Jota Sport - from a small private team to the top podium spot at Le Mans
Jota Sport is a British racing team founded in 2000 that competed mostly in the sports car endurance races, and its biggest achievement is the LMP2 class win at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Jota Sport is a racing division of the Jota Group. The team was originally founded as Team Jota by a university student in material engineering Sam Hignett and a racing driver John Stack, and it’s based in the East Sussex countryside.
Honda Integra was Team Jota’s first project
Team Jota’s first car was a Honda Integra built specifically for endurance racing. The car competed in two famous 24-hour races, at Nürburgring Nordschleife and Spa-Francorchamps. In 2001, the team participated one more time at the Nürburgring race with Honda, but also competed in the Renault Clio V6 Trophy. Sam Hignett was driving Clio and finished 16th in the championship.
Two successful years with Pilbeam prototype
In 2002, the team purchased an SR2 class Nissan-powered Pilbeam to compete in the FIA Sportscar Championship. Team Jota finished second in the championship, and Hignett and Stack took the fifth place in the drivers’ standings. Their second year with the Pilbeam in the FIA Sportscar Championship was also successful. They scored the first class victory at Monza and finished fourth in the teams’ championship classification. In the drivers’ standings, Hignett and Stack were 8th.
Jota – Zytek partnership started in 2004
After the 2003 season, the FIA Sportscar Championship was closed, so the team competed in the Le Mans Endurance Series during 2004. The new car was the LMP1 prototype Zytek 04S. It was Zytek’s very first car and it marked the start of Jota – Zytek cooperation which still exists. Hignett and Stack were joined by Gianni Collini and they finished 6th overall in the championship and 13th in the drivers’ standings.
Le Mans debut in 2005
In 2005, Team Jota competed again in Le Mans Endurance Series, still with Zytek 04S, and won sixth place overall. The championship season featured five races (Spa, Monza, Silverstone, Nurburgring, and Istanbul) and four drivers were driving Team Jota’s car together with Hignett and Stack. Haruki Kurosawa competed at three races, Gregor Fisken at two races, while Sam Hancock and Jason Tahincioglu participated in one race each. The team’s best result was second place at Monza.
In the same year, Team Jota debuted at 24 Hours of Le Mans. They qualified 10th overall but they didn’t finish the race due to an accident on track in Lap 325. The drivers were Hignett, Sack and Kurosawa.
Intercontinental racing program for Jota
During 2006, the team’s program was expanded. They ran the Zytek factory team in the newly named Le Mans Series, at Le Mans race, and the final two rounds of the American Le Mans Series. In the Le Mans Series, Jota finished fifth, with third place at Spa as the best result. Drivers were John Nielsen, Casper Elgaard, and Philip Andersen. Stefan Johansson and Hideki Noda took the seat of the #2 Zytek 06S at Nurburgring.
The Danish trio Nielsen/Elgaard/Andersen competed at the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans and finished 24th overall. The team had much better results in the United States, where they competed at Petit Le Mans and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. At Petit Le Mans, Jota/Zytek Engineering crew finished second overall, with Stefan Johansson, Johnny Mowlem, and Haruki Kurosawa in the cockpit. At Laguna Seca, Johansson and Mowlem finished seventh overall.
New partnership with Charouz
The schedule in 2007 was similar to the year before, but the partnering team and the car were new. Jota’s experts ran a Lola-Judd LMP1 prototype for Charouz Racing Systems in the Le Mans Series and at Le Mans. The team finished fifth in the series with drivers Jan Charouz and Stefan Mucke. They were joined by Alex Yoong at Le Mans and finished eight overall.
Jota’s partner at the American Le Mans Series was Zytek and they again competed in the final two rounds at Petit Le Mans and Laguna Seca. Danny Watts, Stefan Mucke and Jan Charouz competed with LMP2 Zytek 07S prototype and finished fourth at Petit Le Mans. Stefan Mucke and Hayanari Shimoda didn’t finish the race at Laguna Seca.
Simon Dolan joined Jota in 2008
In their 2008 business, Simon Dolan joined the Jota team and Jota Sport brand was created. The team under Jota Sport’s name competed in Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain, with Sam Hancock and Phil Quaife in the cockpit of Porsche 911 GT3. The team earned the second place in the championship, Hancock took the third place in the drivers’ standings, and Quaife finished 5th in the classification. Simon Dolan had his racing debut in a Radical, and he scored his first win in April at Snetterton.
Team Jota continued to race in the American Le Mans Series together with Corsa Motorsport. Their drivers Stefan Johansson, Johnny Mowlem and Gunnar Jeannette were driving an LMP1 prototype Zytek 07S, with third place at Laguna Seca as the season’s best result. At the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans, Team Jota cooperated with Team Cytosport, but their Lola-Judd didn’t reach the finish line.
