Tuesday, 6 February 2018

ELMS: Which teams to expect in the 2018 European Le Mans Series ?

In just two days, the entry list for the 2018 European Le Mans Series will be revealed on the series' website and social media.  Time to look ahead and figure out which teams we might expect to return to the series and which new teams will make their appearance this season.


The LMP2 class seems healthier than ever.  Racing Team Nederland won't return this year as the Dutch team has applied for an entry in the FIA WEC.  All other teams from last season are expected to return - some of them with an extra car - and at least one new team will appear at the prologue and first race at Paul Ricard in April.

Dragonspeed already confirmed their return to the European Le Mans Series 2 weeks ago.  The team's Oreca 07 will be driven again by the same trio as last season with Nicolas Lapierre, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley.  Busy times ahead for Hedman and Hanley with the Oreca in ELMS and the BR1 in the FIA WEC.  With Nico Lapierre staying with the team in ELMS, it's expected he will replace Renger van der Zande in Spa which collides with the IMSA race at Mid-Ohio.

G-Drive's plans will remain - as usual - unclear untill the entry lists for both ELMS and WEC are announced.  A return to both championships is expected though, but which team will run the G-Drive car(s) for the 2018 season remains a surprise.

United Autosports expands its efforts in the European Le Mans Series to 4 cars this year, adding an extra Ligier JSP2 in the mix, next to both JSP3's. 24h of Daytona winner Filipe Albuquerque will be joined by Phil Hanson in the first car for the season and at Le Mans.  The second car will be driven by Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer who drove with Albuquerque last season and already shared a Ligier in Daytona last month. 

Double race winners Graff will be back for more in 2018, returning with both of their Gibson powered Oreca 07's.  No official news on drivers yet, but expect a strong mix of returning and new drivers in both cars.  For Le Mans, Graff will team up with SO24 and Vincent Capillaire in one of their Oreca's. Graff will also be back in the Michelin Le Mans Cup, probably running 2 Ligier JSP3's. 

IDEC Sport expands its ELMS program to two cars this year, bringing 2 Ligies JSP2's to the grid. The team is aiming for race victories, if possible a shot for the title and is expanding with some impressive names. In December, Nicolas Minassian made to the move from Dragonspeed to IDEC as Racing director. Another big asset for the team will be Paul Loup Chatin who will drive on of the Ligiers alongside Paul Lafargue. The former ELMS champion and Alpine driver brings a lot of knowledge and experience to the team.  This might be one of the cars to watch in 2018.

Duquiene Engineering - which acquiered Norma after last season - steps up to the LMP2 class this year with an Oreca 07.  Stepping up to LMP2 prevents Duqueine from racing against its Norma customers in the LMP3 class.  No word yet about the driver line-up so far.

Panis-Barthez Competition is set for its second season in the LMP2 class, and is expected to field its second car in the LMP3 class again.  Expect Fabien Barthez back at the wheel of the LMP2 Ligier, joined by Timothé Buret and Nathanaël Berthon again.

Italian Cetilar Villorba Corse returns with their Dallara for a second season in LMP2.  No change in their driver line-up with Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio SernaGiotto and Andrea Belicchi back behind the wheel.  High Class Racing from Denmark will also return with their Dallara and Anders Fjordbach & Dennis Andersen in the cockpit. The team also confirmed to be eying for an invite for the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. 

Spanish team AVFormula run by Adrian Valles, will be a new face in the ELMS paddock this season. AVF has been active in the Formula Renault 2.0 aand the World Series Formula V8 in which they ran the SMP Racing Team last season. AVF will now run a Gibson powered Dallara P217 in the LMP2 class, presumably the chassis that was used by SMP Racing last season.  2 drivers haven been announced so far: Henrique Chaves from Portugal who has been racing with the team for several years now and Russian driver Konstantin Tereschenko.

Algarve Pro Racing's plans remain unclear after just finishing the Asian Le Mans Series last weekend, although they are likely to return to the European Le Mans Series with their Ligier.  M.RacingYMR has been linked to an entry in LMP2 but decided to race in GT4 this year. The team of the 4 time WTCC champion will remain in the LMP3 class thought with their Norma M30.


As reported earlier, United Autosports will defends its title in the LMP3 class with John Falb and Sean Rayhall returning behind the wheel of the #2 Ligier. Drivers for the #3 Ligier are still to be confirmed.

360 Racing returns to the LMP3 class for the third season in a row and retains the same driver line-up as in 2017.  Terrence Woodward, James Swift and Ross Kaiser will be back on driving duties for all races on the 2018 calendar.

RLR MSport will also be back on the grid in the LMP3 class, reserving their Ligier JSP3 for Ross Kaiser, John Farao and Job Van Uitert.  Van Uitert is a young Dutch driver (°1998) who has raced in the Italian F4 championship in which he became runner-up last season.  Both Van Uitert and Farano will also race for the team in the Michelin Le Mans Cup.

Eurointernational is also expected again in LMP3 with both of their Ligiers. So far only Ricky Capo has confirmed his return to the team in the #12 car.  Same for Polish team Inter Europol Competition, who will return with their Ligier this season.

Other teams combining an entry in LMP2 and LMP3 or returning to the LMP3 class are Panis-Barthez Competition and M.Racing/YMR.   Ultimate, Cool Racing by GPC and AT Racing also seem to be returning to the 2018 championship. Michelin Le Mans Cup champions DKR engineering seems to be set to defend their title, but have acquired a second Norma M30 which might be entered in the ELMS. 


The amount of cars in the GTE class is pretty tough to call at this moment.  With the increase in interest in the FIA WEC, especially in LMP1 and the addition of BMW in the LM GTE Pro class, entries for the 2018/2019 super season could be hard to get.  Even with an increase to a maximum of 34 cars, there's a chance teams in GTE Am will be denied entry for the World Endurance Championship.  Those teams might come over to race in the ELMS GTE class this season. 

JMW will definitely be back to defend their 2017 title with the yellow Ferrari 488 GTE and their win in the Le Mans GTE AM class.  No words on drivers yet, but Rob Smith is likely to return to the team.  Also expected back with 1 or 2 Ferrari's is AF Corse run Spirit of Race, Duncan Cameron and Gianluca & Giorgio Roma running 2 Ferrari's. 

Proton Competition should also return to the series, possibly with a   Team owner Christian Ried will probably share the car with Matteo Cairoli and a third driver which is still to be announced. Proton has acquiered three new 911 RSR's of which one should be entered in the ELMS, don't forget to bring your earplugs !

Returning to the European Le Mans Series after being absent from a full season drive in 2017 is Krohn Racing.  Tracy Krohn has been reported to return to the GTE class with a Ferrari F488 GTE which will be run by AF Corse.  Krohn Racing's last full season in ELMS was in 2016 when they ran a Ligier LMP2. He will be joined by Nic Jonsson and Andrea Bertolini. 

TF Sport won't return to the ELMS as Salih Yoluc & co will step up to the FIA World Endurance Championship.  Beechdean's plans are unclear too up until now, not sure whether they will return to the ELMS of if Andrew Howard will also make the move to the WEC.  Unfortunately this means there's a chance we won't see an Aston Martin on the grid this year. 

The 2018 grid and European Le Mans season will be announced on Thursday afternoon.

Kristof Vermeulen.

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