GINETTA GUNS FOR LE MANS
British sportscar firm for La Sarthe
British manufacturer Ginetta wants to fight for outright podium finishes at the Le Mans 24 Hours after unveiling its first thoroughbred LMP1 design.
The Leeds marque is planning to manufacture 10 new privateer class LMP1 chassis in time for the 2018 season, with a major Le Mans attack top of its agenda alongside selected partner teams.
The LMP1 project will be Ginetta’s biggest investment to date, and will return the brand to the endurance showpiece for the first time since 2010.
Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson said: “We aim to produce a car that’s hot on the heels of the factory LMP1 entries, and if you can do that you’re in the fight for outright podiums at Le Mans. That has to be the aim for this project.”
Ginetta will return to the top class of sportscar racing in 2018 with a brand new LMP1 design, which company chairman Lawrence Tomlinson hopes will be capable of fighting for outright podiums at Le Mans.
The British brand has unveiled plans for a new privateer LMP1 machine, set to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours in the LMP1-P category, which caters for non-hybrid prototypes.
Ginetta hasn’t competed at Le Mans since 2010, when it ran a rebadged Zytek GZ09 P1 chassis following the firm’s brief merger with Ginetta.
This new P1 car will be pure Ginetta, with the majority of design and development work conducted in house at its Leeds plant, but with key outsourcing. Legendary chassis designer Adrian Reynard has been tasked with leading the aerodynamic development.
Paolo Cantone, who designed Peugeot’s Le Mans-winning 908 HDI, is consulting on the chassis.
“Ginetta has been away from Le Mans for too long and as a company we want to be there, fighting at the top level,” Ginetta chairman Lawrence Tomlinson told Motorsport News.
“There is currently a void in LMP1 with Audi pulling out, and the top-line field of LMP1-H [hybrid] cars is currently very thin, so there needs to be another level underneath that. And we’re going to provide it.”
Tomlinson added that an initial run of 10 chassis has been commissioned, and that Ginetta was “well underway” with the design of the new car.
The chassis will fit the Automobile Club de l’ouest’s new 2018 LMP1 rules, which include new, safer monocoque designs and revisions to the weight limits.
Leading the way
Ginetta has a strong history in club racing, running multiple single-make series across the globe, but has also proven its capabilities in the prototype ranks in recent years.
The firm was the first to commit to the ACO’S LMP3 concept when it was announced, and its cars made up the entirety of the P3 field for the category’s debut year in the 2015 European Le Mans Series.
While Ginetta has now largely withdrawn from the LMP3 arena following a difference of opinion with powertrain supplier ORECA, its cars paved the way for LMP3 to thrive.
Ginetta did tender to become one of the ACO’S four approved LMP2 chassis constructors for 2017 onwards, but lost out on the contract. Tomlinson said that rejection forced the firm to reassess its options.
“When we were overlooked for the LMP2 contract, we sat back and looked at other opportunities, and LMP1-P will be the new LMP2 in essence,” he added.
“LMP2 will become a very spec series from now on, with homogenised cars. In terms of design there is no freedom anymore. Teams buy one of four chassis, fit the spec engine and off they go. There is no freedom to engineer anymore. From this year that freedom moves to LMP1-P, where there is far less restriction.
“Currently we’re looking at four factory LMP1-H cars for this year [from Porsche and Toyota]. Budgets for the hybrid cars are now equal to, or in excess of, some
Formula 1 budgets, and that’s worrying. Therefore to sustain the class there needs to be growth beneath it, and that’s where LMP1-P and this project comes in.
“With Audi gone, we aim to produce a prototype capable of running hot on the heels of the works hybrid cars, seconds per lap faster than LMP2.
“The rules allow us to be 60kg lighter than P2s and with a few hundred horsepower more. And if you can do that suddenly you’re in the fight for overall podium finishes with the factory cars, and that’s the aim.
“We’ve done projects like this before. We’re the first to confirm a new LMP1-P project to the 2018 rules package, just like we were the first to commit to and produce an LMP3 product. I expect more brands to follow us into LMP1-P and I think the class has a bright future.”
Build is underway
The story of Ginetta’s move back toward the LMP1 ranks has progressed each year since 2014.
Having completed its LMP3 chassis, Ginetta then launched its G57-P2 prototype, which works as an upgraded LMP3 car capable of matching LMP2 performance. The firm is also said to have experimented with more powerful prototypes for some time, with persistent rumours suggesting Ginetta had conducted testing work with a mule chassis mated to a Bentley engine last year, something Tomlinson “cannot confirm nor deny” ever took place.
Tomlinson confirmed that the P1 car would use a Mecachrome [former Renault F1 partner during its dominant V8 era] engine.
Ginetta has also built up its in-house production facilities, with the addition of autoclaves and carbonfibre production tooling in recent years. Tomlinson confirmed that some key aspects of the build would be outsourced to class-leading firms, and that Ginetta would also make key appointments to its in-house team, to work with Reynard on the aero development.
“We’re well down the line with the car concept,” Tomlinson added. “We’re also very excited to have Adrian onboard. He’s been a class-leading designer for many years and brings a lot of experience to the table. The Gibson chassis that won ELMS last year was an evolution of the Reynard prototype he first penned back in the late 1990s, so it shows the quality of what he produces.”
The LMP1 project marks perhaps the biggest investment Ginetta has made in its history. Tomlinson said the new car would be a brand new bespoke design, requiring “multi-million pound commitment”.
“Creating an LMP1 car and an LMP3 car are two very different things,” he said. “This project will be a real blank sheet of paper design, with no bastardisation of any current chassis we develop.”
Tomlinson did however play down talk of Ginetta’s Team LNT factory operation returning to Le Mans for the first time since 2009 when it ran a Zytek P1 for Nigel Moore, Richard Dean and Tomlinson himself.
“We won’t focus on a single factory team, instead we plan this to be a customer racing project,” he added. “We have a lot of interest from both new and current customer teams, and each one would receive full factory support for the cars.
“This is something we’re incredibly excited about, and we’ve had great support from the ACO too.”
Ginetta led the way with LMP3 design
Tomlinson: podiums possible
New prototype will run in the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours
Last Le Mans attempt back in 2010 with Nigel Mansell
The G57-P2 is capable of LMP2 pace and has proven popular in customer racing
Adrian Reynard is designing