Wednesday, 25 April 2018

ELMS: Racing Engineering win thrilling first race of the season

Racing Engineering took the first win of the 2018 season when Olivier Pla took the chequered flag in the Spanish team’s Oreca-Gibson to claim their debut win. After four hours there was less than 8 seconds separating the top three cars. 


Victory in LMP3 went to the #15 RLR MSport Ligier, when Rob Garofall passed the chequered flag with fumes in his fuel tank after a 65 minute stint to take his first LMP3 win since Imola 2015. In LMGTE the win went to the JMW Motorsport’s #66  Ferrari, Miguel Molina taking victory on the very last lap from Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche.


Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre made a good start in the #21 DragonSpeed Oreca of to take the lead from the #28 IDEC Sport Oreca of reigning ELMS Champion Memo Rojas, with the #24 Racing Engineering Oreca of Norman Nato and Pierre Ragues in the #29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca in 3rd and 4th respectively. 


The #17 Ultimate Norma of Jean-Baptiste Lahaye took the lead of the LMP3 category as pole position holder David Droux, in the bright yellow camouflage Norma, dropped back to 5th following the first corner melee, with the #15 RLR MSport Ligier of Job Van Uitert moving up from 4th to 2nd at the end of the first lap. Van Uitert put the pressure on Lahaye and on the third lap the Dutch driver took the lead.


The start of the LMGTE race saw the #88 Proton Competition Porsche head into turn 1 in the lead from Pole Position, Gianluca Roda opening up a good gap to the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari after Liam Griffin made a good start to move ahead of the #77 Proton Competition Porsche of Christian Ried. Mike Wainwright was making progress up the field from the back of the grid in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche.



The #22 United Autosports Ligier of Phil Hanson came into the pits after contact with another LMP2 car, which damaged the exhaust and punctured the rear left tyre. Another early casualty was the #8 DKR Engineering Norma of Jean Glorieux, the Belgian driver ending up in the barriers after contact with another car. Glorieux couldn’t restart the car and the Norma was retired after just 14 laps.


After the first set of pitstops Lapierre was still leading the race from Nato, with Pierre Thiriet in the #36 Signatech Alpine up to 3rd place. Job Van Uitert was still leading the LMP3 category in the #15 RLR MSport Ligier from the recovering David Droux in the #19 M Racing-YMR Norma. Droux handed over to Nicolas Ferrer but Ferrer spun at Turn 5, dropping the Norma down the field and out of contention.


Giorgio Roda had taken over the driving duties of the leading #88 Porsche, who now had Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche closing rapidly. The British driver passed the Italian and opened up a lead but then a fuel pressure issue brought the Gulf Racing 911 to a halt and the race had another retirement. The #21 DragonSpeed also hit trouble as Lapierre headed for the pitlane with a puncture. Henrik Hedman jumped into the car and rejoined the track but this allowed Norman Nato to take the lead. 


With the race approaching the 2 hours mark a full course yellow was declared when Hedman in the DragonSpeed Oreca and the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari F488 of Duncan Cameron collided, both cars hitting the barriers hard at Turn 9. Hedman recovered the Oreca back to the pits but the damage was beyond the ability of the mechanics to repair in time. The Ferrari was lifted onto the back of a flatbed while Cameron was given lift back to the pits. 


The Full Course Yellow turned into a Safety Car while the barriers were repaired but the FCY gave the teams plenty of opportunity to pit. The race went green again after 25 minutes with Paul Petit, now at the wheel on the #24 Racing Engineering Oreca, leading the race from the Signatech Alpine of Andre Negrão, with Nelson Panciatici in the 29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca in third.



John Farano had taken over from Job Van Uitert and soon had a comfortable lead over the #11 Eurointernational Ligier of Kay Van Berlo and the no2 United Autosports Ligier of John Falb.  Liam Griffin was leading the LMGTE class in the #66 Ferrari but the British driver was soon caught and passed by the #88 Porsche of Gianluca Roda. Griffin dropped back to third when he was again caught and passed by a Porsche, this time the #80 Ebimotors 911 of Riccardo Pera.


Andre Negrão caught the leading Racing Engineering Oreca of Paul Petit and battle commenced to see who would lead the race with 90 minutes remaining. Petit held off the challenge from the Brazilian until the next set of pitstops where he handed over to Olivier Pla for the final stint. Negrão handed the #36 Alpine back to Pierre Thiriet, who held the lead before Pla caught and passed on the outside at Signes Corner with just under an hour of the race remaining.



