Round 4 of this years European Le Mans Series once again provided some good racing.
The race was started in 31 degrees heat at Paul Ricard near Nice in the south of France.
DragonSpeed #21 kept the lead going into turn one ahead of its sistercar G-Drive Racing #22 and Graff Racing #39.
There was drama for United Autosports #32, who was spun around, after being hit but Cetilar Villorba Corse #47 – a contact that #47 got a drive-through penalty for. One lap later Algarve Pro Racing #25 had a spin in the same turn, when he hit a curb a bit too hard.
RLR MSport #15 took the lead in LMP3 and Alex Kapadia opened up a nice gap to the two M.Racing – YMR #18 and #19 cars. The #18 however had made a jump start, so Alexandre Cougnaud got a drive-through penalty for that.
Christian Ried in the Proton Competition Porsche #77 had grabbed the lead from the Pole car Spirit of Race Ferrari #55. The #55 made it back past again shortly after, in a fine outbraking manoeuvre of the #77. Beechdean AMR #99 had a really good start, and was all the way up to P3 in the GTE category, after only starting in 6th.
Third place wasn’t enough for Ross Gunn in the Beechdean AMR #99 and went on to battle with #77 and made it past with a good move. Jody Fannin in JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 instantly started doing the same, and went past too.
There was a close battle for third in the LMP3 class, with M.Racing – YMR #19, 360 Racing #6, Duqueine Engineering #7 and Ultimate #17 battling alongside each other, and even banging wheels. The positions changed several times, partly because LMP2 cars were overtaking them by a lap as well.
An LMP3 car that we didn’t get to see much today was United Autosports #3, which had an oil leakage and had to retire from the race.
After 40 minutes of driving, Ben Hanley in DragonSpeed #21 pitted and handed over the car to Henrik Hedman.
Anders Fjordbach in the High Class Racing #49 received a drive-through for overtaking outside the circuit, which was a shame with them already moving several positions up from their starting position.
TF Sport AMR #90 were in a lonely last position in the GTE category, but Salih Yoluc was the slowest driver in the car, which he shared with Euan Hankey and Nicki Thiim.
After the first round of pitstops, we had SMP Racing #27 into the lead, by not changing tires, and even Graff #39 had made it past #21 as well. Hedman in #21 was quickly passed by his teammates in the G-Drive Racing #22 too.
Shortly before the first hour had elapsed, it was game-over for AT Racing #9 halfway around the track. The car slowly pulled off the track with no smoke or other indications, but Mikkel Jensen told in an interview that it was down to overheating and they had to stop the car. That send out a Full Course Yellow to get the car removed.
That FCY gave the opportunity for all the LMP3 cars and several of the GTE cars to do their pitstop. The teams that had already pitted got quite some disadvantage, since the speeds are much slower under FCY.
IDEC Sport Racing #28 had a spin and Racing Team Nederland #29 only managed to avoid it by a few centimeters. If one spin wasn’t enough, it took another one 10 minutes later.
Eurointernational #11 and M.Racing – YMR #18 came close to each other, when the #11 spun, and both had to take it to the big tarmac run-off area that is so characteristic for Paul Ricard. Duqueine Engineering #8 had a small solo spin as well a few minutes later.
At the front of the LMP3 field, bronze driver John Farano in the RLR MSport #15 was caught by several seconds per lap by Sean Rayhall in the United Autosports #2. That made Alex Kapadia’s big gab shrank into nothing only 25 minutes after Farano jumped in the car.
Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 had build up a nice gap in the GTE category to JMW Motorsport Ferrari #and Beechdean AMR #99.
Eurointernational #12 decided to join most of the other LMP3 cars by doing a quick spin.
After around 90 minutes of race, the Duqueine Engineering #8 stopped on the track, but was quickly removed by the marshalls.
John Farano i RLR MSport #15 was pushed by Oregon Team #10, which gave the latter a drive-though penalty.
Racing Team Nederland #29 had to go into the garage about halfway through the race, since the mechanics needed to chase an electrical fault on the car.
