PROTOTYPES - P2
Nissan entries – Nissan-powered LMP2 cars showed they had the pace at Sebring a year ago, as Soheil Ayari took pole in the Signatech Oreca 03 car over the Level 5 Lola HPDs. They didn't have the same level of reliability, though, on debut.
A year later, six of the nine WEC P2 entries have the Nissan engine, with three of them with Oreca 03 chassis (Signatech, ADR-Delta and Pecom), two Gulf Racing Middle East Lola B12/80 coupes, and a singular Zytek from Greaves Motorsport.
While ADR-Delta and Gulf are new P2 entrants, Signatech captured the 2011 ILMC P2 crown for teams, and Greaves snatched the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Le Mans Series P2 titles. Signatech's lineup features young pro drivers Franck Mailleux and Olivier Lombard alongside GT Academy winner Jordan Tresson, who moves into Lucas Ordonez's seat this year.
Greaves' ALMS-prepared trio of Elton Julian, Ricardo Gonzalez and Christian Zugel make the best of their respective ability levels. Pecom's lineup is perhaps strongest in Nissan's arsenal, as Ayari moves to the team alongside ex-Ferrari driver Pierre Kaffer and Luis Perez Companc. Pecom was the only WEC team to test at Sebring at the ALMS Winter Test in February (ABOVE).
Starworks HPD – Peter Baron's team has taken the plunge into the WEC as one of two American entrants, and may have the strongest lineup overall of the WEC P2 entrants. The team has recruited Stephane Sarrazin, ex-Peugeot pilot, alongside full-season drivers Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio. Armed with the P2-spec HPD ARX-03b, this is a car and team that could make some noise.
Lotus – The Kodewa Lotus squad run by ex-F1 team principal Colin Kolles, who has dabbled in sports car racing before with customer Audi R10s, is another new team on the grid and has badged its Judd V8s as Lotus engines to go with its Lola B12/80 Coupe. The project is ambitious but unlikely to do much in the way of results its first time out, although if nothing else, it has an excellent dark blue, black and gold livery.
Ferrari – There will be six Ferraris split between GTE Pro and Am, three apiece. Defending ILMC GTE Pro class champions AF Corse now have a pair of Pro class Ferrari 458s entered after only going with one a year ago, and it's a good thing considering there are only five GTE Pro class entries in the 2012 WEC. With Risi's withdrawal, Toni Vilander became available to join the AF Corse Ferrari contingent.
Besides the Finn, Giancarlo Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni, Andrea Bertolini, Olivier Beretta and Marco Cioci will be in the two Pro AF Corse cars. The team also had an Am class 458, a 2011-spec entry, to be run by the joint AF Corse-Waltrip partnership and drivers Michael Waltrip, Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas.
Luxury Racing also has two 458s, but as they were unable to do a year ago with the 458 then a new car, now they're split between Pro and Am. The American-entered Krohn Racing 458 completes the Ferrari six-pack, as Tracy Krohn's squad upgrades from the 430 it ran a year ago. Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Michele Rugolo look to repeat their GTE Am class victory at Sebring.
Porsche – With only three European Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs making the voyage to Sebring, Porsche has one of its smallest “bumper crop” entries in recent years. The German Felbermayr-Proton squad has two of them, and is another team to split its cars into Pro and Am. Its Pro lineup is stout, with a trio of Porsche factory drivers in Richard Lietz, Marc Lieb and Patrick Pilet. The new JWA-Avila squad enters the WEC as the third of the one-off Porsches.
Aston Martin – The Prodrive-run factory Aston Martin Racing squad returns to its GT roots after its several year prototype sojourn. While the team's Lola Aston Martin V12 was among the crowd favorites and scored a number of victories, its last the overall win at last September's ALMS round at Mazda Raceway, its AMR-One was, frankly, an unmitigated disaster with persistent engine woes and a grand total of 6 race laps completed between its two cars at last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Since 2011 couldn't have gone much worse, the team runs its newly premiered Vantage in the Pro category for Stefan Mucke, Adrian Fernandez and Darren Turner – another strong lineup. Now, the drivers have a car with which they can contend.
Corvette – Larbre's two GTE Am class Corvettes enter as defending class champions in the 2011 ILMC, and have upgraded its lead car's driver lineup. Ex-Peugeot pilot Pedro Lamy of Portugal joins Frenchmen Patrick Bornhauser and Julien Canal, two of the three that took Jack Leconte's squad to victory in class at last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team's all-gentlemen second car is now entered for the full WEC.