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Leading LMP2 teams say G-Drive ELMS line-up threatens the category

G-Drive ELMS

An all-professional LMP2 driver line-up entered for the European Le Mans Series by the Russian G-Drive squad threatens to destabilise the category, according to rival team bosses.

G-Drive Racing is seeking dispensation to run Jean-Eric Vergne, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Roman Rusinov aboard its lead ORECA-Gibson 07 in the ELMS and, it is understood, the Le Mans 24 Hours, even though the P2 rule book demands at least one silver-rated 'amateur' driver.

Richard Dean, whose frontrunning ELMS United Autosports squad is expanding to two Ligier-Gibson JSP217s in 2018, told Autosport: "This has created a lot of uncertainty around the category; it could affect its health and the health of our business."

Sam Hignett's ORECA-equipped Jota squad took P2 class honours with second overall at Le Mans last year under the Jackie Chan DC Racing banner.

He said: "If they approve this, it will ruin everything by undermining the whole concept of LMP2 as it stands now.

"It would be very damaging for P2 by opening a can of worms when everything is looking healthy."

In a bid to field a platinum-gold-gold line-up in the car run together with TDS Racing, G-Drive is looking to exploit a clause added to the WEC and ELMS sporting regulations for this year that allows for a "temporary dispensation from the rule on the composition of crews" across the two championships' various classes.

Rusinov, who puts together G-Drive's racing programmes, was not available for comment.

The Russian won the P2 WEC crown in 2015 and was upgraded to gold status for 2017.

He has long argued he should be rated as silver because he has a full-time job with G-Drive owner Gazprom and compared himself with Frenchman Julien Canal, who has remained silver despite twice winning the WEC P2 title.

Vincent Beaumensil, sporting director of ELMS organiser and WEC promoter the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, explained that the dispensation rule had been introduced at a time of uncertainty for the two series to help ensure that full grids were maintained.

"We realised that there could be a situation where the existing rules could be a block on some entries or projects," he told Autosport.

He pointed out that the rules state a bronze driver cannot race an LMP1, but stressed that there is a big range of bronze drivers, "some with good experience from LMP2."

This is a clear reference to Henrik Hedman, who is entered in the DragonSpeed team's BR Engineering BR1 in LMP1 in the WEC.

The DKR Engineering squad is looking to run two silver drivers in its LMP3 Norma-Nissan M30, despite the rules demanding at least one bronze.

Dean said he felt "blind-sided" by the addendum to the regulations in both LMP2 and LMP3 in the ELMS, adding: "As a team owner you've got to work to the rules on the presumption that they will be enforced. "

A dedicated committee, including representatives from the ACO and the FIA, will rule on the line-ups submitted by teams seeking dispensation.

It must be satisfied that they do not "compromise track safety" and do "not generate a sporting advantage in relation to other crews entered in the same category".

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