Look to LMP2 for an epic Le Mans battle of will, endurance — and age

Le Mans News

United Autosports drivers Oliver Jarvis and Alex Lynn expect to be at the sharp end of a tough 27-car LMP2 battle at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, along with their 16-year-old team-mate. They tell Damien Smith why they've got such confidence

LMP2 cars in practice for the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours

27 cars will compete in the LMP2 class of this year's Le Mans 24 Hours

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There’s a whiff of ‘the same old story’ that won’t quite shift from the Le Mans 24 Hours – at least in terms of the top class. As Peugeot waits for Monza to give its striking 9X8 a race debut, Toyota’s pair of GR010 Hybrids once again face a duo of plucky Glickenhaus 007 LMH entries and Alpine’s ‘grandfathered’ A480 LMP1.

It’s quite wrong to be so dismissive, of course. A favourable Balance of Performance has given Glickenhaus what appears to be a genuine shot at taking on the pegged-back Toyotas, while the Alpine – a winner on the bumps of Sebring in the 1000-mile World Endurance Championship opener back in March – will at least contend for another podium, even if its straight-line pace at Le Mans might leave it gasping. As ever, whichever car gets the cleanest run will likely win. But make no mistake, there’s high expectations among these contenders that this will be a proper race for victory.

Still, that whiff of top-class familiarity lingers – and attention swiftly turns instead to the secondary LMP2 class, especially given the phenomenal strength of the 27-car entry. The wider context here is that many of the top teams, including last year’s winner WRT, the incoming might of Penske and junior single-seater powerhouse Prema which also takes its Le Mans bow, are using LMP2 this year as a learning experience for forthcoming LMDh programmes when international sports car racing is launched into a whole new era we can’t wait for in 2023, just as the Le Mans 24 Hours celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Oliver Jarvis with Josh Pierson and Alex Lynn in Le Mans driver parade

Oliver Jarvis and Alex Lynn sit wither side of 16-year-old team-mate Josh Pierson


At Richard Dean’s United Autosports, LMP2 winner in 2020, LMDh plans remain opaque for now. But let’s not concern ourselves with next year for the moment when there’s a race this weekend to be won. The Leeds-based concern once again fields a pair of ORECA-Gibsons that should be right in the mix for a class win – and, if top-class reliability proves less than bullet-proof, perhaps even an overall podium finish.

As usual, Dean has lined up a strong cast of drivers to lead the United line, including two of Britain’s finest sports car aces: Oliver Jarvis, 38, and Alex Lynn, 28. But what stands out about their No23 entry is the young American they are sharing with: at sweet 16, Josh Pierson is about to set a new record for the youngest driver to start the Le Mans 24 Hours.

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Pierson has spoken to Motor Sport this week about his Le Mans prospects. But what do Jarvis and Lynn make of him? Oliver has a Daytona 24 Hours win under his belt already this year, Lynn a second Sebring 12 Hours success. They are at the top of their game and hungry as hell for what would be a second class win for both at Le Mans (Jarvis was an LMP2 winner in 2017, Lynn a GTE Pro victor with Aston Martin in 2020). They can’t afford to carry a callow teenager – and there’s absolutely no suggestion, from either of them, that they will have to.

“Josh is a great lad,” says Lynn. “You wouldn’t know he’s 16 the way he conducts himself. He’s extremely professional, very receptive to feedback, eager to learn and listen. The perfect team-mate and as a silver-graded driver he’s eager to prove himself. He’s learning at a rapid rate. For this event in particular experience counts for the most and certainly listening to your older and more experienced peers matters. I’ve felt it before at this track where speed is a very small element to winning the race. Certainly he’s really impressive so far and I have no doubt he will adapt because listening and learning are his key traits.”

So have Jarvis and Lynn been hired to coach him? “Alex and I have been brought on board not necessarily to coach him but to guide him,” clarifies Jarvis. “Josh has got a good support network and the experience we bring to the table he can learn from. It allows him to go out and do the job we ask of him. There’s no pressure from myself and Alex. We’re in a position where there are no intra-team fights, it’s a relaxed atmosphere. It would be very easy to put in guys where the dynamic doesn’t work as well, but Richard Dean has done it previously with Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson and he knows how to get the best out of the silver drivers. That’s why myself and Alex were chosen.

