Thursday, 25 August 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of Le Castellet - 40 cars on the grid

A full grid of 40 cars, one of the most challenging tracks in Europe, sunshine and high temperatures ... everything is set for the fourth round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series Championship at Le Castellet this weekend. Passing the mid-season mark, the battle for the championship will now really break loose in all classes, with everything still to be decided. 

LMP2


G-Drive Racing is defending their mid-season championship lead in the #38 Gibson 015S/Nissan. With 58 points, they have an advantage of 7 points ahead of Thiriet by TDS Racing, who won the last 2 races in Italy and Austria. 



The French team will be eager to close the gap with G-Drive and take command in the championship. Ryo Hirakawa won't race the #46 Oreca05 this weekend because of driving duties in the Japanese Super GT Championship, and will be replaced by Toyota factory driver Mike Conway. 



The #32 SMP Racing BR01 of Andreas Wirth, Julien Leal and Stefano Coletti sits third in the championship at the moment, but they are being chased by Eurasia Racing which have showed great form in the last race. The Philippines based team took their first and well deserved podium at the Red Bull Ring and are aiming for third in the championship. With their Oreca05 and drivers getting faster every race, the championship battle will only live up in the remaining 3 races. 



As in Austria last month, Swiss team Race Performance will only race its LMP3 car this weekend, as there's no sign of the Oreca03-Judd on the entry list or in the paddock. Returning to the grid is French team IDEC Sport Racing who missed last months race but should be back now for the remainder of the season. 



The Murphy line-up has changed again compared with the last race. Irishman Sean Doyle returns to the green/white Oreca03 and will be joined by Jonathan Coleman, who raced with So24! earlier this season and Italian Kevin Ceccon who will make his ELMS debut this weekend. The #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JSP2 will also see a driver change, Andrea Roda replacing Michael Munemann for this race. 

LMP3



20 Ligier JSP3/Nissans will form the LMP3 grid in the south of France this weekend. United Autosports leads the class after scoring three wins in a row and a perfect 75 points with the #2 Ligier of Alex Brundle; Christian England and Michael Gausch. Second in the championship is the #19 Duqueine Engineering, with 42 points, ahead of the #6 360 Racing which has scored 28 points so far. 

British team Tockwith Motorsports joins the LMP3 grid as from this race an will complete the remainder of the ELMS season. The team acquired a new Ligier JSP3 and steps up from the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup in which it has raced the first 3 races of the season in an Audi R8. The driver line-up will be unchanged with Nigel Moore and Philip Hanson at the wheel.  



A few driver changes are to be noted in the LMP3 class. Roman Rusinov won't race in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier this weekend and Enzo Guibbert takes back his seat at Graff Racing. As in Austria, the Murphy Ave-Riley LMP3 won't race, but should be in its final homologation phase now. The car will (should) make its debut at Spa-Francorchamps in a month's time. 

LMGTE



No changes in the GTE entries compared to the last race in Austria with the same eight cars on the grid.  Leading the championship halfway with 48 points is the #56 AT Racing Ferrari of Alexander Talkanitsa Sr & Jr and Alessandro Pier Guidi. As Pier Guidi has other obligations this weekend, he will be replaced by AF Corse's Davide Rigon. One point behind the Austrian team is the #99 Beachdean Aston Martin (Alex McDowall, Andrew Howard and Darren Turner) with 47 points, which has a lead of 5 points over the #66 JMW Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Robert Smith and Rory Butcher, who won the race at the Red Bull Ring. 



Christina Nielsen will have to miss out the race in the south of France too, as she's racing in the IMSA Weathertech GT race at VIR this weekend. She will be replaced by Mikkel Jensen in the title defending #60 Formula Racing Ferrari. in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche, Matteo Cairoli will be replaced by David Jahn.  



Ahead of the race at Le Castellet, a new Balance of Performance has been published for the three manufacturers competing in the LMGTE class. The Ferrari 458 will have an increased weight of 5 kg (1240 kg), the weight of the Porsche and Aston Martin remains unchanged. All 3 cars will get a 5 litre reduction in the size of the fuel tanks. The Ferrari is now able to carry 85 litres of fuel, the Porsche 90 litres and the Aston Martin 95 litres.

Track action starts Friday morning at 8.30h with the bronze driver collective test. The first 90 minute practice session is scheduled in the afternoon at 14.50h. Saturday action starts already at 08.10 in the morning with the second free practice session. Qualifying is scheduled later on Saturday from 12.50 on. The green flag for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet will be waived Sunday 14.00h.


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Kristof Vermeulen.

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