The Ligier JS P2, no rest for the brave!
At the Le Mans Bugatti on 7 March 2014, the tension was at its height. It was the moment of truth for the Ligier Automotive constructor and its new-generation closed LMP2. Eighty-four-year-old Guy Ligier was on the trackside beside Jacques Nicolet. He was delighted and also very moved to see his name associated with a sports prototype. At the wheel of the first Ligier JS P2 was a young driver with a family name linked to the history of the brand: Alex Brundle whose father Martin had raced the F1 Ligiers 30 years earlier. The young Briton knew the potential of the LMP2 as he had been responsible for its on-track development: “It brings a strong bond with the mechanics and engineers to work together with a common goal in the way that we did on that project. Many days of aero testing and circuit testing which we chose from to refine the behavior of the car were under our belt when we arrived at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit in front of Guy Ligier to demonstrate the car's capabilities. And we did.” The Ligier JS P2 did a lot more than just show its capabilities in testing. It concretised them in racing in a career that reaped an impressive set of results in which pole positions, fastest race laps, podiums, victories and titles on several continents followed one another in quick succession.
Promising start with the pole position and a second place at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans
The new-generation closed LMP2 Ligier had its first race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans two months after its first shakedown on the Bugatti circuit. It was a daring gamble with three chassis and two different engines, Nissan and HPD. At that time; the Ligier JS P2 was the only car able to adapt to different engines. The gamble paid off! The three cars entered not only finished this iconic race, but two of them the #46 and the #35 Ligier JS P2 Nissan-Dunlops came very close to victory. Tristan Gommendy driving for Thiriet by TDS Racing in #46 set pole position and clinched second place in his category. If #35 run by GDrive by OAK Racing could only manage a fifth-place finish in LMP2 due to an engine problem, it dominated during most of the 24 Hours and was romping away up front in the hands of a trio of very young drivers Brundle, Mardenborough and Shulzhitskiy. “The car had similar straight line performance to our competitors but the grip in the Porsche curves was something quite spectacular,” exclaimed Alex Brundle. “We were able to lead the event with ease. Finally falling by the wayside due to an engine issue heartbreakingly late in the event.”
Runner-up in the 2014 FIA WEC
Boosted by its strong points the Ligier JS P2 continued to take its revenge: first of all in the FIA WEC. Five pole positions and two victories gave the #35 GDrive by OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan-Dunlop second place in the LMP2 category in the 2014 World Championship. On its first outing in the IMSA Tudor USCC American Championship, the #42 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 powered by Honda added a pole position and a second place on the Circuit of the Americas in Austin to its 2014 successes.
2015: LMP2 FIA WEC Title
The following year got off to a flying start in the FIA WEC for the Ligier JS P2 with a double in the first race at Silverstone. It followed this up with seven podiums, three victories, the LMP2 title for the #26 GDrive-Nissan by OAK Racing driven by Bird-Canal-Rusinov and third place for #28 run by GDrive by OAK Racing for the South American crew of Derani-Gonzalez-Yacaman. In the United States, the Ligier JS P2s after stunning pole positions at Daytona and Sebring could boast of having scored three podiums in the American championship
2016: a historic year with victory in the three American Classics
But 2016 was the year that really crowned the French sport prototype. It began with the historic victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona in the hotly-contested IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. On Sunday 31 January at 2:40 pm, the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ligier JS P2-Honda and its drivers Derani-Sharp-Van Overbeek scored a fantastic victory on the Daytona circuit. Ligier became the first French constructor to win the 24 Hours of Daytona.
This success decided the team to continue in the championship. And seven weeks later the same Ligier JS P2-Honda shone again by triumphing in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Two consecutive victories in the two American classics was an exploit that had not been achieved since 1998 with the two victories of the Ferrari 333 SP. After a win at Laguna Seca and another podium at Watkins Glen, the final event, the Petit Le Mans filled the constructor's cup to the brim as the #60 Ligier JS P2-Honda run by Michael Shank Racing and its three drivers Negri-Pew-Pla clinched first place in front of #2 entered by ESM. Thus, the American season finished in a blaze of glory with this double!
A raft of successes in the 2016 FIA WEC
That year this triumph on American turf rather eclipsed the successes of the other Ligier JS P2s. With 10 podiums, two victories and second place in the FIA WEC the Ligier JS P2-Nissans had nothing to be ashamed of where their results were concerned. The championship got off to a great start on the Silverstone circuit with a double! The #43 RGR by Morand Ligier JS P2-Nissan and its Portuguese driver line-up of Filipe Albuquerque, Ricardo Gonzalez and Bruno Senna clinched victory in front of the #31 ESM Ligier JS P2-Nissan driven by Pipo Derani and Chris Cumming. This victory was all the more promising as it was the team's first outing in this championship.
The season reached its peak with the victory of the fledgling Mexican team in Mexico in front of its home crowd. “When we got to Mexico the support from the fans was incredible, and especially after we led the first practice and then captured pole position,” stated Tony Calderon, Team Manager. “The race itself was a nail-bitter, we were by far the strongest car but had some problems early on and for a while it looked like we would not take the victory. But near the end of the race we regained the lead and never looked back, the Mexican crowd went wild. It was the first time in history that a Mexican team won an international competition in Mexico, and we did it all thanks to our Ligier JS P2.”
The #43 Ligier JS P2 was in the running for the title right up till the end of the season and despite five podiums and two victories it had to be content with second place in the LMP2 category.
A second life that was just as successful!
The 2016 season came to an end and the Ligier JS P2 soon had to give way to a new generation of LMP2s powered by a single engine. But on the other side of the world, the Asian Le Mans Series continued to accept this type of LMP2 up to 2020. The Ligier JS P2 set off to tackle this championship and racked up three titles in four years!
A third life that kicked off in historic racing
With 33 pole positions, 31 fastest race laps, 56 podiums, 19 victories and five titles, the Ligier JS P2 could have had the right to a well-deserved retirement. But no rest for the brave: it is now eligible for several endurance events like the Masters Endurance Legends in Europe and in the USA where it's proved itself to be a redoubtable rival.
Today, there are still several of these historic Ligier JS P2s in the Ligier Automotive workshops. They are in a perfect state and all they are waiting for are new owners to continue to shine on the circuits. As Alex Brundle foresaw so perspicaciously after the Bugatti tests: “The new coupe would be the first in a line of ultra-high downforce LMP customer Sportscars which would ‘change the game forever!”
For more information on the available historic Ligier JS P2 chassis, CLICK HERE or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.