United Autosports ELMS and WEC driver Phil Hanson’s future in prototype racing is not yet clear, with United Autosports moving its flagship programme to IMSA in 2024 and the WEC removing LMP2 from its class structure.
Ready to Move Into the Top Class
Speaking to DSC, Hanson says he feels ready to move into the top class of endurance racing after a seven-year stint in LMP2 racing, during which he has claimed ELMS, Asian Le Mans and FIA WEC titles, as well as a Le Mans class win.
“I 100 per cent think I am ready. It hasn’t been a linear progression, but I have made the steps required over the past few years. It’s been difficult sometimes to see my strengths when the results aren’t there, but when you look close enough at my performance during those races you will see that there hasn’t been a season that I haven’t performed. I have full confidence I can make that step.”Phil Hanson
If he is unable to find a way into the top class of either the FIA WEC or IMSA in 2024, then remaining in LMP2 is his preference, over a switch to GT3 racing in either FIA WEC LMGT3 or IMSA GTD.
Enjoying LMP2 Racing
However, Hanson still finds enjoyment in LMP2 racing, despite the older cars. “I really enjoy racing the ORECA still,” Hanson said. “The cars change every year. We went from a really fast car in 2020, to a mandated Le Mans kit at every track, to a mandated version of that kit without the front dive plane and the rear rake.”
“So every year for the last four years there has been an evolution, it’s been four years of changes, and it’s like driving a different car sometimes.”
As for GT3 racing, Hanson believes it would be extremely difficult to match the top pro drivers with only a short season. He would require multiple championships to gain enough track time.
When it comes to his future with United Autosports, Hanson remains open to anything. While he would ideally like to stay with the team, it depends on their plans and other opportunities that may arise.
With five races remaining in his 2023 schedule, Hanson is fully focused on the two title races and working on a plan for next season. His ELMS title chances were boosted with a win at Aragon, and he and his full-season teammate Frederick Lubin sit 28 points off the current leaders in the FIA WEC.
“We are quite far behind now, mathematically we are in the hunt, but we won’t win the championship if the top two cars finish second. We need to approach the weekend at Fuji as if we are going to win,” he said. “Where normally you’d want consistency at the end of a season, we now need to win the races.”