Manor LMP1 driver Oliver Rowland is confident the British squad will be “close on pace” to its privateer rivals at this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Spa. 

The Williams Formula 1 junior driver is set to contest his first campaign in sportscar racing as he takes part in the 2018/2019 WEC Superseason with the new Manor LMP1 entry. He will partner experienced sportscar drivers Alex Brundle and Oliver Turvey in Manor’s #6 Ginetta G60-LT-P1 for the full season, including a debut appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. 

Rowland set the quickest time out of Manor’s two-car team in the pre-season Prologue test at Paul Ricard and hopes Manor will be able to fight with rival privateer squads Rebellion Racing, DragonSpeed, SMP Racing and By Kolles at the Six Hours of Spa, though he admits challenging Toyota will prove a step too far after LMP1’s sole-remaining manufacturer “set the world alight” during testing. 

“It’s difficult to say really, we’ve had one official test at the Prologue, which seemed to go pretty well. It’s really hard to know where everybody is at,” Rowland told Crash.net. “Toyota have a little bit of a boost apparently and set the world alight, and then everybody else was quite close. Actually on the Saturday we were the fastest of anyone. 

“When I got out on the Friday I was third so I think on pace we are close. I think reliability is another question that we need to test and see where we are in terms of that but I’m quite confident that we’ll be good.”

Rowland suggested his Manor-Ginetta is currently lagging behind its rivals in terms of power and straight-line speed, but said he is encouraged by his LMP1 car’s performance through corners. 

"The power is good, but that’s probably an area for us to improve a bit. I think Ginetta has done a really good job, everything is working well, the issues we’ve had have been fixed so far. It looks good so far, especially in the corners the performance has been there.”

The Briton, who finished third in the 2017 Formula 2 Championship behind Sauber F1 driver Charles Leclerc and runner-up Artem Markelov, added he is revelling in an environment he described as being “more relaxed” compared to the F2 paddock. 

“I’m enjoying it to be honest, it’s a little bit more relaxed than the F2 paddock and I’m in a good place. Immediately I’ve been really fast so I haven’t really had to change too much [in my approach]. 

“It was just a case of getting used to the controls and that side of things. There’s different things like the driver change that you have to practice but it’s something that can be learnt quickly.”