Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ROLEX 24: How Many of the "Shrinking Violets" EuroSpec' LMP2 Contingent will take the Chequered Flag in 2019?

With this year's contingent 'O European Spec LMP2 Prototype entrants having Shrunk Dramatically over last year's bevy 'O 10 LMP2 runners, by more than 50%, will the new LMP2 Class survive?

For 2019, IMSA has split the B-I-G BOYZ' Prototypes category into two separate classes, with the LMP2 category seeing a miniscule two cars slated to contest Thar entire 8-round championship this year, leaving them to worry over the future of the new "Mid-level" category's future.

Which is quite a shift away from last year's burgeoning European LMP2 runners aiming for glory at Daytona...

Although I too Missed Duh Memo', actually several memos - first regarding DragonSpeed's announcement of jumping upwards to Indy Cars for 2019. Unlike thoust OLD-est IndyCar Blogger Geo. Phillips; Hya! The name DragonSpeed isn't unknown to Mwah, having scribbled 'bout Thar past forays into Sports Car racing.

Yet I also know briefly about the teams founder and owner Elton Julian, an aspiring racing driver who hoped to follow in Mikey A's footsteps in thee Pinnacle of Motorsports, nee Formula 1. As Americres' next Grands Prix Pilote after Michael Andretti's departure from McLaren in '93.

As Julian was a  test driver for Larrousse in 1994, reportedly outpacing the team's Eric Comas during his first test at Circuit Paul Ricard, with hopes of landing a race seat for the '95 F1 season before Larrousse folded.

Elton founded DragonSpeed in '07 and has slowly, methodically built the team up over the past decade's time after beginning with a single Ferrari 430GT Challenge entry in the 2011 Rolex 24's GTD class.

As DragonSpeed won the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge's GTA category with budding Sports Car driver Frankie Montecalvo,  who's now in the more prestigious IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's GTD (Daytona) Class.

Next they won the 2017 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) LMP2 category in Thar G Drive branded entry with former Grand Am multi-champion Memo Rojas, who served as Scotty Scooter' Pruett's co-driver those championship years at the controls.

Ironically, it was DragonSpeed's latest venture where Pietro Fittipaldi broke his legs behind the wheel of the team's new BR Engineering Gibson 4.5-litre V-8 World Endurance Championship (WEC) Le Mans Prototype (LMP1) chassis in Belgium last year, whose regular drivers were Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman.

Yet I'm also slightly perplexed over IMSA's "Memo" previously announcing its rule changes for 2019, where it'll split the Prototypes Class into two separate entities, i.e.; DPi and LMP2, which presumably means that they'll be handing out more Rolex wristwatches? But also seems to further punish the European Spec contingent from overall victory?

Oreca 07
Engine: Gibson 4.2-litre normally aspirated V-8
Teams: DragonSpeed, Performance Tech Motorsports and PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports
#18) Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Saavedra, Roberto Gonzalez and Ryan Cullen
#38) Kris Wright, Kyle & Robin Masson and Cameron Castle
#52) Matt McMurray, Gabriel Aubry, Mark KVamme, and Enzo Gibert
#81) Ben Hanley, Nicolas Lapierre, Henrik Hedman and James Allen
Was originally curious of where DragonSpeed procured it's Brace 'O Oreca's from? Before delving into Thar background. As they're the only one of the Oreca Quartet running two entries this event, although I now know they bought the Oreca LMP2 chassis for their 2016 ELMS foray.

As I find it a toss-up over which has the better known Drivers at the controls? Although presumably Ben Hanley aboard the team's lead #81 chassis will now be gaining some well deserved Attenzione due to his forthcoming Debutante IndyCar season, albeit a modest five race effort - including the Mack Daddy Indy 500.

Yet the Seester' #18, in thoust Oh, So Clever tradition of reverse numerals, sports a most well known, if somewhat colourful Chap with the distinction of several Dubious Nicknames, a la Walldanado' and CRASHTOR'; YOUCH! Even though the Venezuelan driver's the last Formula 1 Pilote' to win a race for Team Willy', aka Williams F1 in 2012!

As you could argue that both Hanley and Maldonado are both in career rebuilding modes, albeit Hanley's seems to be heading in a brighter trajectory vs. Maldonado who's lucrative PDVSA sponsorship dollars dried up, forcing his departure from Formula 1.

As the 33yr old Bloody Brit' Hanley, who was out of Single Seater racing for the past Decade after being rudely Dumped from his Renault Sport Driver Academy roster position Wayback in '08, has kept sharp by racing Go Karts before landing a DragonSpeed seat in the European Le Mans SportsCar Series for 2016.

With Ben Co-Driving with his current partners Nicolas Lapierre and Henrik Hedman for two seasons before moving up to the WEC's top flight LMP1 Privateer category last year.

Not sure why, unless Performance Tech Motorsports simply hasn't figured out it's Driver lineup yet? Even though I thought it was mandatory to participated in thou Roar Before the Rolex? Only had a single Driver denoted, albeit I wouldn't be surprised if James French ends up behind the #38's keyboards...

But Y'all know what happens when Yuhs ARSE-Sume, Righto? Instead it's a new "Double Entendre," a la those past Frisselle Bros, as I actually found Kyle Masson's website, but it only chronicled 2017 and when I tried opening one of the story links it said Access Denied; WTF! As know absolutely NOTHIN' about the Masson Bros or Hoser Cameron Castle added to Performance Tech Motorsports Driver roll...

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports has apparently Jettisoned it's one year collabouration with Gary Peterson and his AFS Sprinkler Company. And Will see the No. 52 entry as one half of IMSA's LMP2 Full Season competitors.

Most interesting of the three Drivers I could discern just over a Fortnight before the Rolex 24 is the unheard of Gabriel Aubry to Mwah, who's apparently quite a well known Male Model in Europe; Ooh la-la Mon Cherie...