Endurance Racing News and Stories

Le Mans preview, part 1: LMP2, the class returns to WEC

Phil Oakley

The return of LMP2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is something everyone should be happy with. Yes the class is essentially ‘spec’, with every team using the Oreca 07 chassis, although other options are available, and the mandated Gibson V8.

But the class offers close racing and exciting on track action, plus it gives both pros who don’t have a spot to race in Hypercar the chance to race in a prototype at Le Mans, and amateurs the opportunity to drive in what is essentially as far as an amateur driver can go in motorsport.

So, let’s look at a rundown of the class. There are eight pro/am machines and eight fully professional lineups, equally split amongst the class’s 16 cars. 

Last year’s winners, Inter Europol Competition, are back, although they have a two-thirds new driver lineup, with team regular Jakub Smiechowski joined by Vladisalv Lomko and Clement Novalak. 

Inter Europol took their debut WEC win at Le Mans last year. What a place to do it! Image: Focus Pack Media

Also in the pro subclass is the Nielsen Racing car, which was in pro/am last year, taken out early on by Rodrigo Sales' large crash at the Dunlop Chicane a few hours in. Fabio Scherer, a winner last year with Inter Europol, will join David Heinemeier Hansson and Kyffin Simpson, who raced in May’s Indianapolis 500. 

They’ll be joined in the class by entrants from United Autosports, Algarve Pro Racing, IDEC Sport, COOL Racing, Vector Sport, and Proton Competition.

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Picking a winner from these is nigh-on impossible due to the spec nature of the class and the fact these Oreca 07-Gibson machines are now so well understood by the teams, having been introduced in 2017, making this their eighth Le Mans.

The United Autosports entry looks quick, with Oliver Jarvis, Bijoy Garg, and Nolan Siegel due to be at the wheel. Jarvis is a known quantity and excellent team leader, while Garg has been impressive in the IMSA series and Siegel has been racing in both IndyCar and Indy NXT this season.

Another car that looks strong is the COOL Racing entrant. This will have 19-year-old Spaniard Lorenzo Fluxa at the wheel, as well as two young Hypercar reserve drivers, Peugeot’s Malthe Jakobsen and Ritomo Miyata.

Miyata and Jakobsen have been racing in the ELMS this year. Image: ELMS / Marcel Wulf

This puts the average age of the car at 21 — surely the youngest lineup in LMP2 and maybe in the race as a whole. Don’t count them out though — Miyata has proven very quick in Super GT competition in Japan, while Jakobsen won the ELMS LMP3 title in 2022, was second in the LMP2 pro/am championship last year, and leads the standings overall this year.

Looking at the pro/am subclass, it’s similarly difficult to pick a winner here too. Whichever car Ben Keating is in is always a decent pick — this year, he’s racing for United Autosports in the #23 Oreca. He’s joined by LMP2 veterans Filipe Albuquerque and Ben Hanley, so as long as the car is reliable and no mistakes are made, expect them to be near the sharp end come Sunday afternoon.

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The Crowdstrike Racing by APR team is also a good pick. George Kurtz seems to get faster every year, and in 2024 he’s been paired up with Colin Braun and Nicky Catsburg. 

Kurtz and Braun won the LMP2 pro/am subclass last year with Aussie James Allen, so again, as long as they’re still in the race in the final few hours they should be near the front.

Rather incredibly, this is Nicky Catsburg’s first Le Mans in a prototype. He and Keating won last year racing for Corvette in the GTE-Am class, but the Dutchman has never raced a prototype of any sort in the French endurance classic.

Keating, Catsburg and Nio Varrone won GTE-Am last year. Image: Focus Pack Media

Third and finally for LMP2 pro/am, the AO by TF car could also do well. The car is being run by TF Sport, the team which currently runs the Corvettes in LMGT3, but is sponsored by AO, PJ Hyett’s team. This means the car will be liveried in the Spike dinosaur colours, which races in IMSA and is the ‘bigger brother’ to Rexy, AO Racing’s fan-favourite livery on their Porsche 911 GT3 R. 

AO Racing's 'Spike' has been popular in IMSA this year. Image: LAT Images / Jake Galstad

Whatever happens in LMP2 this year, it’s sure to offer close racing, which will almost certainly go down to the wire. Just the way we like it!

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