This year's 24 Hours of Le Mans marks something of a new dawn for the LMP2 class as the all-new chassis and Le Mans-specific aero kits make their debuts, with speeds set to rise as a result.

After going through a rough patch a few years ago, LMP2 is now one of the strongest classes on the grid at Le Mans, boasting a mammoth 25 entries for this year's race. Unlike the Oreca-only WEC races, there will be a mix of four chassis - adding Ligier, Dallara and Riley - to give the class some variety at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

And even the LMP1 boys may get a look at what each individual chassis looks like, as they could well be trailing when running in a straight line...

Rusinov/Thiriet/Lynn RUS G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 LMP2Prost/Senna/Canal SUI Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 LMP2Jarvis/Laurent/Tung CHN Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 LMP2Piquet/Beche/Heinemeier-Hansson SUI Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 LMP2Menezes/Rao/DumasFRA Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 LMP2Graves/Hirschi/Vergne CHN CEFC Manor TRS Oreca 07 LMP2Gonzalez/Trummer/Petrov CHN CEFC Manor TRS Oreca 07 LMP2Collard/Perrodo/Hanley FRA TDS Racing Oreca 07 LMP2Cheng/Brundle/Gommendy CHN Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 LMP2Chandhok/Moore/Hanson GBR Tockwith Motorsports LMP2Lafargue/Lafargue/Zollinger FRA Idec Sport Racing Ligier JSP217 LMP2Hedman/Hanley/Rosenqvist USA Dragonspeed - 10 Star Oreca 07 LMP2Rojas/Hirakawa/Gutierrez RUS G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 LMP2Barthez/Buret/Berthon FRA Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JSP217 LMP2Aleshin/Sirotkin/Shaytar RUS SMP Racing Dallara PS217 LMP2Lammers/van Eerd/Barrichello NED Racing Team Nederland Dallara PS217 LMP2Owen/de Sadeleer/Albuquerque USA United Autosports Ligier JSP217 LMP2Nicolet/Nicolet/Maris PHL Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JSP217 LMP2Panciatici/Ragues/Negaro FRA Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 LMP2Guibbert/Trouillet/Winslow FRA Graff Oreca 07 LMP2Allen/Matelli/Bradley FRA Graff Oreca 07 LMP2Keating/Bleekemolen/Taylor USA Keating Motorsports Riley MK30 LMP2Patterson/McMurray/Capillaire POR Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP217 LMP2Lacorte/Sernagiotto/Belicchi ITA Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara P217 LMP2Konopka/Calko/Breukers SVK ARC Bratislava Ligier JSP217 LMP2

Key Talking Points - LMP2

Clash of chassis

Under the revised and revamped rules for the LMP2 class through 2017, teams are allowed to race with four different types of chassis: Oreca, Ligier, Dallara and Riley. However, all of the full-season WEC entries have opted to run with Orecas - even though Signatech Alpine have rebranded theirs - offering little variation through the field.

That changes for Le Mans, though. The class is boosted by the arrival of one Riley Mk. 30 with Keating Motorsports, seven Ligier JS P217s, three Dallara P217s and another four Oreca 07s to give us a complete class of 25 cars.

The interesting battle here will be between the different chassis runners, particularly with all of the seasoned WEC runners placing their chips on Oreca through the campaign. If the test day is any real indication, you can see why: Orecas locked out the top 13 positions in LMP2. It could be an ominous sign of things to come in the race.

Drag racers

One of the biggest talking points for LMP2 heading into this year's race is the added straight-line speed that the cars will have this year. The class lap record at the Circuit de la Sarthe is set to be broken, but naturally, don't expect them to be near what the LMP1s are producing.

That said, there is one area in which LMP2 may be able to out-do its bigger and better-funded brother: straight line speed. While we've become familiar to seeing the LMP1 runners scythe through the field and stream clear on the straights, the P2 drivers may be able to put up a fight this year as they hit speeds as high as 340 km/h. By comparison, the lead LMP1 car topped out at 336 km/h on the test day.

It'll be interesting to see just how committed they are to staying ahead and what, if any, impact this has on traffic management through the race.

A boon for LMP2

The new rules for 2017 have boosted the LMP2 grid numbers, arguably making it the most stable and healthiest class on the grid at Le Mans this year, away from the falling LMP1 numbers and the ongoing Balance of Performance spats in GTE-Pro.

It comes at a particularly interesting time for the class set against the context of global sportscar racing. The Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class has got off to a flying start in America's IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, leading for calls to it to be incorporated at Le Mans in the future in one way or another.

LMP2 remains very strong though. This year's Le Mans showing should be proof of that.

An array of recent F1 names

WEC has become the go-to place for many drivers once their time in Formula 1 is up, and LMP2 is proof of that at Le Mans this year.

The likes of Bruno Senna, Nelson Piquet Jr., Jean-Eric Vergne and Vitaly Petrov will all be racing as part of their full-season WEC programmes, while 11-time F1 race winner Rubens Barrichello will be making his Le Mans debut, joining up with Racing Team Nederland for the race.

Other names familiar to those of a single-seater inclination include Nicolas Prost, Felix Rosenqvist, Alex Lynn, Mikhail Aleshin and Sergey Sirotkin, proving the depth of talent that runs through the LMP2 field at this year's race.

Oh, and for the football fans out there: ex-Manchester United and France 1998 World Cup-winning goalkeeper Fabian Barthez will also be racing as part of the Panis Barthez Competition team, marking his third appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

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