WRT team principal Vincent Vosse says now is the “right time” for the title-winning GT squad to become involved in the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 category.
Team WRT will make its WEC debut this year running an Oreca 07 Gibson in the LMP2 class, which Vosse hopes will serve as a springboard into a future LMDh involvement.
Vosse, who has expressed interest in a prototype move for several months, told Sportscar365 that the mixture of a strong LMP2 grid and the potential for a future boom in the top-level formulas made 2021 the best moment for his team to commit to the WEC.
WRT, which has won several major GT3 enduros with Audi including the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the Nürburgring 24 and the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, made one LMP2 appearance in 2016’s four-hour European Le Mans Series race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The team finished second with a Ligier JS P2 Judd driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Dries Vanthoor and Will Stevens, but didn’t return to the category despite its interest.
“In the past, I never saw how we could put it together and within reason,” said Vosse.
“Now I believe that with LMDh coming, it would be the perfect timing in terms of a decision. LMDh is the future of endurance. There is a bright future in front and we want to position ourselves to be one of the top LMP2 teams.
“So there are two goals involved: there is to become one of the teams like we set up ourselves in GT, with the same thing in LMP2.
“I’m not expecting to be in a situation like that in a year because I am far from underestimating the LMP2 field. But for us, we decided that this is the right moment.
“The second goal is to position ourselves for LMDh. We see it as the right time. Today if you are exiting single-seaters, you get out and you would like to make your career in sports cars.
“In the past, I would say the best way would have been to [go] into GT because it’s quite a short cut into being paid [to race].
“Now it’s clear that LMP will have, in the near future, something like 24 top sports car drives between Porsche, Audi, Peugeot, Toyota, Glickenhaus and whoever. This makes now the right time to move into LMP.”
WRT’s LMP2 squad will largely consist of team members from its Class One DTM project.
The team contested two seasons of the DTM with privateer Audis built to the Class One regulations, but the series’ switch to GT3 machinery for next season means that WRT no longer needs a specialist group for that championship if it chooses to continue.
Former DTM project leader Jonas Vanpachtenbeke will be in charge of the LMP2 program, while DTM technical director Sebastien Viger will reprise his role moving into the WEC.
Vosse explained that because WRT is using most of its Class One unit for the LMP2 entry, its successful GT3 program will be able to continue without any major changes.
“We will maybe have some new people, but we were running three cars in DTM,” he said.
“Our DTM squad has nothing to do with our GT squad. That means that we have a lot of people available.
“That doesn’t have any effect on the GT program. It might be as big or bigger [than last year]. We are still working on it, but it looks quite good.”
Vosse also indicated that WRT would be open to competing in LMP2 alongside an LMDh venture when the new top-level prototype formula comes online in 2022-3.
When asked about the LMP2 project’s timeline, Vosse said: “Why not for more than two seasons? Hoping to do LMDh doesn’t mean stopping LMP2. It could be a step into it.”
Frijns “Perfect Fit” for LMP2 Transition
Vosse remarked that his team’s first LMP2 signing Robin Frijns is the “perfect fit” for the program.
Like WRT, Frijns has only made one previous LMP2 start. This occurred in 2018 he drove a Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca in the Rolex 24 at Daytona as part of an all-star lineup that included Felix Rosenqvist, Daniel Juncadella and Lance Stroll.
Despite his LMP2 inexperience, the Platinum-rated Dutchman has stood out in other disciplines such as the DTM, where he finished third last year with Audi, and in GT3 where he has won several accolades including the Bathurst 12 Hour with WRT in 2018.
“Robin has always been a part of WRT since he jumped out of single-seaters,” said Vosse.
“For us, it’s a perfect choice. He’s one of the best drivers that I had in my team, one of the most talented.
“Robin was able to do it and this is a perfect fit. I think it fits perfectly to his driving style.”
Frijns, who was not named in Audi’s factory GT3 driver lineup for 2021, added: “I really look forward to being reunited with Team WRT.
“We had great success in the past, being successful straight away. We won two Blancpain GT Series titles, one overall and one Sprint. The goal now is to go for success straight away, as we did in GT3.”
WRT has yet to decide on Frijns’ co-drivers including the designated Silver-rated team member. The team is also waiting to receive its Oreca 07 chassis for pre-season testing.