Lead ELMS teams ditch Ligier chassis for Oreca
The United Autosports and Panis-Barthez teams have explained why they have swapped from Ligier to Oreca chassis for their lead European Le Mans Series entries ahead of this month's Silverstone round.
United drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson are switching to an Oreca 07 after racing a Ligier JS P217 together in the ELMS since 2018.
It mirrors United's decision to use an Oreca for its maiden full-season FIA World Endurance Championship campaign, in which Paul di Resta will drive alongside Albuquerque and Hanson.
The Panis-Barthez Competition squad has made the same move for its lead line-up of Will Stevens, Rene Binder and Julien Canal.
The second entries of each team remain with the Ligier for the Silverstone event, which takes place on August 30 on the undercard of the 2019/20 WEC opener.
United boss Richard Dean explained that the team had reversed its decision to stick with the Ligier in the ELMS following a successful first run with the Oreca at the WEC Prologue test at Barcelona last month.
"When you end up quickest with a new car on your first day of testing with it, everyone inevitably asks why you wouldn't want to run an Oreca in the ELMS as well," he told Motorsport.com.
"We thought we'd probably make the switch at some point for our ELMS programme and it made sense to do it at Silverstone when Filipe and Phil are racing an Oreca in the WEC.
"The driving styles are quite different between the two cars, so it would have made life difficult for them if they were jumping back and forth between two cars."
United's WEC entry is a brand new Oreca, but it has also purchased two cars formerly raced in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship by the JDC-Miller Motorsports squad. One of these chassis will be raced by Albuquerque and Hanson in the British ELMS round.
Dean said it wouldn't have been possible to ready both ex-JDC-Miller cars for Silverstone.
Panis-Barthez boss Olivier Panis explained that the French outfit was also changing chassis for performance reasons.
"When something can jeopardise the operation and development of a team, decisions must be taken," he said. "Today it’s impossible to beat the Oreca 07 on the track."
Panis stressed that the team, which is run by Tech1 Racing, is not ending its relationship with Ligier. It will return to the Asian Le Mans Series this winter with one JS P217 and one old-generation Judd-powered Ligier JS P2 in the LMP2 Am class.
The second entries from United and Panis-Barthez are two of the four Ligiers left in the P2 class of the ELMS. IDEC Sport and Inter Europol Competition are the other teams running the JS P217 in a field that now includes 13 Orecas.
Albuquerque and Hanson are the best-placed Ligier drivers in seventh place in the ELMS points after three races. They scored the last wins for the JS P217 at the final two rounds of the 2018 season at Spa and Portimao.
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Photo by: JEP / LAT Images
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