Thiriet was passed by the #29 Duqueine Oreca and then came under pressure from the #33 TDS Racing Oreca of Matthieu Vaxiviere. The two cars were side by side on the Mistral Straight but Thiriet held his nerve and his place as the final set of pitstops approached. Thiriet stayed out longer than his rivals but when he finally came in for fuel he rejoined in third place and was under pressure from Nicolas Jamin in the Duqueine Oreca. Jamin made his move with 25 minutes remaining to take the final podium position.


The LMP3 class was led by the #11 Eurointernational Ligier when Van Berlo came back in for his final stop. Rob Garofall in the #15 RLR MSport Ligier was now in the lead but there was some doubt if the British driver had enough fuel to reach the flag. The RLR MSport mechanics even looked like they were getting ready to bring Garofall, in but it was all a Ruse de Guerre and Garofall drove to the chequered flag to claim victory and the 25 championship points. After an eventful race the M.Racing Norma finished in second place with Lucas Légeret taking the chequered flag ahead of the Eurointernational Ligier of Kay Van Berlo.


The LMGTE battle came down to a duel between the Proton Competition Porsche 911 of Matteo Cairoli and the JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Miguel Molina. Molina was reeling the Italian in with every lap and with less than five minutes remaining the Spaniard was right on the rear wing of the leading Porsche. The pair crossed the line and on the final lap Cairoli ran wide at turn 7 allowing Molina to take the lead and snatch the victory on the very last lap of the race.

Relive the race here with a 52 minute recap:

Race results 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

ELMS: First pole positions for IDEC Sport and M.Racing-YMR

IDEC Sport in LMP2 and M.Racing-YMR in LMP3 both scored their first ever pole positions in the European Le Mans Series this afternoon, after a highly entertaining qualifying session for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet tomorrow. 



A bit of a surprise in the LMP2 class, where Paul Loup Chatin scored pole for IDEC Sport in the #28 Gibson powered Oreca 07 in a smashing 1.41.194.  We all know Chatin is quick and the Oreca – even after the adjustments Ligier and Dallara were allowed to do to their cars – is still the car to beat, but the #28 hasn't been amongst the top runners in class all weekend.  That didn't stop Chatin from beating the rest of the field with exactly 0.444 seconds. 



The session was shortly red flagged when Bruno Senna stopped on the Mistral straight in his #22 United Autosports Ligier. When the session went green again, only six minutes were left for the drivers to fight for pole position.  Chatin set his time with only two minutes left on the clock, leaving the other teams almost no chance for improvement.  Matthieu Vaxivière once again was second quickest in the #33 TDS Racing Oreca, 0.266 seconds faster than Ben Hanley in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca 07. 



The first non-Oreca chassis was the #23 Panis Barthez Competition with Will Stevens behind the wheel, just over a second behind the leading Oreca. The #35 SMP Racing set the fastest time of the Dallara's in ninth place with a 1.42.507.



The LMP3 qualifying session was a nailbiting one, laptimes improving and positions changing right into the final moments. Ultimately it was a clean sweep for Norma, with three cars on the first three places for tomorrow's grid.   David Droux in the #19 M/Racing-YMR Norma took pole after a flying lap of 1.51.930. He outpaced Matthieu Lahaye in the #17 Ultimate Norma with just 0.061 seconds. 



Reigning Michelin Le Mans Cup champion Alexander Toril took third place, giving in 0.113 seconds to Lahaye.  Job Van Uitert in the #15 RLR Ligier has been fast all weekend and led the field early in the session, but lacked only 4 thousands of a second to qualify in the top 3.  Completing the top 5 was last year's champion Sean Rayhall in the #2 United Autosports Ligier, over half a second slower than Van Uitert. 



Matteo Cairoli starred again in the GTE class, taking pole in his #88 Proton Competition Porsche in a time of 1.53.777.  Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche took second place for the grid tomorrow, 0.209 seconds behind Cairoli. Third place went to Miguel Molina in the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, almost a second slower than the quickest of the Porsches. 

The 4 Hours of Le Castellet will start tomorrow at 12h local time in France.  A live stream will be available on www.europeanlemansseries.com and the series' youtube channel.  Motorsport TV also has a live broadcast.


Kristof Vermeulen

ELMS: Duqueine Engineering sets the pace in Free Practice 2

In what has been the first completely dry session since the WEC prologue last weekend here at Paul Ricard, Nelson Panciatici was fastest during today's final practice session. 



The Frenchman's best time of 1.41.215 in his #29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca was 0.658 seconds faster than Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca. Matthieu Vaxivière got third fastest in the TDS Oreca, ahead of the #24 Racing Engineering of Norman Nato.  First of the non-Oreca chassis' was the #30 AVF Dallara of Konstantin Tereschenko and Henrique Chaves, 1.555 seconds adrift of Panciatici. 



