Ambitious Leeds firm aims to be in a position to challenge for victory at Le Mans
Ginetta boss Lawrence Tomlinson made some bold claims on the launch of his firm’s new LMP1 contender. “Our target is overall victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the World Endurance Championship,” he said as the covers came off a car christened the G60-LT-P1. “We have designed this car to be competitive with the Toyota.”
The engineers in the drawing office at Ginetta’s Garforth headquarters, on the outskirts of Leeds, are understandably more circumspect, but they, too, have high hopes for an LMP1 design that has gone from inception to launch and then onto the track for initial testing in little more than 12 months.
“We didn’t embark on this project to be also-rans,” said Ginetta Cars’ technical director Ewan Baldry. “Our expectations are to run at the front.”
That confidence is based on a clear commitment from the rule makers to give privately run non-hybrid P1 machinery lap-time parity with the hybrid cars from Toyota, the only remaining manufacturer team in the WEC, as well as empirical data. Baldry insists that simulations undertaken by AVL GmbH in Austria, a global leader in the field, suggest the Ginetta can be competitive with the Toyota TS050 HYBRID over the course of the seven-race 2018/19 WEC ‘superseason’.
“AVL has had an input into the design process and used its technology to come up with performance predictions,” he said. “If the numbers stack up like they suggest, then we will be competing right at the front with Toyota.”
Manor, the only team that has so far concrete plans to run a Ginetta, has similar aspirations. Manor sporting director Graeme Lowdon insists that a team that is expanding from the LMP2 ranks for the superseason isn’t underestimating the challenge, but he reckons a first victory for a privateer at Le Mans in more than 20 years isn’t out of reach.
“The way I look at it,” he said, “there were five heavily-funded factory entries at the 24 Hours last season, but a P2 car came close to winning it. So is it possible for a privateer P1 car to win Le Mans this year? Yes it is.”
THE NEW CHASSIS?
The Ginetta has been developed by a Baldry-led five-strong in-house team, which includes ex-Williams aerodynamicist Andy Lewis, in conjunction with a number of key partners.
Williams Advanced Engineering, which helped developed Porsche’s line of successful 919 Hybrids, has undertaken the wind-tunnel programme, while British design legend Adrian Reynard’s Auto Research Center in Indianapolis has been responsible for the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) study. Ginetta has also employed Paolo Catone, whose design credits include Peugeot’s 908 HDi, as a consultant. His task, says Baldry, was “to ensure that we don’t stray too far from the right path”.
The new Ginetta is distinguished by its high nose – Baldry reckons it’s the highest seen on an LMP1 car with the exception of the 2016 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
“We have seen some great performance gains as a result of that,” Baldry said. “We were concerned about going too high and making life difficult for the drivers, but very early on in the programme we made a wooden mock-up. That’s how we have arrived at what we have now.”
Baldry explained that particular attention had been given to weight-saving. The Ginetta has come in under the marque’s weight target. It had set a goal of hitting 770kg, already more than 60kg under the class minimum of 833. The first chassis, albeit with a few systems missing, was nearer to 750kg when it first went on the scales after the car was bolted together for the first time.
Formula 1-specification carbon composites and the incorporation of the mandatory Zylon side-impact panels into the chassis, rather than bonding them onto the exterior, have both played a part.
The Ginetta unveiled in January was fitted with the new Mecachrome direct-injection V6 turbo, which is based around the engine that will come on stream in the Formula 2 (né GP2) Grand Prix support series this year. The car undertook its first tests with this engine in January, though Manor has yet to confirm that it will use the French powerplant.
WHO WILL RACE IT?
For the moment it can only be said with any certainty that there will be one Ginetta racing in the WEC superseason. Manor, however, hadn’t entirely ruled out a second car as the entry deadline at the end of the month approached. A second team, whose identity had yet to be revealed at press time, has put down deposits on a trio of Ginettas with the intention of running two.
Baldry insisted that this team “hadn’t disappeared” despite the lack of news about the project and its situation remained unchanged. “Their money was always scheduled to start flowing in January,” he said, while stressing that a late commitment wouldn’t prevent Ginetta from building its cars in time. “That’s not a problem because Lawrence has put his money where his mouth is and committed to laying down a batch of 10 chassis and building stuff speculatively.”
Manor has yet to announce drivers, though it will be compelled to list at least one when it submits its entry for the WEC. Lowdon is promising a top-line driver line-up, despite the commercial realities of mounting a privateer campaign in a global series.
“We have a fantastic car in the Ginetta and have put together a really good team of people,” he said. “There is no point doing that if you don’t have world-class drivers to race the car.”
Manor has revealed, however, the name of its new technical director. It has brought back Dave Greenwood, who was on the books of the Manor-run Virgin Racing/Marussia F1 team in 2010-14 before spending the past three seasons as Kimi Räikkönen’s race engineer at Ferrari to fill the new post.
“Racing at the level we will be competing at in the superseason will require an F1-level technical set-up — the only difference is the letter in front of the ‘1’,” added Lowdon. “The demands of F1 and P1 are different, but the skill-set is the same and that’s why we have created the position of technical director.”
Tomlinson is hopeful that there will be more Ginettas on the grid in the future, which explains why he has committed to the 10 chassis, which he says will equate to six race cars. The purchase price of £1,340,000 and a fixed price for a Mecachrome engine lease and technical support from Ginetta makes it a cost-effective package, he insists.
“At Ginetta we pride ourselves in giving people a great product that offers value for money,” he said. “What we are bringing to P1 is an affordable car that can ran at the front.”