The European Le Mans Series 2021 season started in Spain, at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
41 cars would take the start on a sunny, but unusually cold spring day, in the usually often to be hot country.
G-Drive Racing #26 with Nyck de Vries, Roman Rusinov and Franco Colapinto would start the race from Pole Position in LMP2, ahead of Team WRT #41 with Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica and Yifei Yi, while Panis Racing #65 with Will Stevens, Julien Canal and Gabriel Aubry started in P3.
United Autosports #3 with Duncan Tappy, Jim McGuire and Andrew Bentley had taken LMP3 Pole, ahead of RLR MSport #15 with Malthe Jakobsen, Mike Benham and Alex Kapadia in second place, and United Autosports #2 with Wayne Boyd, Rob Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe in third.
Proton Competition #77 with Gianmaria Bruni, Jaxon Evans and Christian Ried started from Pole Position in the GTE category, ahead of Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 with Miguel Molina, Matteo Cressoni and Rino Mastronardi, while Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 with Rahel Frey, Manuela Gostner and Michelle Gatting would start from P3.
It was a chaotic start on the race, where G-Drive Racing #26 drove very slowly, and was about to start a pile-up when some of the drivers behind him were faster and suddenly had to brake. It helped Rusinov to get a nice gap from his competitors. On the other hand, United Autosports #22 and #32 came a bit too close to each other, and #32 ended up in the gravel in Turn 1 when Nico Jamin was a bit too hard on the throttle. It triggered a Safety Car as Jamin got stuck in the gravel.
DragonSpeed #21 got spun around in the last chicane by Racing Team Turkey and stopped on one of the sausage curbs, which were to prevent people from taking a shortcut. So it took a bit of time before Henrik Hedman was back on track.
Luckily, it didn’t take long for the race to be restarted.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 took the lead of the GTE category when Paolo Ruberti overtook his teammates in #80. Furthermore, Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 was third in the same category.
DragonSpeed #21 and Team Virage #20 had some kind of collision. Both cars were stranded in Turn 7, and while Henrik Hedman had to park his car, Rob Hodes in #20 could continue.
Team WRT #41 took the lead of the race 20 minutes when Deletraz had a better exit down the start-finish straight, and Rusinov tried to block, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Frenchman from passing him.
A couple of laps later, Rusinov also lost second place to Phil Hanson, and shortly afterwards was under pressure by Julien Canal in Panis Racing, and Antonin Borga in Cool Racing #37.
DKR Engineering #4 had taken the lead of LMP3, ahead of United Autosports #2 and RLR MSport #15.
After a long battle, Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 managed to drive past Iron Lynx Ferrari #83.
There was contact between Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 and a Graff LMP3 car, which got whirled around in the last chicane on the same lap.
IDEC Sport #28 made a little mistake under braking in Turn 1 and spun around. Fortunately, Paul Lafargue didn’t hit anyone.
JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and IDEC Sport #17 hit each other in the last chicane, so both cars spun around. But both could continue without any damage.
United Autosports #2 had big problems in the pits when they couldn’t restart the car. The team tried and tried but it just would not start.
Racing Team Turkey #34 had contact with Duqueine Team #30 in Turn 10 but luckily could avoid being hit by oncoming traffic. Shortly afterwards, Salih Yoluc had to park the car, where the mechanics went to repair something at the back of the car – had they got some damage on the wheel suspension after all?
There was contact between G-Drive Racing #26 and Nielsen Racing #6 in Turn 9, where the LMP3 car got spun around, but it could get away from there by itself.
RLR MSport #15 got a Drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane, with Mike Benham behind the wheel.
The stewards gave G-Drive Racing #26 a Drive-through for the incident they caused with the slow driving at the start of the race.
MV2S Racing #5 had to slowly crawl back to the pits after getting big damage on the back of the car, from contact with Panis Racing #65. Unfortunately, Christophe Cresp had to drive a whole lap before he could pit.
The problems continued for G-Drive Racing #26 when Franco Colapinto got brushed by IDEC Sport #28, and at the same time had to avoid a slower LMP3 car. It pushed #26 over the grass in a spin, before he could come back to the asphalt. The stewards looked into it and chose no further action.
Just a few minutes later, there were more problems for the G-Drive team. Both #25 and #26 went into the pits at the same time, and when #25 was about to drive away, Rui Andrade hit one of the tires that a mechanic on #26 had taken off the car and put it on the ground.
Graff #8 went off the track in Turn 5, but Sebastien Page was quick to be back on the asphalt again.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 and Proton Competition Porsche #77 had contact around the last chicane. First, #77 hit the rear of #60, after that the Porsche got pushed a bit off the track. It was, however, Gianmaria Bruni against Claudio Schiavoni, so the Porsche driver went past half a lap later.
