Year by year the European Le Mans Series shows signs that no other word will be accepted than ‘evolution’, and we already saw the first hint of what can be a fantastic season with the announcement of the entry list of the continental series.
This Friday (5), the ACO revealed in the famous yearly event at Paris which teams will make presence during the full ELMS season in 2016, and the count of 44 cars spread into the three categories of the championship shows that progress was made from past years.
As the GT3 cars were reallocated from the ELMS to create the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, the GTE class is the only one representing the production cars again, with nine entries in the list. AF Corse and Proton Competition, traditional entries in the competition, come with a pair of cars each, and as predictable, the Italian side with Ferrari 458s and the German side with Porsche 911 RSR models. Other traditional teams are in the mix, with the notable detail being the TDS Racing team entering with an Aston Martin V8 Vantage, stepping up from the GT3 ranks.
The most crowded class in 2016, the LMP3 class had a huge leap compared to 2015, as the grid numbers jumped from seven to an incredible twenty car count. Also, the army of Ginettas was gave place to another army, formed by Ligier JS P3s, with famous squads like Race Performance, RLR, Duqueine Engineering and OAK Racing itself entering in the competition. Along with them, Yvan Muller Racing and Panis-Barthez Competition are also notable entries in the class. Murphy Prototypes seems to have a giant-killing mission this year as they enter in the class with the only Riley AR-2 model, which is also the only car outside the Ligier one in the LMP3 class.
The LMP2 class that delivered intense competition in 2015 and before, have a grid composed by 15 machines and six different models, proving the diversity of the second prototype tier. Big teams like Greaves Motorsport, Murphy Prototypes and Thiriet by TDS Racing continue in the game with little additions. Returning from the Asian Le Mans Series are Eurasia Motorsport, now with an ORECA 05, Algarve Pro Racing and Race Performance, as the Swiss squad comes back after a year out of the ELMS.
A number of teams made the leap from GT racing to the LMP2 class, like IDEC Sport and Blancpain GT and Pirelli World Challenge contenders Dragonspeed, and along with them, the name Courage returns to its home, as Yves Courage brings his team to ELMS after a spell in GT Tour with a BR Engineering BR01, hinted after some tests with the Russian prototype.
The tire factor in the LMP2 class, the only one with with multiple tire choice, puts Dunlop in a way more positive position than Michelin, as it has been in the last years in the LMP2 class in general, as only three squads from the fifteen in the class use the French rubber. Mid-season tire supplier changes were seen in past years, even between frontrunner teams, so don’t be surprised with Dunlops being replaced by Michelins or the reverse way depending on how they will fare during the year.
The complete ELMS list with the nominated drivers can be found here, and the season starts on April 16th with the 4 Hours of Silverstone, sharing track time in the same weekend with the FIA World Endurance Championship.
PHOTOS: European Le Mans Series, GRAFF Racing