INSIGHT: Ginetta's quest for a second LMP1 chance

INSIGHT: Ginetta's quest for a second LMP1 chance

Le Mans/WEC

INSIGHT: Ginetta's quest for a second LMP1 chance

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Despite CEFC TRSM missing almost the entire 2018/19 FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ due to commercial difficulties, Ginetta has been hard at work to ensure its G60-LT-P1 LMP1 cars are back in action next season.

The Yorkshire, UK-based manufacturer, which launched its new ‘Akula’ supercar at last month’s Geneva International Motor Show, was out testing this past week in Spain, continuing to develop its LMP1 challenger, showing off its potential and making up for lost time.

Ginetta’s LMP1 contingent took the car out at Motorland Aragon, a regular venue for testing in Europe, and completed three days of running. Works drivers Charlie Robertson and Mike Simpson were behind the wheel, joined by former IndyCar podium sitter James Jakes, ByKolles LMP1 driver Oliver Webb and ELMS regular Anders Fjordbach.

The car ran with the turbo-V6 P60B AER engine, replacing the original Mecachrome engine that was campaigned at Le Mans last year and was found to be lacking performance.

Despite the car’s lack of development work and testing compared to rival LMP1 privateer chassis from BR Engineering, ByKolles and SMP Racing, it fared extremely well in the changeable conditions in Spain – not least because the running at Motorland gave Ginetta a chance to compare its car directly to some of its competitors, as SMP Racing and Rebellion Racing both had cars present lapping the circuit. For all three it was a chance to test developmental Michelin tires, and in the case of Rebellion, a new low-drag aero kit bound for Le Mans this year too.

Ginetta’s car ran on all three days under the watchful eyes of Ginetta’s Technical Director Pete Smith and the car’s designer Andy Lewis, and used the No. 5 chassis that raced at Le Mans last year.

Also on hand were veteran race engineer Alan Mugglestone, engineers from AER, Bosch data engineers and a Michelin tire engineer.

The car’s very first laps came in greasy conditions; Simpson entrusted with systems checks and some fine-tuning to tee up a trouble-free first day.

The program for the opening day was not about raw speed, but rather was about a catalogue of systems and installation checks, data calibration and the gathering of tire data. It also was a chance to develop a baseline set up, which was built on throughout, with a raft of set-up changes made by Mugglestone that Simpson later observed as “extreme, but absolutely transformational.”

By Tuesday afternoon it was clear that the third day could be used as an opportunity to push for speed, and with Charlie Robertson aboard, the cars times tumbled. The car was faster on the opening day than the Rebellions and close to the SMP BR1, and that was with the boost dialed down by 10% and without the Michelin developmental rubber.

In contrast to the car’s struggles at Le Mans, its straight-line speed proved to be excellent, too. The G60 was effectively restricted to 345 km/h (214mph), grazing that mark regularly with all three drivers aboard just before the brakes were applied at the end of the lengthy back straight.

Unfortunately, some of the running was cut short due to unseasonable rain, but the car’s performance in the wet was encouraging too; faster in those conditions than the other LMP1s, which were driven by their regular WEC drivers during the test.

The only real stumbling block mechanically for the car came when the conditions were changeable: a gearbox gremlin at the end of Webb’s stint limiting Fjordbach to a single lap on Wednesday.

That issue was solved for the third day, however, leaving Charlie Robertson, Mike Simpson and James Jakes to undertake the performance running on Thursday. After yet more showers, it was Robertson, the 2015 ELMS LMP3 champion, who tasked with pushing for lap times.

The SMP and Rebellion teams had completed their programs after Wednesday, but their times had left a benchmark for the Ginetta. At that point, the G60 sat third-quickest of the LMP1s; one of the Rebellions bettering its best time on Wednesday afternoon.

The very first Thursday run-though ended with the Rebellion’s time being eclipsed; the Ginetta dipping into the 1m18s range twice in a five-lap run, still on the older-spec front Michelins.

Robertson then edged even closer to the SMP BR1’s best time, a 1m18.605s, with a 1m18.626s on a lap compromised by a slower LMP2 car.

In the end that would prove to be the car’s best effort, but despite the G60 not ending with the fastest time, it felt like a victory of sorts for those in the Ginetta camp whose hard work had produced a car capable of going toe-to-toe with tried and tested cars almost a year into their racing life.

Not only was the car fast but it was reliable too, managing well over 170 laps, and almost 1000km of running, with only one minor setback on the mechanical front.

“That was hard work, but the performance as always there,” said Robertson after his third and final run of the day.

“We were very happy with where the car was straight out of the truck but the changes that Alan made were excellent and from there the tweaks always took us forward.”

Mike Simpson and James Jakes were equally effusive.

“The whole test has been a real buzz,” said Simpson. “Not just because we have had the results, but because everyone involved has such positivity about what is clearly an exceptional car. There’s no doubt whatsoever there is a lot more to come, what this car needs now is a team to get hold of it and prove that on track.”

“There is a frustration after a test like that,” Jakes, who is keen to stay involved with the Ginetta LMP1 project, said to RACER.

“But the frustration comes from knowing that even more time here would bring real results. That is an excellent race car, predictable, progressive, with excellent balance. The mark of any race car is how you feel about it when you get out and I can’t wait to get back in! It’s clear that this is a really strong package.”

After the test, Ginetta’s chairman, Lawrence Tomlinson, was also extremely positive.

“It’s been a really successful test,” he told RACER. “Of course, we have confidence in the car but it is fantastic to see that confirmed not only by its own performance on the track but also by our performance against our peers.

“Not only has the car proved to have the pace that would put it amongst the fastest in the class, but it has also proved too that the performance is repeatable, our stints throughout the test, in the dry and in the wet, were consistent as well as quick.

“It’s already clear that the car is eligible for the next two seasons in the WEC, and as things stand that might well be longer.”

The next step is more running for the car, but beyond that, with the 2019/20 WEC season looming, getting one or more G60s on the grid is the top priority for Ginetta. And the interest in the car is there, from more than one potential customer. There are deals to be done, and more testing to be planned.

But crucially, with the car now proving its worth, there’s a palpable sense of optimism coming from Ginetta’s headquarters in Garforth. And a real determination to hand its LMP1 project a second life.

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