Saturday 16 July 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring: Panis Barthez Competition dominates qualifying

Panis Barthez Competition had a perfect afternoon today in Spielberg, as the French team claimed pole position for the 4 hours of the Red Bull Ring in the LMP2 and LMP3 class.

Nothing but smiling faces in the garage after a perfect qualifying session, both cars scoring their maiden pole position in the championship.  Simon Gachet first took pole in LMP3, 20 minutes later Paul Loup Chatin did the same in LMP2.

After both practice sessions it was already clear that LMP2 qualifying would be (very) close this afternoon. Nicolas Lapierre opened the battle for pole in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca, but quickly got competition of Harry Tincknell in the "Mighty 38" and Matthias Beche in the #46 Thiriet Oreca who got to the top of the timesheets. And then came Paul Loup Chatin in his #23 Ligier ...

Chatin lapped the track in 1.20.720, almost immediately improving into a 1.20.700. Neither Beche (1.20.753) or Tincknell (1.20.826) had an answer to Chatin's charge for pole position and stayed in second and third place. Rounding out the top 5 were Tristan Gommendy in the #38 Eurasia Oreca and Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca. 

This year's pole position time is more than 2 seconds faster than last year's fastest time. With the first 7 cars within a second, and the first 5 even in 0.256 seconds, we'll be in for an exciting race tomorrow in the championships top class. 

The LMP3 qualifying session was interrupted shortly when the #8 Race Performance Ligier of Giorgio Maggi stopped at Turn 4. Alex Brundle and Wayne Boyd set the pace in their United Autosports Ligiers at the start of the session. After the interruption though, it was Simon Gachet in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition who got into the lead. Boyd responded quickly and seemed to score pole position with seconds to in the session, but it was Gachet who ultmately took pole position. With a time of 1.26.126, he outpaced Boyd in the #3 United Autosports with just 0.157 seconds. The #14 Duquiene Engineering was third fastest with David Droux at the wheel. Competition was fierce in the LMP3 class, as the first 12 (!!!) cars qualified within a second. 

Porsche Junior driver Matteo Cairoli makes his debut in a Porsche GTE car this weekend and immediately took pole on the Red Bull Ring with the #88 Proton Competition. A repeat of his performance in the Porsche Supercup ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix a few weeks ago. Cairoli put a 1.27.652 on the clock, 0.126 seconds ahead of Andrea Bertolini in the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari. Third fastest was Alessandro Pier Guidi in the # 56 AT Racing Ferrari, making it an all Italian top 3 in Austria. Both AF Corse Ferrari's completed the top 5. 

This morning, the second free practice session was run on a clouded but dry Red Bull Ring.  An uneventful session this time, with no red flags or interruptions. Several teams though got black flagged for not respecting track limits, getting them an invite for a chat with race director Eduardo Freitas.

At the end of the session, the first three cars were only separated by 0.066 seconds; the #46 Thiriet Oreca outpacing the #21 Dragonspeed and #23 Panis Barthez Competition. Pierre Thiriet was the fastest man on track with a 1.21.346. United Autosports was fastest in LMP3, Wayne Boyd lapping the #3 Ligier in a 1.26.146 ahead of the #6 360 Racing Ligier and the #23 Panis Barthez Competition.

In GTE it was Matteo Cairoli who was fastest again in an impressive debut in the GTE class. With a 1.27.992 he put the #88 Proton Porsche on top, ahead of the Ferrari's of AT Racing(#56) and AF Corse (#51).

The 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring will start tomorrow at 14h00 local time. The race will be broadcasted live on and MotorsTV. 

Kristof Vermeulen.