Four hot hours in France

It became four hot hours for the drivers in the European Le Mans Series, when the third round of the 2021 season was run on the French track Paul Ricard between Marseille and Nice.

G-Drive Racing #26 with Nyck de Vries, Roman Rusinov and Franco Colapinto would start from Pole Position for the second time this season, ahead of championship leader Team WRT #41 with Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica and Yifei Yi, while United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson, Jonathan Aberdein and Tom Gamble had qualified third.

Cool Racing #37 with Nicolas Lapierre, Antonin Borga and Alexandre Coigny was the best LMP2 Pro/Am car, starting from fourth overall.

Laurents Hörr and Jean-Philippe Dayraut had taken Pole in LMP3, ahead of Team Virage #20 with Garett Grist, Charles Crews and Rob Hodes, while Graff #8 with David Droux, Sebastian Page and Eric Trouillet had qualified in P3.

Championship leader Cool Racing #19 would start from eighth – right ahead of RLR MSport #15 with Malthe Jakobsen, Alex Kapadia and Mikael Benham.

TF Sport Aston Martin #95 with Ross Gunn, John Hartshorne and Ollie Hancock had run a fantastic lap in qualifying, and had taken Pole Position in GTE, ahead of Proton Competition Porsche #93 with Richard Lietz, Michael Fassbender and Jaxon Evans, and with Proton Competition Porsche #77 with Gianmaria Bruni, Christian Ried and Cooper MacNeil in P3.

4 Hours of Le Castellet 2021 start
Photo: JJ Media

The start went relatively well.

Team WRT #41 took the lead in Turn 1, while United Autosports #22 lost a position to IDEC Sport #28.

Proton Competition Porsche #77 took a shortcut over the run-off area, and thus had to fall back and merge into the traffic, on the right position again.

There was a close battle for third place between IDEC Sport #28, Cool Racing #37 and United Autosports #22 – en duel that Phil Hanson in #22 ended up winning.

1 AIM Villorba Corsa #18
Photo: JJ Media

United Autosports #2 had taken a giant lead in the LMP3 category, partly because the LMP3 field had to navigate around Association SRT41 #84, which wasn’t quite as fast as the other LMP2 cars. Which was understandable considering the car was controlled with a hand-control by Takuma Aoki, who started the race.

G-Drive Racing #25 had contact with Racing Team Turkey #34 in Turn 5, which the stewards immediately began investigating.

AF Corse Ferrari #88 got a message that they had to repair one of the side-view mirrors, since it got ripped away in a duel with some competitors.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 and Proton Competition Porsche #93 swapped places a couple of times, where Manuela Gostner and Michael Fassbender did everything they could to get ahead of the other. At the same time, they had to be aware of the faster cars coming from behind.

IDEC Sport #17 had a solo spin in Turn 1 but could quickly continue.

Proton Competition #77, AF Corse Ferrari #88, Proton Competition #93
Photo: JJ Media

Proton Competition Porsche #77 got a 15-second pitstop penalty for abusing track limits too many times despite several warnings.

The season for 1 AIM Villorba Corse #18 got even worse when they stalled in the middle of the track and had to retire for the second race in a row. Alessandro Bressan had somehow lost one rear wheel. It triggered a Full Course Yellow, which many of the teams used to pit for the first time.

TF Sport Aston Martin #95 got a 3-second pitstop penalty for not following the instructions about the race start.

G-Drive Racing #25 got a 10-second pitstop penalty for the contact with Racing Team Turkey #34.

There was contact between Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 and Inter Europol Competition #13, after that their sister car #14 gave a push to the same Ferrari in the next corner.

Inter Europol Competition #14 & Graff #8
Photo: JJ Media

Inter Europol Competition #13 had to pit due to the damage on the nose of the Ligier JS P320.

Cool Racing #19 had a spin in Turn 6, but Niclas Maulini quickly came back.

Team Virage #20 got hit by United Autosports #32 in the last corner combination on the track, which broke the rear of #20. It cost them a couple of laps in the pits before the car got repaired.

Inter Europol Competition #13 stalled in the middle of the track, and it required a Safety Car to move Martin Hippe’s car out of the way. The car had lost some liquid shortly before it stalled, and thus it was the end of the race for them.

United Autosports #2 got caught inside the pits since the pit exit was close so long as the Safety Car was near the pits. It took several laps before they were allowed to come back out.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 & #83
Photo: JJ Media

The race got restarted, and IDEC Sport #17 was the only LMP2 car that wasn’t on the lead lap. There were a handful of cars left in the row, not too far but still one lap behind.

Things went wrong in the battle between Proton Competition Porsche #93 and Iron Lynx Ferrari #83, where Fassbender drove over the curbs and crashed into the side of poor Gostner, who then rolled backwards before the two cars then colliding again, damaging both. It was the second race in a row that #93 and #83 had a collision, after the Porsche team also sent them over the gravel in Austria.

Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 had a solo spin on the way out of Turn 2, but luckily didn’t hit anything.

The damage on Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 was too big that they had to retire from the race. Thus all the championship dream was over for the three ladies, who otherwise had shown good progress through the years.

