Nissan LM P2 racer at Sebring - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) LMP2 category is definitely looking up for the 2012 season, thanks to a rules package that strives to be cost-effective and stable, thereby inviting more independent teams into the class.
ALMS uses regulations from the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), who make rules for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The ACO decreed an LMP2 car can't cost more than 345,000 euros, or just under $440,000 U.S. for its chassis; engines are capped at $75,000 each.
"These cars have a cost structure that is fixed, thanks to the rules," Black Swan Racing team owner/driver Tim Pappas said. "You don't have to take them and spend thousands of dollars to develop them and to become competitive. You could do that, but that's not what this class is about." Black Swan is moving from the GT Challenge class to LMP2 for the 2012 season.
There are several chassis providers in the LMP2 class: Lola, Oak Pescarolo and Riley are the most prominent. Engine suppliers include Ford (through Roush Yates Engines), Honda Performance Development (HPD) and Nissan.
Reigning LM P2 champions Level 5 Motorsports will have plenty of competition in the new season with Black Swan entering the class - and also from Eric Bachelart's Conquest Endurance coming from INDYCAR with an Oak Pescarolo entry, for whom they are the American distribution arm.
"We're really looking forward to the competition in ALMS' LMP2 class in 2012," Scott Tucker said. After sharing the 2011 title with Christophe Bouchut, the owner/driver at Level 5 noted, "We were attracted to this class because it truly represents the pinnacle of sports car racing for a privateer team.
"With the addition of some great new teems for the upcoming year," Tucker noted, "I think you will see tremendous racing and a great championship battle. We're fortunate to have a great technical partner in Honda Performance Development and we have high expectations for the 2012 season."
ALMS said there are other high profile teams looking at the LMP2 class for the 2012 season, some that have competed within ALMS in the past and others from outside the ALMS paddock.
"Endurance racing is experiencing a lot of growth in the United States," noted Oak Racing principal Jacques Nicolet, "and the LMP2 category is poised to conquer a new place in the North American market. A proof of this is the fact that teams like Conquest Endurance have decided to be part of the ALMS."
Black Swan's Pappas concurred: "This class has come together nicely with a stable rules platform, cost caps and support from multiple manufacturers. LMP2 in the ALMS was an unbelievable class only a few years ago. Hopefully, with such a stable platform and a Pro-Am combination, it can help guys like me who don't race full-time but have a passion for racing. Maybe we can contend for a championship?"
The first opportunity to see the new LMP2 cars in action comes with the annual Sebring Winter Test, set for February 8-9 at Sebring International Raceway. The first ALMS race of the year, held in conjunction with the FIA World Endurance Championship is the the 60th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.