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Losing highly-competitive LMP2 class from WEC a “shame”, say drivers

World Endurance Championship drivers say it’s a “shame” that the LMP2 class has been dropped from the series next year to accommodate a larger field of Hypercar and LMGT3 cars.

#41 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Rui Andrade, Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz

#41 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Rui Andrade, Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz

Alessio Morgese

LMP2 has been a staple of WEC since the inception of the championship in 2012, although it has its roots in the LMP675 class that was launched by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest back in 2000.

LMP2 formed an important part of WEC, bridging the gap between the top division and the GT classes while also being home to some leading drivers and teams.

But with more manufacturers joining the burgeoning Hypercar category, and bumper applications received for the new LMGT3 division, the ACO was left with no option but to phase out the second-tier prototype class from all regular WEC rounds in 2024.

Le Mans 24 Hours will be the only WEC race where LMP2 cars will be eligible to enter from next year, with a minimum of 15 entries guaranteed by the rulemakers.

While the growth of the Hypercar class sign is a huge boost for the championship, many have lamented that it has come at the cost of a category that was an important part of the endurance racing ladder.

Filipe Albuqerque, who did the Le Mans/title double with United Autosports in the COVID-impacted 2019/20 season, said he will fondly remember his time in the LMP2 class as he switches focus to his IMSA SportsCar Championship programme with Acura.

Albuquerque pointed how LMP2 cars were so quick that they had to be artificially slowed down by regulations in order to ensure there is enough gulf in performance to the new LMH and LMDh contenders.

“It was a great time,” the Portuguese told Autosport. “I remember these cars very well. I have been here since the very beginning of these cars of the LMP2. 

#22 United Autosports Oreca 07 - Gibson: Frederick Lubin, Philip Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

#22 United Autosports Oreca 07 - Gibson: Frederick Lubin, Philip Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque

“I remember leaving Fuji with the old-spec cars and going to test the first LMP2 [for 2017] and I was amazed how quick they were. 

“They would put these cars in the hands of gentleman drivers, which then we could see them leaving because it was too quick. So by now we slow these cars down because obviously they were too quick for the new [LMH/LMDh] regulations. 

“But it's been like a proven concept.”

Opinion:

He added: “We have seen the field increasing massively even if it was like a [secondary] class and not the main one.

“LMP2 at one point was way more competitive than LMP1. [United] were in the mix and it was very nice and rewarding. 

“What I will miss as well from LMP2 when you were doing pole position by three tenths or four tenths, the merit goes to the driver and the team because there is no Balance of Performance and that's great.”

Multiple LMP2 race winner Gabriel Aubry stressed the importance of LMP2 in honing the skills of up-and-coming drivers and hopes other championships like the European Le Mans Series - where P2 forms the top class - will be able to fill the gap left by its departure from the WEC.

“I'm a little bit sad to see LMP2 going away because it's a great platform for youngsters to prove themselves before going to the higher category,” Aubry told Autosport.

#10 Vector Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson: Gabriel Aubry

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

#10 Vector Sport Oreca 07 - Gibson: Gabriel Aubry

“So, hopefully ELMS will come up and be that platform to the young generation coming out of single seaters without a future in F1 or budget to do F2 and F3, because that was my case. 

“I moved here because I loved WEC but also because I had no future in Formula 1. Hopefully this step will remain.”

Newly-crowned LMP2 champion Louis Deletraz highlighted how the class was home to some top-level drivers and teams, despite in theory being a feeder category to Hypercar.

His team WRT has been so impressive in LMP2 that it has been selected by BMW as its official factory partner for its Hypercar entry next year with its Dallara-based LMDh car.

“As a driver, the politics of the championship is not really my thing. What I can say is that P2 is a fantastic championship and has been giving enough opportunities for young drivers and teams to develop,” the Swiss told Autosport.

“And when you see the level, the LMP2 teams are better than some Hypercar teams. So it's pretty impressive. 

“It's a category I love, I've been here three years, and it's a shame it won't be in WEC. 

Louis Deletraz interview:

“But when you see when we have around 20 cars in Hypercar, it's also pretty awesome, so you cannot complain.”

#41 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Rui Andrade, Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

#41 Team WRT Oreca 07 - Gibson: Rui Andrade, Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz

Tom Ferrier’s TF Sport squad has interests in both the GT and LMP2 classes of endurance racing, putting him in a position to comment about WEC’s decision to transition to a two-class structure.

Although TF Sport is better known for its GTE Am exploits with Aston Martin, and also made waves earlier this year after announcing a partnership with Corvette for the new LMGT3 division, it also operates a lesser-known team under the Racing Team Turkey banner in ELMS.

Ferrier said he is looking at both pros and cons of WEC’s decision to drop LMP2 to make way for an increased number of cars in the remaining two classes.

“It's sad to lose LMP2, great class and great battles,” he told Autosport. “But again on the flip side it's brilliant that the top class is moving and it's great to have more GT cars on the grid as well. 

“Expect some pretty fierce battles in each with 18 cars going head to head, nine different manufacturers. 

“I think it will make it fun, but still a shame to lose what has been a brilliant class in LMP2.”

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