This week we look at the Best of 2017 WEC – LMP2 Part 1, and because this is such a big class (especially at Le Mans), we have decided to split the class and study just four cars this time round. To keep it simple we will explore how the two Rebellion cars and the two Jackie Chan cars fared at six of the nine rounds that Virtual Motorpix attended.
Here are the drivers and car details:
|13||Vaillante Rebellion||Oreca 07 Gibson||Mathias Beche/David Heinemeier Hansson/Nelson Piquet JR|
|31||Vaillante Rebellion||Oreca 07 Gibson||Julien Canal/Nicolas Prost/Bruno Senna|
|37||Jackie Chan DC Racing||Oreca 07 Gibson||David Cheng/Alex Brundle/Tristan Gommendy|
|38||Jackie Chan DC Racing||Oreca 07 Gibson||Ho-Pin Tung/Oliver Jarvis/Thomas Laurent|
This year, the LMP2 cars gave the LMP1 class a run for its money, especially at those circuits that were characterised by long straights like Spa and Le Mans. In fact, it was at the classic French 24-hour race that the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car almost upstaged the only remaining Porsche LMP1 car, for outright honours. The #38 car finished in second place, seven places ahead of the only remaining (out of three) #8 Toyota LMP1, which was down in eight place.
The reason for the excessively quick LMP2 cars this year was because they run a conventional V8 engine, which meant that when they accelerated out of a corner, they carried on accelerating up to their maximum speed which they maintained until they braked for the next corner. The LMP1 cars on the other hand accelerated much faster out of the corner because their stored energy from the braking zone immediately before the last corner, boosted them forward in an elevated power thrust which combined with its conventional engine. Their massive burst of power and speed gradually waned though as they made their way down, for instance, the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans where the terminal speed of the LMP2 can be higher than that of the LMP1 car. There is no question that the LMP1 car was a good deal quicker over a lap of any circuit, but these cars need corners and braking zones in order to generate their hybrid power. This is why there were six LMP2 cars between the winning LMP1 Porsche and the struggling Toyota, as these cars are powered by a conventional engine which, if reliable, would end up snapping at the heels of a struggling LMP1 car if given half a chance.
Round 1 – Silverstone 6 Hours – 16 April
The #26 G-Drive Racing car driven by Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn snatched pole from the #36 Signatech Alpine, followed by the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car. After the first couple of hours, it was the #36 Signatech Alpine car that headed the pack and at the halfway mark, the #38 Jackie Chan car moved up into second place. In the closing two hours, the Jackie Chan car maintained its position in second place but moved into the lead in the final hour. The #38 Jackie Chan took the chequered flag ahead of the #31 Vaillante Rebellion of Canal/Prost/Senna in second and the #28 TDS Racing of Perrodo/Vaxiviere/Collard. All three of the top cars were Oreca 07 – Gibsons.
Round 2 – Spa 6 Hours – 6 May
Sitting on pole after qualifying once again was the #26 G-Drive Racing of Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn. The entire race was run in dry weather but towards the end of the six hours it looked rather inclement. The lead swapped around like an over-worked yo-yo, but the top three almost always included the #26, #31 and #38 cars, such was the level of rivalry and competition. Once again, all three of the podium finishers drove an Oreca 07 – Gibson.
Round 3 – Le Mans 24 Hours – 17/18 June
Being the most famous race in the world, the Le Mans 24 Hour is always that bit more special than any of the other races. As a result, the usual LMP2 grid which consists of between nine and eleven cars, was swollen to no less than 25 cars, almost half the entire field.
