Written by Olly Radley, Edited by Mariah Lutz
The World Endurance Championship and IMSA are mainly recognised for their prototype hypercar machines that run rampant at the front of the pack in nearly every race. Still, people often forget the madness that ensues behind in the LMP2 field. In this article, I thought I’d explore this crazy world.
While there is plenty of differentiation in the Hypercar and LMP3 classes, all LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2) entries in the ELMS, WEC, and IMSA are the Oreca 07 chassis. The car has been the face of LMP2 since its creation back in 2017 despite other LMP2 machines being produced by Dallara and Ligier. Oreca also designed the Rebellion R13 LMP1 car, which is still used in the Hypercar class with a new name, albeit renamed to the Alpine A480. LMP2 cars are heavier and generally slower variants of the faster and more agile LMP1/Hypercar cars. LMP2 cars have 560 bhp, which has dropped over the years to increase the gap between the top class and the LMP2s.
Most of motorsport’s endurance series have a place on their grid for an LMP2 class. The World Endurance Championship and IMSA Sportscar championship have both had LMP2 as their secondary class to go alongside the main prototype class, whereas the ACO has two series where the highest category is LMP2. The smaller of the two, Asian Le Mans, is a 4-race championship over the winter period at the Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina circuit, with fewer teams and fewer drivers. On the other hand, the European Le Mans series takes place over the course of the calendar year with six 4-hour races at some of Europe’s most iconic circuits. The European series features a similar LMP2 field to the World Endurance Championship, as well as some more teams that aren’t able to compete on the bigger, global stage. It’s also worth noting that both series also have LMP3 and GT classes.
The drivers in the various LMP2 championships come from many different disciplines. There are six Ex-F1 drivers: Paul di Resta, Will Stevens, Esteban Gutiérrez, Felipe Nasr, and most notably, F1 race winner Robert Kubica. Kubica drove in F1 as recently as 2019 and currently possesses the European Le Mans Series championship, which he won alongside Louis Deletraz and Ye Yifei with GT giant Team WRT. Felipe Nasr raced in F1 for Sauber in 2015-16 and, after a poor 2016, became a sports car champion following his exit from F1. On the American scene, Nasr has twice won the overall IMSA title in the DPi category and has now transitioned to GTs in IMSA alongside American giant Penske’s LMP2 campaign.
There are also champions of other series competing too. Rene Rast, a 3-time DTM champion, and Robin Frijns, a GTWC Sprint champion, race together for the ELMS champions WRT in WEC and currently top the championship after two rounds. Formula E champion Antonio Felix da Costa has also competed in LMP2 with Jota Sport for the past three years. It’s also looking like LMP2 is a good career alternative for drivers in junior single seater categories. Oliver Rasmussen, Tijmen van der Helme and Lorenzo Colombo all competed in F3 last year, and now compete in WEC’s LMP2 class. Similar to IndyCar, LMP2 is picking up more and more F2 drivers who aren’t quite able to progress to F1. Louis Deletraz and Sean Gelael are two good examples of drivers who have flourished in LMP2 since departing F1’s premier feeder series.
LMP2 is relatively cheap compared to other endurance and sportscar series, so we’re seeing LMP2 fields expanding year on year with big names entering the class. GT giants WRT and AF Corse have both entered LMP2 categories after years of success in the WEC GT pro and GTWC Championships. AF Corse only just made their LMP2 debut this year, whereas WRT joined in 2019 and have already accumulated an LMP2 Le Mans win and LMP2 titles in WEC and ELMS.
Feeder series giants Prema Racing have also debuted in Europe’s top LMP2 series this year, winning their debut race in ELMS and finishing just shy of a podium in WEC. The Italian outfit have won championships in every single series they’ve entered and are taking this winner's mentality to the competitive world of LPM2. American giants Penske, who have dominated IndyCar and IMSA for decades, have begun their push for European success in WEC with DPi champions Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr at the wheel of their bright yellow Oreca 007.