
A dazzling season is heralded in GTC, with 16 cars making the trip to Great Britain.
In addition to its entry in LMP2, Sébastien Loeb Racing has entered the only Audi R8 LMS ultra on the grid for Frenchman Henri Hassid. Also present in LMGTE, SMP Racing's Russians will be entering three Ferrari458 Italia GT3s with an impressive list of drivers: Boris Rotenberg and Maurizio Mediani will be joined by former F1 driver Mika Salo in the No.57; a 100% Russian line up in the No.71 with Kirill Ladygin (2013 GTC Champion), Anton Ladygin and Aleksey Basov. SMP's third Ferrari GTC will be driven by the Monégasque Olivier Beretta and Russians Alexander Frolov and David Markozov.
AF Corse's Italians will also be present in force in GTC with four F458 Italia GT3s and a list of international drivers: two Frenchmen Yannick Mallegol and Jean-Marc Bachelier will be partnered by the American Howard Blank; two Danish line ups of Mads Radsmussen and Dennis Lind in the No.63, Per Nielsen and Christian Overaard in No.64; the No.95 will be entrusted to the Belgian Adrien de Leener and Monégasque Cédric Sbirrazzuoli.
The French Team Sofrev-ASP is another of the teams involved in several disciplines within the ELMS. In addition to its LMGTE entry, it will also be entering an F458 Italia GT3 for the French line up of Christophe Bourret, Pascal Gibon and Jean-Philippe Belloc.
The remaining five teams are all new to the ELMS. Formula Racing has entered a Ferrari 458 GT3 for Danes Jan Magnussen (a four time class winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans), Johnny Laursen and Mikkel Mac Jensen. Team Russia by Barwell will run the only BMW Z4 GT3 on the grid for Leonid Machitski, Timur Sardarov and Briton Jonathan Cocker. The only Porsche in the GTC class will be the 977 GT3R of the Pro GT by Almeras team (Franck Perera, Lucas Laserre and Eric Dermont ), while Team Ukraine has announced it will operate two Ferrari 458 GT3s for Ukrainian drivers Andriy Kruglyk and Ruslan Tsyplakov.
ART Grand Prix, a well-known and very successful motorsport team, will be on track with two McLaren MP4 12C GT3s for a multi-national line up of Mexican Ricardo Gonzalez, who will drive alongside Karim Ajlani of Switzerland plus Estonian Kevin Korjus who will share the wheel of his car with Frenchman Grégoire Demoustier.
Eight races have taken place under the banner of the Le Mans Series at Silverstone in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, with the most recent being held in 2013 as part of an endurance racing festival and in association with the FIA WEC's 6 Hours of Silverstone.
It will be interesting to see if the series is able to thrive with the continually changing world economy, international diplomatic issues, and a generally decreasing fan base for motorsports throughout the world.
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