You could not have convinced many before the race got underway, that three of the five LMP1 cars would be out by late Sunday morning, and that with 21 hours gone, an LMP2 car would be leading overall. This situation arose because the leading #1 Porsche simply stopped out on the circuit, and at that stage the second placed car was the #38 Jackie Chan Oreca. The #2 Porsche, which had stopped for around an hour during the night, was Porsche’s last hope, but it was well down on the speeding LMP2 car. At the wheel of the #38 Jackie Chan car was the experienced Oliver Jarvis, accustomed to pedalling the rather rapid Audi R18 around Le Mans in years gone by, and so leading such an auspicious race was not something new to him. Jarvis needed no incentive to maintain his lead, but with the likeable Jackie Chan no doubt hopping up and down in the VIP area, the Porsche began steadily to reel in the Oreca. The calculators must have been working overtime in the Porsche pits as the minutes and the laps ticked by, but with all possibilities entered into the equation, it was finally realised that with the number of remaining laps, the #2 Porsche should by all accounts overtake the LMP2 car.
Indeed, this is what happened and somewhat comfortably, but for two nerve-racking hours, the #38 car played havoc with everybody’s blood pressure while heart rates soared. And while that the contest was unfolding at the front of the field, a gaggle of LMP2 contenders were in hot pursuit in case one of the front runners should trip up. It was fascinating, but in the end, it was the #38 Jackie Chan Oreca of Ho-Pin Tung/Oliver Jarvis/Thomas Laurent that finished in second place after a fine and valiant effort. They were followed home in third place by the #37 Jackie Chan Oreca of David Cheng/Alex Brundle/Tristan Gommendy, three laps down on their sister car. No doubt a bit of champagne flowed that evening in the Jackie Chan pit garage.
Round 4 – Nürburgring 6 Hours – 16 July
For the first hour of the race, the top three cars maintained their starting positions, the #38 pole sitter, hot from their inspired Le Mans drive, led the group followed by #31 and #13 Rebellion cars. As the hours went by, the #37 Jackie Chan Oreca, sister car to the leader, crept up through the order and at the end of the third hour, it lay in second spot. However, the #37 car dropped back and up into the top three came the #36 Signatech Alpine. At the end of six hours it was victory for the #38 car driven by Ho-Pin Tung/Oliver Jarvis/Thomas Laurent, followed by the #31 Rebellion car and the #36 Signatech Alpine.
Round 6 – 6 Hours of the COTA – 16 September
An extremely hot race awaited the teams in Austin, Texas in September. Some of the familiar contenders were once again at the top of the qualifying table: #36 Signatech Alpine was pole, with the #13 Rebellion second and the #38 Jackie Chan Oreca third. This time, the situation amongst the top three was fairly volatile, as the third placed #38 car dropped back after an hour, its place being taken by its #37 sister car. The #26 G-Drive and the #31 Rebellion both had stints in the top trio. Then the #38 once again had a showing back in the top group, as did #13 and #31. But in the final reckoning, it was the turn of the #36 Signatech Alpine to occupy the top step of the podium, followed this time by the two Rebellions.
Round 9 – Bahrain 6 Hours – 18 November
The final race of the year, and the final time that the WEC will visit Bahrain as a fixture on the calendar, was nevertheless a closely fought affair. No doubt wishing to bow out in style, the #36 Signatech grabbed pole at the final race followed by the familiar #38 Jackie Chan Oreca and the #31 Rebellion of Julien Canal/Nicolas Prost/Bruno Senna.
The #24 and #25 Manor Racing cars wanted in on the action and after the first hour were occupying first and third places in class, with the #38 car sandwiched in the middle. But the pair of Rebellions had no intention of being elbowed out of the way, as they settled in just behind the leader. The top three positions were then swapped around between this trio: #38, #13 and #31, in the final hours. As the curtain came down on this last race, it was the #31 Rebellion first followed by the #38 Jackie Chan car and the #13 sister Rebellion.
At the end of the season, it was the #31 Vaillante Rebellion of Julien Canal/Nicolas Prost/Bruno Senna that scooped the Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Teams with 186 points. They were followed by the #38 China Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca of Ho-Pin Tung/Oliver Jarvis/Thomas Laurent with 175, while Nicolas Lapierre/Gustavo Menezes/André Negrão in the #36 France Signatech Alpine Matmut finished third with 151 points.
Next week we will bring you Part 2 of the LMP2 teams, which will contain another selection of images for your enjoyment.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & John Mountney