“We’ve been saying it’s the strongest LMP2 field ever and that’s certainly true this year”

“Josh has all the ingredients to do a fantastic job. He’s really impressed me this year, and it’s not just his speed. We’ve chucked him into high-pressure situations and it doesn’t seem to faze him. It’s almost as if he’s unaware of the big stage he’s on. He will take it all in his stride, he’s very laid back. The progression we’ve seen in his driving technique since the first test I did with him at the end of last year has been huge. To see that progression he’s already at is amazing. He’s a very nice guy as well, with a nice family.”

Beyond the sister No22 of Hanson, Albuquerque and William Owen, who are they expecting to face if events go their way and United finds itself in the scrap for victory?

“There’s such depth in the competition,” says Jarvis. “I think every year for the past five or six years we’ve been saying it’s the strongest LMP2 field ever and that’s certainly true this year. You’d be hard not to look at the WRT car, the René Rast, Robin Frijns and Sean Galael car, they look good. Jota look good, then there’s Prema which is new to LMP2. Also [Ferrari’s future LMH team] AF Corse, certainly in qualifying, then there’s the question of whether they can carry that over to race pace. If I had to single out one I’d probably say the WRT car, just based on last year and results this year. They will be tough to beat, but certainly not impossible.”

WRT No31 car in practice for the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours

No31 WRT car will start at the front of the LMP2 field this year


At this stage, is an overall podium on their mind? “Certainly you have to be careful [to be optimistic] because LMH is the top class, but the competition is not the same as it is in LMP2 currently. That will change with LMDh next year. But there are so many top teams and drivers it will be a really tough battle out there. Of course, your first focus is to win the race in LMP2, but there is also huge potential to end up on the outright podium. It relies on reliability issues from the top runners and then you’re there.”

Jarvis and Lynn are busy racing drivers this year, criss-crossing the Atlantic mixing their WEC campaign with United with IMSA programmes in the US – Jarvis with Meyer Shank’s Acuras, Lynn with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Cadillacs. Last weekend they were among a bunch of drivers who raced in a fierce IMSA round at Detroit’s Belle Isle street track, Jarvis finishing second and Lynn third, before flying direct to Le Mans for test-day duties. What a fabulous life they are leading right now, especially as they are also well placed for LMDh rides with their respective IMSA teams for next year.

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But right now, this week, there’s only one thing on their minds. Le Mans is not and can never be just another race. “The focus is different,” Jarvis admits. “Even at the Spa 6 Hours [last month] you are already looking ahead to Le Mans and what’s similar. There’s no getting away from it: this is the race we all want to win. Every preparation goes in so that when we arrive no attention to detail has been missed. We’ll have plenty of time this week to hang around with each other and work with the engineers to build towards the race.”

“I wrote down a few notes for myself on what it takes to succeed at Le Mans,” says Lynn. “For me, the biggest part is keeping control of your emotions. Probably every driver every year is guilty of expending too much energy on something that is not necessary, whether it is practice or something else. As soon as the race starts that is probably the only point where it needs to be maximum attack. But it’s maximum effort with everything you do, with maximum concentration. If you spend too many emotions on other stuff during the week it’s difficult to really be in the moment all the time during the race. That for me is really key to stay in check. Calm, but in the moment. It’s easy to be swept up in the event.”

The pair have had a couple of on-track moments as rivals in IMSA this year, which could make things awkward on those Atlantic flights back to Europe… Fortunately, they get on well and are at a mature stage of their racing lives to park any niggling resentment.

“We are feeling pretty good,” says Lynn. “I wasn’t with United for the [LMP2 class] win at the Sebring 1000. I joined Olly and Josh from Spa where we had a really strong run. The team is in a really good place and so is our crew. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited and dreaming of a good result. There is a lot to do first, but we are in a good moment.”