United had 'no chance' in WEC without Oreca switch
United Autosports would have stood "no chance" of competing for LMP2 wins in the FIA World Endurance Championship without its switch to Oreca chassis, believes Filipe Albuquerque.
The team co-owned by McLaren CEO Zak Brown revealed last month it was switching from a Ligier JS P217 to an Oreca 07 for the 2019/20 season, and was immediately on the pace with its new car in the pre-season Prologue test at Barcelona.
Ex-Formula 1 racer Paul di Resta set the second-fastest time in class for United during the test, behind only the Racing Team Nederland Oreca piloted by Nyck de Vries.
Albuquerque, who'll share the United Oreca with di Resta and Phil Hanson this season, is convinced the team will be a contender for victories straight away.
He said he could immediately feel a difference with the new machine in comparison to the Ligier he drove a couple of days beforehand in the Barcelona European Le Mans Series event.
"I was super-motivated when I got the first laps in the Oreca at the same track that I drove the Ligier three days before," Albuquerque told Motorsport.com.
"The difference was quite big and we went from struggling to be within 0.8 seconds of the fastest guys to having the same speed as [Signatech] Alpine and TDS [Team Nederland], the ‘superstars’ of the LMP2 class.
"We were there straight away. Even if we are new with the car, after our performance in Barcelona, we are definitely aiming to win the first race."
United's decision to change cars came off the back of a subdued showing in this year's Le Mans 24 Hours, in which Albuquerque, di Resta and Hanson finished fourth, three laps down on the winning Signatech Alpine Oreca.
Asked if he felt competing for victories in the WEC would have been impossible in a Ligier, Albuquerque replied: "Yeah, I would say so.
"Last year when we had the two wins [at Spa and Portimao in ELMS] when we switched tyres [from Dunlop to Michelin], the car was just working fantastically for us.
"Then Dunlop caught up and I think there is not a big difference now, so no chance [to make up for Ligier’s lack of speed]. We were a second, 1.5s off the pace."
#22 United Autosport Oreca 07 - Gibson: Philip Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta
Photo by: FIA WEC
Van der Garde delighted with Oreca switch
Another LMP2 team to have made the transition to Oreca machinery over the off-season is Team Nederland, which has also entered into an alliance with TDS Racing.
Giedo van der Garde, who will join de Vries and Frits van Eerd for another full campaign with the Dutch team, said the Oreca was significantly easier to drive than the Dallara P217 the team campaigned during the 2018/19 superseason.
"It’s a completely different car to drive," van der Garde told Motorsport.com. "At the start we had to get used to it, but it’s an easier car in every aspect.
"The Dallara was a car where sometimes the balance was just right and then it was suddenly gone. And then it became a really difficult car to drive.
"You can see Frits gained confidence with this car [the Oreca] and he was making big steps. With this car he knows exactly what he needs to do and where he needs to go. With the Dallara he was sometimes lost and it showed in the results.
"With the Dallara we had to figure out everything ourselves because we didn’t have any references, I spent a lot of time on that. I am very happy we made this choice.
"We hope to show what we can do in Silverstone and hopefully fight for the podium. If we have a good day, don’t make mistakes and have a bit of luck, then we’re right there."
#29 Racing Team Nederland Oreca 07 - Gibson: Frits an Eerd, Giedo van der Garde, Nyck de Vries
Photo by: Racing Team Nederland
Oreca in manufacturer talks to make WEC hypercar
Who is Toyota’s new Japanese WEC protege?