European Le Mans Series LMP2 team 10Star DragonSpeed has announced that it is planning to join the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class for the 2018-19 “Super Season,” becoming the first-ever American-flagged effort in the series’ top class.
DragonSpeed, which won the Pirelli World Challenge GTA class title in 2015 and the European Le Mans Series LMP2 Drivers and Teams titles earlier this month under the G-Drive Racing by DragonSpeed banner, has yet to confirm which chassis and engine suppliers it will utilize for its LMP1 effort.
However, two drivers are already confirmed for its debut LMP1 campaign. Team patron and Bronze driver Henrik Hedman will make the step up along with 32-year-old British racer Ben Hanley, who raced alongside Hedman in the ELMS the past two seasons.
“The whole team is thrilled and up for the challenge,” Elton Julian, 10Star DragonSpeed team principal, said. “Having won sports car titles in GT3 and LMP2, the natural progression for our highly talented and motivated crew is to move up to LMP1.”
“We’re carefully studying potential partners who can help us put together a program which will deliver the progress and success we want for DragonSpeed. Everyone is on the same page in terms of the package and approach we need, and we can’t wait to get started.”
“I look back to 2005, when I first drove at Le Mans,” he continued. “You had a single works team with Audi plus a great supporting cast of privateers running six different chassis and four different engines. In fact, the pole went to one of the privateers. If Toyota continues – and we all hope they will – I think over the next couple of years we can bring back that variety and tradition of privateers being genuinely competitive in the top class.”
Hedman added: “The chance to progress to the premier level of endurance racing with such a successful and close-knit group made this an easy decision. Step by step, we’ve grown together and achieved a lot.
“I applaud the ACO and FIA for the new schedule and the opportunity it has created. I’m committed to preparing myself and applying everything I’ve learned over the past few seasons to racing the new generation of LMP1 cars with Elton and the team.”
For Hanley, the opening round of the 2018/19 season will not mark his first WEC outing. The Briton made his debut in the series earlier this year with TDS Racing, before making appearances with G-Drive Racing and later CEFC TRS Manor Racing, in whose No. 24 car he will finish the season alongside Matt Rao and Jean-Eric Vergne.
“I’m really happy to continue with DragonSpeed on its journey,” he commented. “Moving up to the WEC and LMP1 is a great chance for us to fight for overall podium results, especially at Le Mans given the issues the hybrids have had there the last few years. Henrik never stops improving and his commitment is an inspiration to the entire team. Having enjoyed one-off drives with a few WEC LMP2 teams this season, I can say for certain that DragonSpeed are up to the job.”