DKR Engineering #4
Photo: JJ Media

Inter Europol Competition #14 had a short off-track moment in the last corner but could quickly come back.

AF Corse Ferrari #88 got a Drive-through for track limits abuse.

Halfway into the race, Team WRT #41 was leading LMP2, Ultimate #29 in LMP2 Pro/Am, DKR Engineering #4 in LMP3, and Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 was the leader in GTE.

Proton Competition Porsche #93 came back to the track after having a spin in the last corner. Shortly afterwards, Jaxon Evans took over the car.

Racing Team Turkey #34
Photo: JJ Media

There was an intense battle for second place in the LMP3 category, where Cool Racing #19 and Graff #9 tried to get the better of the other.

Team WRT #41 pitted from the lead, but they fell back behind both United Autosports #32 and G-Drive Racing #26.

Graff #9 lost their right front tire, which luckily rolled over to safety, away from the track. Matthias Kaiser got the car rolling back to the pits slowly for new tires.

United Autosports #3 had to pit for some long-time repair, which sent them out of the top battle in today’s race.

BHK Motorsport #35 had a problem with their left door, that rattled in the wind. The race director ordered them to pit and get it fixed.

Team WRT #41 got a 5-second pitstop penalty for not complying with the start procedure as they didn’t drive side by side with the polesitter G-Drive Racing #26.

RLR MSport #15
Photo: JJ Media

MV2S Racing #5 got a Drive-through for pitting under the Safety Car period, which was forbidden at the time they did it.

Cool Racing #37 also got a 5-second pitstop penalty for a mistake in one pitstop.

There were only a few car lengths between United Autosports #32 and G-Drive Racing #26, who had to fight their way through slower traffic.

An hour before the chequered flag, Nyck de Vries in #26 went over to take the lead by outbraking Job van Uitert in #32, who hesitated a bit in the traffic in Turn 5.

Eurointernational #11 got a 12-second pitstop penalty for a mistake under Full Course Yellow earlier in the race.

Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55
Photo: JJ Media

There was an intense battle for second place in the LMP2 category, where UA #32 got caught up by Team WRT #41, while UA #22 were chasing both of them. Tom Gamble in #22 ended up being the winner, gaining one position at the end of Mistral Straight, and at the same time could help his teammate van Uitert, who struggled with his tires. That help only lasted one lap, however, before Gamble chose to overtake and then set his sight on the leading G-Drive Racing #26, who was about seven seconds ahead.

Ultimate #29 had a spin under an overtake attempt on Algarve Pro Racing #24. Matthieu Lahaye hit the Armco lightly, not hard enough to damage the car.

Cool Racing #37 got yet another 5-second pitstop penalty for a second mistake during an earlier pitstop.

A Full Course Yellow came with 45 minutes left on the clock as Team Virage #20 caught fire. Luckily, Charles Crews could get out of the car and help extinguish the fire himself.

G-Drive Racing #26
Photo: JJ Media

There was drama in LMP2 since Team WRT #41 had just pitted right before the FCY, while G-Drive Racing #26, United Autosports #22, United Autosports #32 and Duqueine Team #30 all pitted under the FCY period. This meant that #41 was way behind them and had to realise that the potential third victory in a row seemed very unlikely now.

There was a fierce battle between the leading G-Drive Racing #26 and United Autosports #22, who were only separated by a few car lengths. De Vries and Gamble zigzagged through traffic, but the distance was seldom more than half a second between the two. After a few laps, the Dutchman could build a gap, so the Englishman had to watch the orange car pull further and further away.

A light contact happened between Algarve Pro Racing #24 and Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55, but it wasn’t hard enough to damage the cars.

There was a much harder contact, however, between Cool Racing #37 and JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66, who also collided in Turn 9. Both car could continue, but #66 had to pit for new tires.

JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66
Photo: JJ Media

The race was won by G-Drive Racing #26 with Nyck de Vries, Roman Rusinov and Franco Colapinto, ahead of United Autosports #22 with Tom Gamble, Phil Hanson and Jonathan Aberdein, and United Autosports #32 with Job van Uitert, Manuel Maldonado and Nico Jamin in P3.

Racing Team Turkey #34 with Harry Tincknell, Salih Yoluc and Charlie Eastwood won the LMP2 Pro/Am category.

DKR Engineering #4 with Laurents Hörr and Jean-Philippe Dayraut won the LMP3 category, ahead of Cool Racing #19 with Matt Bell, Nicolas Maulini and Niklas Krütten, while United Autosports #2 with Wayne Boyd, Rob Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe finished third.

Malthe Jakobsen, Michael Benham and Alex Kapadia finished in fourth place in the LMP3 category with RLR MSport #15.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 won their second race this year, with Rino Mastronardi, Miguel Molina and Matteo Cressoni in the car, ahead of Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 with Matt Griffin, Dane Cameron and David Perel, while AF Corse Ferrari #88 with Alessio Rovera, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard finished in P3.

Now, the European Le Mans Series teams have a bit over a month’s break before the next race on 11 July 2021 at Monza, outside Milan in Italy.

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