The 2016 European Le Mans Series begins on April 16 with the 4 Hours of Silverstone. This season promises to be one to savour with a packed grid and the promise of close racing across all three classes.
2016 will be a transition year for LMP2 prior to new technical regulations coming into force for next season. As a result, we will see fascinating battles with well-proven machinery facing the latest in prototype development. 14 teams, representing nine nationalities will be campaigning 6 different chassis types.
The most popular chassis this year is the Ligier JS P2 of which we will see six examples of the grid. 2015 champions Greaves Motorsport will be bringing the #41 car with a driver line-up of multiple Rolex Daytona 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring-winner Memo Rojas, Julien Canal and Jakub Giermaziak. So24! By Lombard Racing are entering the #22 car with Vincent Capillaire, Olivier Lombard and Jonathan Coleman sharing the driving duties.
New-for-2016 Panis-Barthez Competition will be campaigning the #23 car, to be driven by Fabien Barthez, making his debut in debut at Silverstone, Timothé Buret and Paul-Loup Chatin. The #25 car is entered by Algarve Pro Racing, who recently gained a Le Mans entry, with Michael Munemann, British Olympian Sir Chris Hoy and Parth Ghorpade driving. Hoy moves up to the LM P2 class for 2016, having won the inaugural ELMS LMP3 title in 2015. Krohn Racing, from Houston, Texas, enter its second year of ELMS competition with the #40 car, to be driven by its established pairing of Tracy Krohn and Niclas Jonsson who are joined by Bjorn Wirdheim following his successful season last year with Greaves Motorsport. IDEC Sport racing complete the Ligier entries with its Judd-engined #28 car to be driven by Patrice and Paul Lafargue and Dimitir Enjalbert.
Three Nissan-engined ORECA 05s have been entered this season. DragonSpeed, new to the ELMS in 2016, bring their #21 car with a driver line-up of Henrik Hedman, Nicola Lapierre and Ben Hanley. Eurasia Motorsport, fresh from its Asian Le Mans Series campaign, enter the #33 car, with Pu Junjin, Nick De Bruijn and Tristan Gommandy sharing the driving duties. The #46 car, entered by 2015 Vice Champions Thiriet by TDS Racing completes the ORECA 05 entries and will be driven by Pierre Thiriet, Mathias Beche and Ryo Hirakama.
SMP Racing are entering a pair of Nissan-engined BR 01s. The #32 car will be driven by Stefano Coletti, Julian Leal Covelli and Andreas Wirth. Sean Gelael, Mitch Evans, who made his Le Mans debut with JOTA Sport in 2015, and Antonio Giovinazzi complete the driver line-up in the #44.
Four open-top LMP2s will be on the grid this season. Race Performance has entered the #34 ORECA 03R with a Judd engine for Nicolas Leutwiler, James Winslow and Franck Mailleux. Murphy Prototypes has entered a Nissan-engined example with Michael Lyons and Marc Goosens driving. Pegasus Racing has entered the #29 Morgan, driven by Inès Tattinger, Rémy Striebig and Léo Roussel.
Finally, G-Drive racing / JOTA Sport will be hoping for better luck this season for its venerable Gibson 015S, driven by the experienced pairing of Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell, joined this year by ex-Caterham F1 driver, Giedo Van Der Garde. The team will have its sights on the 2016 title, having been narrowly beaten over the previous two seasons.
After its inaugural season in 2015, LMP3 comes of age in 2016 with a huge grid of 20 cars entered for the 4 Hours of Silverstone. Despite the ACO inviting five manufacturers, with a sixth recently added, to supply chassis for the new class, all but one of the entries for the first round are Michelin-shod and Nissan-powered Ligier JS P2s.
Six teams from France are entering a total of nine cars. OAK Racing has entered the #4 car to be driven by Jean-Marc Merlin and Eric Maris while the sister # 24 car shares a driver line-up of team owner Jacques Nicolet and his son, Pierre. The Graff Racing #9 car is driven by Eric Trouillet, Paul Petit and Enzo Guibbert while John Falb and Sean Rayhall from the US and Vicente Potolicchio from Venezuela will drive the #10 entry.
