2010 WR LMP2008 LMP2
Gérard Welter's latest creation entered in the 24 Hours of Le Mans
An atypical LMP2 with the lines of a streamlined single-seater
A participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2010)
Eligible for Gulf Historic, Masters Endurance Legends in Europe and in the USA
MASTERS ENDURANCE LEGENDS EUROPE
MASTERS ENDURANCE LEGENDS USA
DAYTONA CLASSIC 24 HOUR by HSR
ROLEX MONTEREY MOTORSPOSTS REUNION
SEBRING CLASSIC 12 HOUR by HSR
ZYTEK ZG348 V8 3397cc
540 HP. @ 9,500 RPM L
RICARDO SEQUENTIAL 6 SPEED
Gérard Welter has contributed to the legend of the 24 Hours of Le Mans by entering his creations. A passionate craftsman who has written some superb pages of the great endurance race. Since 1976 (first under the name WM until 1989 and then WR from 1990), Gérard Welter has entered 19 cars in 13 editions of the Le Mans 24 Hours. The 2008 WR LMP is the last of this lineage initiated with the WM P76. This last prototype is the image of all Gérard Welter's creations: a car thought for Le Mans above all, with innovative solutions on the aerodynamic level.
Gérard Welter and the Le Mans 24 Hours adventure
Designer and then Director of the Peugeot Style Centre, Gérard Welter has dedicated his professional career to the Peugeot brand. In 1960, he joined the French manufacturer and took his first steps by designing the rear lights of the 404 and contributing to the 204 cabriolet and coupé. In 1975, he became head of styling and worked on numerous models, including the Peugeot 205, which he described as his finest creation. A model that contributed to the relaunch of the brand and remains emblematic to this day.
In parallel with his missions at Peugeot, Gérard Welter was keen on competition and launched his own team, WM (for Welter and Meunier, named after Michel Meunier, his partner). As early as 1969, the group of enthusiasts they gathered around them began working on prototypes, but it was not until 1976 that entries began for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. WM became a legend at Le Mans with the Peugeot-powered WM P88 prototype, which reached 405 km/h during the 1988 Le Mans 24 Hours. The record for the highest speed recorded at the event still stands. In 1995, the WRs (the name of the structure that replaced WM from the end of 1989) missed the mark. William David took pole position in the WR LM94 in 3'46''05. In his sister car, Patrick Gonin set the best lap in the race (3'51''41) in a rainy edition won by McLaren.
After another attempt and the setback of 1996 (with the death of Sébastien Enjolras, a French motorsport hopeful, at the wheel of a WR), it is only from 2000 onwards that WRs return to the Sarthe. In LMP675 and then LMP2, the good performances are notable with several second places in class (in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004).
In 2007, a new impulse is given. WR got closer to Stéphane and Philippe Salini. The two gentlemen drivers brothers, who dream of racing in Le Mans, finance the development of a new car: the WR LMP 2008.
The genesis of the most successful WR: Revolutionary aerodynamics inspired by the AUDI R15
In December 2007, Welter Racing announced the arrival of its new sport prototype for the LMP2 category, intended for the championships governed by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO). In partnership with the Salini Group, Gérard Welter's team developed an LMP2, equipped with a 3.4-litre Zytek V8 engine and a Ricardo gearbox. Only one chassis was built - #2008-001 - which regularly competed in the Le Mans Series and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A Formula 1 with a fairing, that's how the prototype born in the Thorigny workshops could already be described at the time. The prototype was officially launched on 25 June 2007 and its extremely well thought-out shape seems to be the result of aerodynamic calculations and not of marketing constraints. In early 2009, when AUDI unveiled the revolutionary R15, it was clear that the WR Salini designers were on the right track, as the front end of the Audi R15 was remarkably similar to that of the WR.
However, the aesthetics were not neglected, as evidenced by the diamond-shaped headlights. Gérard Welter summed up the philosophy behind the LMP2 design: "It is a simple, modern car with an ecological future, capable of accepting different power units. From the outset, Welter and his men thought of fitting a diesel engine (authorised since 2006 at Le Mans) to the car. But in the end, it was not to be. The 540 horsepower Zytek V8 was the only one of its kind, with only a handful of teams using a comparable block in the Le Mans Series. This was the case for Barazi Epsilon and Trading Performance on Zytek 07S/2s or Embassy Racing on Zytek WF01s. WR broke with the tradition that had been the norm until then: that of running Peugeot engines.