TF Sport Aston Martin #95 went off the track, but Ollie Hancock quickly recovered.
Halfway into the race, Team WRT #41 was the leader in LMP2, Ultimate #29 in LMP2 Pro/Am, DKR Engineering #4 in LMP3 and Proton Competition Porsche #77 in GTE.
There was contact between Cool Racing #37 and G-Drive Racing #25 in Turn 10, so #37 spun around but could quickly continue.
Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 came into the pits with a punctured left rear tire. Luckily, the tire didn’t cause more damage to the car.
The lead in GTE changed when Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 overtook Proton Competition Porsche #77, who slid around on their old, used tires.
Panis Racing #65 took second place in the race when Will Stevens drove past Tom Gamble in United Autosports #22.
Proton Competition Porsche #93 and JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 had contact in Turn 10, which the stewards immediately investigated. It ended up with a warning for #66.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 got a Drive-through penalty for track limits abuse.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 had some bad laps, where Richard Bradley got slower and slower before the car stopped completely on the start-finish straight. After a few seconds, he could restart the car and drive into the pits.
G-Drive Racing #26 got a Drive-through penalty for the mistake they did earlier in one of their pitstops, where there was a tire on the ground in front of #25 when they were about to leave the pits. With that, their chance to end up on the podium pretty much disappeared.
Team WRT #41 started the last hour leading the LMP2 category, Ultimate #29 in front in LMP2 Pro/Am, DKR Engineering #4 in LMP3 and Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 in GTE.
RLR MSport #15 came up to third place in the LMP3 category, while Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 was in P7 in GTE.
Team WRT #41 put Robert Kubica in the car, 45 minutes before the chequered flag, so the Polish driver could drive to the finish.
IDEC Sport #28 used the slower traffic to their advantage, passing United Autosports #22 and hence the last podium spot in LMP2.
Cool Racing #19 slowly but surely began catching the leading DKR Engineering #4, who otherwise had a lead of one and a half minutes when Laurents Hörr got off the car. With half an hour left on the clock, the gap was down to just ten seconds.
There was an intense battle for fourth place in GTE. JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 was in P4, men they had Proton Competition Porsche #93, Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 and Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 right behind them. First, Rahel Frey in #83 went to overtake Felipe Laser in #93, before she set her eyes on Jody Fannin in #66. One lap later, the Swiss also managed to drive past the Englishman.
Graff #39 got a Drive-through for a mistake during one of their pitstops.
Cool Racing #19 took the lead with twenty minutes left. DKR Engineering #4 had otherwise led the race since the start.
A few minutes later, Malthe Jakobsen in RLR MSport #15 also drove past Alain Berg in #4.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 got a warning for track limits.
MV2S Racing #5 stalled between Turn 7 and 8, with just eight minutes left. Luckily, they stopped in a place where it wasn’t necessary for a Full Course Yellow or Safety Car.
Inter Europol Competition #13 was under investigation for having potentially done an overtake under a yellow flag.
JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 had to crawl into the pits when Fannin got a problem on the last lap. But the most important for the team was for him to finish, so that they could score some points.
After four hours of an exciting race, it was Team WRT #41 with Robert Kubica, Yifei Yi and Louis Deletraz who crossed the finish line first, ahead of Panis Racing #65 with Julien Canal, Will Stevens and Gabriel Aubry, while United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson, Jonathan Aberdein and Tom Gamble came home in third place.
Ultimate #29 with Jean-Baptiste Lahaye, Matthieu Lahaye and Francois Heriau won the Pro/Am category, which was the best-placed LMP2 team with a Bronze-rated driver amongst the three drivers.
Cool Racing #19 with Matt Bell, Nicolas Maulini and Niklas Krütten took the victory in LMP3, ahead of RLR MSport #15 with Mike Benham, Alex Kapadia and Malthe Jakobsen, while Inter Europol Competition #13 with Martin Hippe, Ugo de Wilde and Julien Falchero finished third. With just two seconds between the first two cars, it could be the Drive-through penalty for Benham that cost RLR MSport #15 the win.
In the GTE category, Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 with local hero Miguel Molina, Matteo Cressoni and Rino Mastronardi won the race, ahead of Proton Competition Porsche #77 with Gianmaria Bruni, Jaxon Evans and Christian Ried, while Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 with Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and David Perel finished in P3.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 with Manuela Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting finished fourth, after an intense fight throughout the race, especially in the last hour.
The innovative car Association SRT41 #84 with Takuma Aoki, Nigel Bailly and Pierre Sancinena completed the race.
The next round of the European Le Mans Series will be run on Sunday 16 May, at Red Bull Ring in Austria.