With 1 hour and 45 minutes left of the race, Morten Dons climbed aboard the RLR MSport #15 and started chasing down the lost time, after the car had dropped all the way to 10th in class.
Dennis Andersen in High Class Racing #49 had two spins within a short time, and that made the team decide to pit for new tires, and then hand back to Anders Fjordbach.
After only being in the car for 30 minutes, Nicki Thiim had taken the TF Sport #90 from sixth to third in class, and was even going two seconds a lap faster than Darren Turner in the other Aston Martin. There was more than half a minute to the two Ferrari’s ahead, so Thiim had to dig really deep and get going.
RLR Msport #15 and Oregon Team #10 had slight collision, when the #10 slowed suddenly in the middle of a corner.
SMP Racing #27 was still leading the LMP2 category with an almost one minute lead over G-Drive Racing #22 and Graff #39. United Autosports #2 had driven through the LMP3 field and was now leading ahead of Ultimate #17, M.Racing – YMR #18 and Duqueine Engineering #7. In GTE Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 lead ahead of JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and TF Sport AMR #90.
Giorgio Roda in Spirit of Race Ferrari #51 dived past Darren Turner in Beechdean AMR #99 with just over one hour to two, but still had almost half a minute to TF Sport #90 ahead to gain.
Proton Competition Porsche #77 had a bit of troubles leaving after their final pitstop, but Matteo Cairoli got the car going after a short delay.
With 45 minutes left of the race, Filipe Albuerquerque in United Autosports #32 took the third place in LMP2 away from Paul Petit in Graff #39.
Cool Racing by GPC #4 and M.Racing – YMR #19 both received a drive-through penalty for not respecting the speed under the previous FCY period, but those were not contenders at the top anyway in this LMP3 car.
With half an hour left of the race, Euan Hankey in the TF Sport #90 dived past Jody Fannin in the JMW Motorsport #66. With that move, the #90 had gone all the way from the back of the field to second in class, but with almost one minute up to the leading car, there had to be some sort of issue for it to catch the Spirit of Race #55.
With 26 minutes left of the race, the FCY boards were out again ,when the 360 Racing #6 stopped on circuit. So they went all the way from starting in Pole Position, to be dragged out of the way by an ATV and a tow rope.
With 20 minutes left the race, the action kicked off again. Firstly M.Racing – YMR #19 had a solo spin, and shortly after Erwin Creed had contact with Oregon Team #10. That resulted in another FCY period.
After 4 hours of racing we saw SMP Racing #27 with Matevos Isaakyan and Egor Orudzhev winning the race overall ahead of G-Drive Racing #22 and United Autosports #32. That made it a Russian 1-2, but what was more important was that it was Dallara ahead of ORECA and Ligier. So now all 3 constructors has won this season in LMP2.
United Autosports #2 with Sean Rayhall and John Falb won the LMP3 category ahead of Inter Europol Competition #13 and M.Racing – YMR #18. It was a superior show by the Ligier cars, where we have to go all the way down to P11 to find the first Norma.
Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 with Matt Griffin, Aaron Scott and Duncan Cameron won the GTE category ahead of TF Sport AMR #90 and JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66.
G-Drive Racing #22 leads the LMP2 Championship standings ahead of United Autosports #32 and Graff #39. High Class Racing #49 has dropped to 4th in the Teams Championship, while Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen sits 6th in the Drivers Championship.
United Autosports #2 has the lead in the LMP3 Championship ahead of M.Racing -YMR #18 and Ultimate #17.
In the top of the GTE Championship standings we have TF Sport AMR #90, in front of JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and Spirit of Race Ferrari #55.
The fifth and penultimate round of this years ELMS will be run at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium on September 24th.
Update- United Autosports #32 got a 30 seconds time penalty due to Filipe Albuerquerque was driving too fast under the last FCY shortly before the end of the race. Therefore they will lose their 3rd position and drops back to 5th. Graff #39 moves up to third, and Panis Barthez Competition #23 going into 4th. #32 still sits second in the Championship.
RLR MSport #15, By Speed Factory #5 and Eurointernational #12 were also handed 30 seconds penalties for the same offence, but that didn’t result in any changes in the positions for those cars.