In contrast to the previous WR models, the line is not derived from a monobloc body but is much thinner, following the various mechanical elements. A single-seater with wings to cover the wheels, that's the feeling you get when you look at this WR from the front.
Technically speaking, the 2008 WR LMP2 had a relatively comparable size to the competitors of the time (Porsche RS Spyder, Lola B08/80, Zytek 07 or MG Lola EX265). 4.63 m long, 2.89 m wheelbase for 825 kg.
A career in the Le Mans Series and a climax at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
The WR Salini made its racing debut at the 2008 Barcelona 1000 km. And, for this first competition, the LMP2 saw the finish! A real satisfaction for the small structure which prepared the car until the last minute and which left with the 34th place. Unfortunately, it will remain the best result of the first Le Mans Series season. At Monza, the gearbox breaks down during free practice. The #37 WR was unable to qualify and started from the back of the grid. In the race, it was the injection that stopped its progress. After missing the Spa-Francorchamps round, the little WR returned to the Nürburgring and this time had to deal with exhaust problems. At Silverstone, the season ended with electrical problems.
After a wind tunnel test in October 2008 and initial development work during the summer of 2008, WR and the Salini brothers validated the modifications required by the new ACO regulations. Two days of driving at Lurcy-Lévis and two days of testing organised by Dunlop at Estoril in December enabled the WR to fine-tune its behaviour for the 2009 season.
Five races will punctuate this 2009 vintage with a notable progression curve. 30th in the 1000 km of Catalonia in April, the WR was 32nd in the 1000 km of Spa-Francorchamps at the beginning of May. It is still far from the references of the then ultra-dominant Porsches, but during the 1000 km of the Algarve in August, the French prototype moved up to 24th place. For the occasion, Bruce Jouanny is associated with the Salini brothers, instead of Tristan Gommendy. Finally, despite a retirement at the Nürburgring, the LMP2 finished 20th at Silverstone (9th in the LMP2 category)! The potential is there, with a best race lap of 1'40''402, the 4th fastest time in LMP2.
Le Mans 2010, the last race for the Salini WR LMP2
In 2010, the programme was reduced to the 8 Hours of Le Castellet and then the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The WR was finally selected after two refusals! Before these two events, the work carried out by the small team was important. "We reviewed the airflow in depth and worked in parallel on the suspensions," explained Pascal Coquin, head of communications for the WR team. He also confided that at the beginning of 2010, WR was already considering a move to LMP1! "We have passed the FIA tests so that the crash box can be homologated in LMP1. Crash test, lateral thrust, thrust on roll bar... Everything had to be redone. It's a big investment, but essential for us to continue our progression. Last season we demonstrated all the qualities of our chassis against a renowned competitor. We are now able to market our car at a very attractive price. Being homologated in LMP1 offers a wider range of potential customers". Unfortunately, this move to the premier class will never happen. The non-selection for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours meant the end of the WR programme and the end of the 2008 WR LMP2 entry.
But let's go back to 2010, the final race for the 2008 WR LMP2. Prior to Le Mans 2010, Tristan Gommendy, a professional driver who drove alongside the Salini brothers, praised the progress made: "We worked a lot on the stiffness. The car is now 20% stiffer at the front and 15% stiffer at the rear. Before, I found the car slippery and I didn't like it very much, but now it's fine. It was far too soft and the handling was not what it should be. We worked on the springs, the anti-roll bar, the dampers... We now even have a third shock absorber at the rear".
The race was not a smooth one, but Tristan Gommendy and the Salini brothers finished in 23rd place, 8th in LMP2.
After three seasons with British engine manufacturer Zytek, Gérard Welter and the Salini brothers switched to the Nissan VK45DE V8 for the 2011 season. This engine, prepared by NISMO and assembled in the Zytek workshops in Repton, was never seen in competition. Despite this important mechanical evolution and the installation of a new rear wing, the programme was stopped. Wind tunnel testing did take place before the season, but Le Mans 2010 remains the last race for this unique WR!
The car has been kept untouched since 2010.
Photo Credit: Luc Joly