IDEC Sport withdraws #17 LMP2 entry after Le Mans practice shunt

IDEC Sport's #17 ORECA LMP2 entry has been withdrawn from this weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours following a heavy crash in Thursday's Free Practice 3 session.

#17 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2, Dwight Merriman, Kyle Tilley, Ryan Dalziel

The car that was due to be shared by Ryan Dalziel, Thomas Laurent and Dwight Merriman has been scratched from the entry for the French endurance classic after American amateur driver Merriman's shunt approaching the Dunlop chicane.

It means the LMP2 class is down to 24 cars, and the total grid to 61 cars, for the World Endurance Championship blue riband.

The decision follows a tumultuous week for the Era Motorsport-backed IDEC entry, which began when Merriman's regular IMSA co-driver Kyle Tilley was forced to withdraw from the #17 line-up with a shoulder injury.

Era's statement revealed that a replacement driver was found, only for the unnamed individual to test positive for COVID-19, before 2017 LMP2 class winner and ex-Rebellion LMP1 driver Laurent was subsequently drafted in.

The team had already been forced to rebuild its ORECA 07 Gibson around a spare tub following an Merriman's accident during last Sunday's test day, but was able to complete Wednesday's pair of practice sessions and first qualifying without major dramas, securing 16th on the LMP2 grid.

However, Merriman's crash on Thursday prompted the final decision to withdraw the car.

It marks the second year in a row that Merriman has missed the race, after he was withdrawn from the lineup last year following a Free Practice 2 crash and replaced by Porsche veteran Patrick Pilet.

“It's heartbreaking to be pulling out of Le Mans before we even got a chance to race, but I know we're doing the right thing,” said Tilley.

#17 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 of Dwight Merriman, Kyle Tilley, Ryan Dalziel

#17 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 of Dwight Merriman, Kyle Tilley, Ryan Dalziel

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“We had high hopes going into the event, but with a handful of unfortunate events in the span of a few days, this year's race week has been a constant uphill battle.

"After a last-minute driver swap, a new chassis, and a second on-track incident, we had to make the tough call: If we don't feel 100 percent confident going into this race, we feel we have the responsibility to our competitors not to run.”

The sister IDEC Sport car, the #48 machine of Pilet, Paul Lafargue and Paul-Loup Chatin, secured 10th on the LMP2 grid on Wednesday after Chatin's high-speed off at Tetre Rouge.

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