Friday 15 July 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring: Friday news & action

The European Le Mans Championship lands in Austria this weekend for the third race of the season, the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring. This is the fourth successive year the ELMS visits the track in the Styrian Alps which has a unique setting with some jaw dropping scenery and lots of (big) elevation changes.

Track action for the European Le Mans Series started this morning with a 30 minute "Bronze driver collective test" for all ELMS entrants. Although not officially confirmed, this test may be the result after several complaints about lesser driving skills of bronze drivers at Imola in May.

The first practice session this afternoon saw 3 red flags over the course of 90 minutes. The first red flag came out early in the session when Longin in the #8 Race Performance LMP3 made contact with the #9 Graff Ligier, Longin ending up in the gravel trap. Half an hour into the session the second interruption was caused by debris on the track, the third one - after about an hour - was caused by another LMP3 car, this time the #5 who had an off and made a visit to the gravel trap.

Harry Tincknell, who just saw his contract with Ford extended, was fastest overall in the "good old" #38 Gibson 03/Nissan, putting a 1.21.809 on the timetable. Paul-Loup Chatin was second fastest, just over half a second (0.584) behind Tincknell in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JSP2. Third fastest and quickest Oreca05 was Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 Dragonspeed, just 0.088 seconds behind Chatin. 

The session didn't end well though for the #38 G-Drive Gibson when Simon Dolan had an off late in the session, damaging the whole left side of the car. 

LMP3 was a close battle at the front of the field with several drivers putting in the fastest time over the duration of the session. Everyone seemed to save the best for last, and after a real shootout at the end of the session, it was Simon Gachet in the #16 Panis Barthez Ligier JSP3 who was outright fastest with a 1.26.644. Gachet outpaced Wayne Boyd in the #3 United Autosports with 0.241 seconds  and  Alex Brundle in the second United Autosports #2 Ligier. The first 3 cars were the only ones lapping under 1.27'. 

In GTE it was a battle of Porsche vs Ferrari, both Proton Porsches battling it out with the JMW Ferrari. At the start of the session, the #56 AT Racing Ferrari topped the timesheets, but dropped down to fifth at the end. The first six cars in GTE did come in within a second. After 90 minutes, Matteo Cairoli was fastest in 1.28.824 in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR, holding off the charging Andrea Bertolini in the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari. Third fastest was the second Proton Porsche driven by Marco Seyfried. Best of the rest was Darren Turner in the #99 Beachdean Aston Martin.  

The results of the first free practice can he found here.
Second free practice is scheduled for tomorrow morning, qualifying will be run early in the afternoon.

Nathanael Berthon will complete the season at the wheel of the Greaves Motorsport Ligier JSP2/Nissan in the European Le Mans Series. Berthon replaces Kuba Giermaziak and will join Meme Rojas Jr and Julien Canal for the remainder of the season.

Karun Chandhok returns to the Murphy Prototypes team for the race in Austria. He will join Guglielmo Belotti and Seán Doyle in the Oreca 03/Nissan. The car is still in Gas Monkey colors as they raced in Le Mans last month. Chandhok returns to Murphy after Le Mans 2014. So far he will only race in Austria but more races in the remainder of the season is still possible. As reported before, the Murphy team will only race in LMP2 this weekend. The Ave/Riley LMP3 has been delivered to the team (and present at the Red Bull Ring) & is now in it's final testing ahead of the homologation process.

French team SO24! by Lombard Racing has filed for bankruptcy earlier this month and thus withdrawn from the European Le Mans Series. Ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours, reports about financial problems were already going round. Erik Maris taking Olivier Lombards place at Le Mans only confirmed the rumours. Yesterday Vincent Capillaire confirmed the news on his facebook page. The team had a promising start of the season in Silverstone with a podium finish and got at the finish in 11th place in Imola. At Le Mans they finished 14th in the LMP2 class.

The second free practice session is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 08.45h local time, qualifying will be held in the afternoon from 12.50h.

The race starts on Sunday at 14.00h local time and will be broadcasted live on the championships website : and MotorsTV. A full list of tv stations broadcasting the race can be found here.

Kristof Vermeulen.