Alongside its LMP2 entry, Panis-Barthez Competition will also campaign a Ligier JS P3, the #16 car being driven by the all-French line-up of Eric Debard, Valentin Moineault and Simon Gachet. Ultimate has a further all-French driving roster of Jean-Baptiste Lahaye, his brother Mathieu and Francois Heriau. Thomas Laurent, Yann Ehlacher and Alexandre Cougnard will drive the #18 M.Racing-YMR entry while Duqueine Racing enter two cars. The #19 will be driven David Hallyday, David Droux and Dino Lunardi while Roman Iannetta, Maxime Pialat and Eric Clement will share the #20.
US-entered and Leeds-based United Autosports are new to the championship and has entered two cars. The #2 will be driven by British drivers Alex Brundle and Christian England who are joined by Mike Guasch from the US. The #3 sister car will be driven will also two British drivers; Matthew Bell and Wayne Boyd who are joined by Mark Patterson from the US. United Autosports topped the time sheets in its class at the ELMS test in Le Castellet so will be confident going into the first round of the championship. Another new two-car team from the US is Eurointernational. The all-Italian driver line-up of Giorgio Mondini, Andrea Roda and Marco Jacobini share the #11 entry. Andrea Dromedari is currently the sole declared driver for the #12 car.
Spanish-based By Speed Factory has entered the #5 car. Two Spanish drivers; Alvaro Fontes and Jesus Fuster are joined by Briton Tom Jackson.
Two British-based teams are entered for Silverstone. 360 Racing has entered the #6 car with driving duties shared by Terrence Woodward, Ross Kaiser and James Swift. The #15 car is entered by RLR Motorsport with Morten Dons, Ossy Yusuf and Ross Warburtion driving.
Completing the Ligier JS P3 entrants are Villorba Corse, Race Performance and Inter Europol Competition. Villorba Corse has entered the #7 car to be driven by an Italian driver line-up of Roberto Lacorte, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Nicollo Schiro. From Poland Inter Europol Competition has entered the #13 car, driven by Jakub Smiechowski and Thomas Dagoneau while Swiss-based Race Performance will campaign the #8 car with a driver line-up of Marcello Marateotto, Giorgio Maggi and Bert Longin.
The sole non-Ligier entry wll be the Nissan-engined ex-University of Bolton Ginetta entered by MurphyP3 3Dimensional.com whose Ave-Riley will not be ready for the first round. Tony Ave from the US and Venezuela’s Doug Peterson will drive.
Nine cars are entered in GTE, the Ferrari F458 Italia being the most popular with five examples on the grid at Silverstone. AF Corse return with largely unchanged driver line-ups from last year. Piergiuseppe Parazzini, Marco Cioci and Rui Aguas share the #51 car while Duncan Camaron and Aaron Scott from Britain and Matt Griffin from Ireland complete the driver line-up in the #55. AT Racing from Austria has entered the #56 car to be driven by father-and–son duo of Alexander Talkanitsa Senior and Junior alongside Alessandro Pier Guidi. Denmark’s reigning ELMS LMGTE champions Formula Racing have an all-Danish driver line-up of Johnny Laursen, Mikkel Mac and Christina Nielsen. Nielsen has made previous appearances in the ELMS and had a class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this year.
Completing the Ferrari F458 Italia entrants is JMW Motorsport with Britain’s Rory Butcher and Rob Smith sharing the driving duties with former FIA GT1 World Champion Andrea Bertolini.
Proton Competition has entered a pair of Porsche 911 RSR 991s. Reigning LMGTE Champion Richard Lietz will be joining team principal Christian Ried and Gianluca Roda in the #88 car while Michael Hedlund, Wolf Henzler and Marco Seefried share the #77 entry.
2015 British GT Champion Andrew Howard will be joined in the #99 Aston Martin V8 Vantage by Alex MacDowell and, for Silverstone only, Darren Turner. Jonny Adam is unable to join the team for this round of the ELMS due to a scheduling conflict with the British GT Championship. The #96 Aston Martin Racing entry will be driven by Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall and New Zealander Richie Stanaway.
Qualifying for the 4 Hours of Silverstone takes place between 10:50 and 11:40 on April 16 with the race starting at 14:30 in the afternoon.