Job Van Uiterst set the fastest time in the LMP3 class, managing a 1.52.290 in the #15 RLR Msport Ligier.  Matthew Bell in the #3 United Autosports was second fastest time, 0.328 seconds behind the Dutchman.  Third quickest was Giorgio Mondini in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier . The #17  Ultimate was the quickest Norma again, now with Jean-Baptiste Lahaye behind the wheel.



Porsche outpaced Ferrari this morning in the GTE class.  Proton Competition finished 1-2 at the end of the 90 minute session, Matteo Cairoli quickest again in his #88 in a time of 1.54.253.  Dennis Olsen in the #88 sister followed close, only 0.221 seconds behind the Italian. Ben Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing 911 RSR was right on the heels of Olsen, missing out second place with 0.018 seconds. Best of the Ferrari's was the #55 Spirit of Race, just under 0.4 seconds behind Cairoli.

Track action resumes this afternoon with qualifying at 13h40. 

FP2 results

Kristof Vermeulen.
Pictures: kristofvermeulen.com

Friday, 13 April 2018

ELMS: Lapierre and Hedman quickest for Dragonspeed in today's practice sessions.

DragonSpeed opened their European Le Mans Series account today when Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre stormed to a 1:48.580 to claim the fastest lap in this morning’s first free practice session at Paul Ricard. After rain early in the session, Lapierre clocked in the time on the drying track midway through the session.  In this afternoon's collective bronze driver test session, Henrik Hedman did it all over again for Dragonspeed, putting Dragonspeed on top for the second time today. 



Nico Lapierre's time in the #21 Gibson powered Oreca 07 was two seconds clear of Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #33 TDS Racing Oreca in second and Tristan Gommendy in the 39 Graff Oreca 0.14 seconds further behind in third. The best non-ORECA chassis was the #22 United Autosports Ligier which ran three seconds off the pace finishing fifth overall behind LMP2 debutants Duqueine Engineering with their #29 ORECA. Andrea Belicchi was the fastest Dallara driver, finishing 11th fastest in the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse. 




Ultimate led the way in the LMP3 class with their Norma M30/Nissan. Matthieu Lahaye pushed the #17 car to a 2:01.612 putting the French team at the top of the table. Behind them was another Norma: the #10 Oregon Team M30 with Riccardo Ponzio setting a 2:02.367. Rounding out the top three was the first of the Ligier chassis with Giorgio Mondini taking the #11 EuroInternational car to a 2:02.927.  Lucas Légeret in the #19 M.Racing-YMR Norma set the fourth fastest time.



In the GTE class, Italian young-gun Matteo Cairoli beasted the #88 Proton Porsche 911 RSR around the circuit to eventually set a time of 2:01.282, bettering that of Lahaye in the Ultimate LMP3 by 0.3 second! The Gulf Racing Porsche  – entered for this round only as an additional test prior to the season opening WEC race at Spa – was also faster than the Ultimate Norma after Ben Barker clocked in a 2:01.566. Marvin Dienst in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche set the third fastest time in the morning session. 



The session had a single red flag caused by the #14 Inter Europol Ligier of Luca Demarchi hitting the barriers at Turn 13 after being hit by the #3 United Ligier.  The #35 SMP Racing Dallara also has been towed back to pitlane after stopping on track with what appeared to be suspension damage, causing a brief full course yellow period. 



The first Bronze driver test of the season was held in the afternoon and saw Henrik Hedman putting the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca back on top.  Unusually for this week, the entire session was dry with the sun making occasional appearances through broken clouds.  The Swedish team-owner clocked in a 1:44.767 followed by François Perrodo in the #33 TDS Racing ORECA half a second behind. Rounding out the top three was Italian Roberto Lacorte in the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara P217. 



Kay Van Berlo took honours in the LMP3 class setting a 1:52.587 in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JSP3. Almost a second behind the Dutchman was Alexey Chuklin in the #5 NEFIS by Speed Factory Ligier JSP3 while Martin Hippe rounded out the class top three in the #13 Inter Europol Competition car. 



Fastest of the GTE drivers was Gianluca Roda in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR setting a respectable 1:56.991. He was followed by Duncan Cameron in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE in 1:57.110 and third was Frenchman Raymond Narac in the #80 Ebimotors 911 RSR. 



Around 10 minutes before the end of the session, Mike Wainwright in the one-off entered #86 Gulf Racing Porsche 911 RSR had an extended wait in the live side of the pitlane as he waited for the AF Corse mechanics to run down the pitlane and push back Tracy Krohn who had missed his pit by two boxes and ended up stopped at the Gulf Racing box! 


