British sportscar manufacturer Caterham will make its debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours this year (June 22/23), as it looks to further elevate its position as a global authority in sportscar development ahead of the launch of its brand new model in 2016.
Racing under the Caterham Motorsport banner, the lightweight sportscar specialist’s participation in the 90th running of the French classic will also allow Caterham Group to investigate the viability of producing a customer Sports Prorotype package in the future.
Caterham Motorsport will run the #41 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan in the LMP2 category, with Caterham F1 Team Reserve Driver and Caterham Racing GP2 driverAlexander Rossi joining double LMP2 class-winner, Tom Kimber-Smith and gentleman driver Eric Lux in the driving seat.
The move reflects Caterham’s growing status and ambition on the international stage. Caterham F1 Team is competing in its second season at the pinnacle of motorsport under the Caterham banner and, in November 2012, Caterham Cars announced a 50:50 Joint Venture partnership with Renault to develop and build its first new road model in 20 years.
The entry to Le Mans also builds on the launch, in 2010, of the Caterham SP/300.R, a supercharged, mini Le Mans-style sports prototype, which has received glowing reviews from both customers and media and garnered strong demand as an advanced trackday machine and race school car.
A crew of Caterham engineers, technicians and data analysts will be embedded with its partner team at Le Mans, the highly-successful Greaves Motorsport outfit, to ensure that Caterham’s legendary ability to deliver intuitive handling characteristics is applied to the set-up of the #41 car.
Caterham personnel will be led by Caterham Technology CEO Mike Gascoyne. He said: “Within Caterham Group, we have a great deal of experienced personnel with a wide range of technical expertise – from powertrain development to carbon composite design.
“While there won’t be any specification changes we can apply to the car for this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, because the car is homologated for the whole season, we will be looking in more detail at how our various areas of expertise across both Caterham Technology & Innovation and Caterham Composites can be applied to a customer Sports Prototype programme in future.
“We have the tools, the talent and the heritage to do the job in a marketplace that is currently light on existing players so it makes sense for us to go and see first-hand how we might take advantage of business opportunity that fits with our capabilities.”
Caterham has a rich heritage in motorsport. Its iconic Seven was originally designed to be a race car for the road and its ‘ladder’ of highly-competitive one-make race championships is widely acknowledged as one of the finest in existence.
Meanwhile, the Caterham Academy has created almost 1,000 brand new racing drivers since its inception in 1995 and the Seven has become one of the most raced cars in the world. Caterham also plans to launch its own grassroots karting championship in 2014.
As well as marking Caterham’s first participation in the round-the-clock race, the Le Mans 24 Hours will also be the first foray into international sportscar racing for Alexander Rossi. Rossi’s involvement in the Le Mans programme will form part of his wider motorsport development under the guidance of Caterham.
Rossi said: “Straight after driving in FP1 for Caterham F1 Team in Montreal, I’ll be back in Europe to start my Le Mans work. I’m excited about the challenge ahead and honoured with the opportunity to represent Caterham and the US at one of the most prestigious motorsport events of the year.
“On a personal level, taking part in Le Mans has always been another goal of mine. F1 is my main target and I’m fully focused on that, but to run at Le Mans is important to me and for my CV. It’s a special race and to have the chance to compete with a team that’s already had success in endurance racing makes it all the better. In addition, I can help the guys at Caterham who I already know very well.
“Just as in F1, my goal for the first few days with the Le Mans team will be to learn as much I can, building up the performance levels needed for qualifying and the race itself. My immediate focus is still F1 and FP1 at the Canadian GP with Caterham F1 Team, but as soon as that’s done it’ll be all about Le Mans.”
The Caterham Motorsport #41 LM P2 car will make its on-track debut at the official ACO test at Le Mans on June 8/9, followed by the race itself on June 22/23.