Team Jota was renamed to Jota Sport in 2009
In 2009, the Team Jota name was completely replaced with Jota Sport brand. The newly developed Ligier JS49 prototype was ran in the Challenge Endurance Proto of the European V de V Sports Championship and also in the UK Speed Series. Drivers were Sam Hancock and Simon Dolan. Ollie Hancock and Chris Cappuccini were driving another team’s prototype Juno SSE in the V de V Championship. Jota Sport continued to run Corsa Motorsport’s Zytek LMP1 prototype in the American Le Mans Series, again with Stefan Johansson and Johnny Mowlem.
Partners of Aston Martin since 2010
In 2010, Jota Sport continued to compete with Ligier JS49 in the V de V Championship and the UK Speed Series, earning three wins in both series. A major deal was made with Aston Martin and Jota Sport became an official partner of the famous British manufacturer. They competed with Aston Martin Vantage GT4s at 24-hour races at Spa and Silverstone, where they took first and second place in class respectively. Jota Sport also started the cooperation with Mazda UK in preparing MX-5 sports cars.
24 hours of Le Mans return with Aston Martin
In 2011, after two years of absence, Jota Sport returned to Le Mans 24-hour race. The team competed with Aston Martin Vantage GT2 in the GTE Pro class. Sam Hancock and Simon Dolan were joined by Chris Buncombe at Le Mans, but they retired after 74 laps. The same drivers with the same car participated in the Le Mans Series, with two fifth-place finishes at Spa and Estoril.
The cooperation with Mazda UK resulted in the creation of GT4 version of MX-5 to compete in the Britcar Production GTN Championship.
Double program in WEC and ELMS
In 2012, the FIA World Endurance Championship was revived and Jota Sport participated in two races with Nissan-powered Zytek Z11SN LMP2 prototype. At 24 Hours of Le Mans, Simon Dolan and Sam Hancock were partnered by Haruki Kurosawa. Unfortunately, after almost 20 hours of racing, they retired. Hancock and Dolan were much more successful at 6 Hours of Spa, where they took the class win. The team also competed in the European Le Mans Series with the same prototype, but without any notable results. During 2012, the business with Mazda UK was expanded to British GT Championship.
Third overall in the 2013 ELMS classification
Jota Sport had the same program in 2013, with two WEC races and five races in the European Le Mans Series. Simon Dolan’s co-driver during the season was Oliver Turvey, and at Le Mans and Spa they were joined by Lucas Luhr. They finished 13th overall and 7th in LMP2 class at Le Mans. At 6 Hours of Spa, Jota Sport trio finished 3rd in class.
In the 2013 European Le Mans Championship, Jota Sport’s duo Dolan/Turvey finished third in the final classification, with the only overall win at the season-opening race at Silverstone.
Le Mans victory for Dolan, Turvey and Tincknell
The most successful year followed: Jota Sport ran with Zytek Z11SN-Nissan for a third consecutive year and they finally took the LMP2 class win at 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans. The drivers were Simon Dolan, Oliver Turvey and Harry Tincknell. The team competed at one more WEC race with second place at Spa, but the focus was on the European Le Mans Series.
Simon Dolan, Harry Tincknell and Filipe Albuquerque competed in the full ELMS season driving #38 Zytek-Nissan and after one victory (Imola) and two more podiums, they finished second in the championship, just four points behind Signatech Alpine.
So close to the second Le Mans victory
In 2015, the team made a change of a machinery for European Le Mans Series. Zytek LMP2 prototype was rebranded and renamed to Gibson 015S, the engine remained the 4.5L V8 Nissan. Dolan, Tincknell and Albuquerque took one victory in five races (at Spielberg) and three more podiums. In a close championship fight, they finished third, with a small gap behind title-winning Greaves Motorsport.
The new car was used also in the FIA World Endurance Championship. Dolan and Tincknell, partnered by Mitch Evans, earned the sensational class win at 6 Hours of Spa. The same drivers appeared few weeks later at Le Mans with high expectations. In the exciting race, three leading LMP2 teams finished in the same lap after 24 hours. KCMG took the class win, Jota Sport was second and G-Drive was third.
2016 ELMS title for Jota Sport/G-Drive Racing
In 2016, the former rivals became the partners. Jota Sport made an agreement with G-Drive Racing to run their two cars in the European Le Mans Series and World Endurance Championship. ELMS car Gibson 015S was driven be Simon Dolan, Giedo van der Garde and Harry Tincknell, while the WEC car Oreca 05-Nissan was driven by Roman Rusinov full time and four more drivers through the season (Rene Rast, Will Stevens, Nathanael Berthon, Alex Brundle).
Dolan, van der Garde and Tincknell became the ELMS champions, after winning two of six races, at Silverstone and Estoril. In the FIA WEC, the #26 car scored three wins in the last three rounds of the championship. Roman Rusinov, as the only full-time driver, finished third in LMP2 drivers’ standings. The team was also third in the points.
For the 2017 FIA WEC season, a new partnership was created between Jota Sport and Jackie Chan DC Racing. They run two Oreca 07 prototypes in the LMP2 class.
Photos: Jota Sport FB, motorsport.com, jotagroup.com, dailysportscar.com.