This article was originally featured at Sportscarglobal.com
Pictures: JellyBaby.Media

Thursday, 12 April 2018

ELMS: A stunning 45 car grid for the opening round of the 2018 European Le Mans Series

The 2018 European Le Mans Series starts today with the first free practice session for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet opening race on Sunday.  An impressive 45 car grid has arrived in the south of France for what promises to be the best season ever in the European championship.

The LMP2 class will feature the biggest grid we've ever seen in the championship's history with not less than 19 cars, even outnumbering the LMP3 class ! There's the 17 (!!) full season entries, with 2 additional WEC teams adding the race at Le Castellet to their schedule: Signatech Alpine and TDS Racing. 

Lots of familiar faces and teams in the LMP2 paddock, but also a few noteable newcomers.  The #30 Dallara of Spanish team AVF by Adrian Valles already showed its pace at the prologue, topping the timesheets in one of the sessions.  Another new team in the championship is Racing Engineering, also from Spain but entering an Oreca 07.  Duqueine Engineering is moving up info LMP2 after acquiering Norma at the end of last year.  



Teams expanding their efforts are United Autosports (2 Ligier JSP217's), IDEC Sport (1 Ligier & 1 Oreca 07) and Algarve Pro Racing who will also run 2 different cars: their own Ligier and an Oreca for Rebellion Racing. Roman Rusinov returns with a 2 car effort with his G-Drive team, instead of racing one car in both the FIA WEC and the ELMS as they did last year.  The #26 Oreca will be run by TDS Racing, the #40 by Graff.  SMP Racing holds on to its LMP2 program next to their LMP1's in the FIA WEC. 



Nico Lapierre won't be driving the Signatech Alpine this weekend, as he will be in the #21 Dragonspeed in which he races the full season in the championship.  The TDS Oreca will be driven by its WEC driver line-up, althoug Loic Duval won't be at the track before Saturday.  Another driver missing is Filipe Albuquerque in the #22 United Autosports as he will be racing in the USA this weekend.  He will be replaced by Bruno Senna. 

18 cars will feature on the grid of the LMP3 class this weekend. 



Sean Rayhall and John Falb return with their #2 United Autosports Ligier to defend their 2017 title.  Ecurie Ecosse Nielsen and BHK Motorsport are new in the European Le Mans Series, both debuting with a Ligier JSP3.  A noteable change is Ultimate who have traded in their Ligier for a new Norma M30.  It will be interesting to see how their results will evolve after racing at the top in several races last season. Inter Europol Competition is expanding its efforts this year with a second Ligier. 

LMP3 might be the class where the youngsters will shine this season.  During the prologue both Dutch drivers Kay Van Berlo (#11 Eurointernational) and Job Van Uitert (#15 RLR Msport) have shown their speed, finishing in or near the top 3 on a few occasions.  Another young talent to look forward to is Swiss driver Lucas Légeret who moved from Duqueine Engineering to M Racing-YMR in the #19 Norma M30. 



A bit of controversy is going on around the #8 DKR Engineering Norma which has won last season's Michelin Le Mans Cup title with Jean Glorieux and Alexander Toril. Joining them this season is Toril's brother   who is also a silver qualified driver. As at least one bronze driver is requiered in the LMP3 class, it's still an open question if the ACO will hold on to the waiver they gave to the team to race with these three drivers for the remainder of the season.

As in LMP2, there's 2 additional cars in the GTE class who usually race in the FIA World Endurance Championship: the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci and the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche of Michael Wainwright, Alexander Davidson and Benjamin Barker. 



All 6 full season entries will be at the start of the first practice session today despite the first session of the official test this week took out the #77 Proton 911 RSR and the #80 Ebimotors.  Both cars are being replaced by Proton Competition's WEC entered machinery.  

Action on track will start today with the first 90 minute practice session at 11h15.  The traditional Bronze driver collective test will be held at 16h35. 

Useful links: 

Kristof Vermeulen. 

ELMS: Setup day for the opening race of the 2018 season at Circuit Paul Ricard

It's almost time tot kick off the 2018 European Le Mans Season !  With the official test completed earlier this week, all the teams are now setting up for the opening race of the season: the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. 

Weatherwise it still seems like someone moved the Le Castellet region up north, with cold temperatures and rain pooring down almost all day.  Luckily the rain stopped for an hour or two this afternoon, even with a bit of sunshine trough the clouds for the first time in 2 days, so we managed to get at few pitlane shots in from this afternoon. 

Track action for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet starts tomorrow at 11h15 for the first 90 minute practice session. A Bronze driver test is planned for 16h35 in the afternoon. 





















































Kristof Vermeulen
Pictures © www.kristofvermeulen.com