Friday 26 August 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of Le Castellet : Dragonspeed fastest on Friday afternoon

An uneventful first practice session this afternoon in a hot and dry Le Castellet. 2 full course yellows were given to clean up the track after a few plastic cones were bumped out of their place. Despite the warm temperatures, lots of LMP3 teams were struggling to find grip. Several cars had a spin during the session, luckily without any major damage or anyone hitting the barriers.

Nicolas Lapierre was the fastest man on track in his #21 Dragonspeed Oreca05/Nissan. Lapierre set a 1.48.475 pretty early in the session, a time that wouldn't be improved. Mathias Beche was second fastest in the #46 Thiriet Oreca05, 0.147 seconds behind Lapierre. Nathanaël Berthon put the Greaves Motorsport Ligier on third spot, 0.14 seconds after Beche.  Championship leaders G-Drive Racing were fourth fastest, Giedo Van der Garde clocking in just over half a second behind the leader. Paul Loup Chatin completed the top 5 in the Panis-Barthez Ligier. 

Newcomers Tockwith Motorsport immediately set the pace for the LMP3 field. Nigel Moore putting a 1.54.669 on the table in the #26 Ligier, outpacing the #7 Villorba Corse of Giorgio Sernagiotto with 0.353 seconds (1.55.022). Third fastest in class was last races polesitter, the #16 Panis Barthez Competition with a 1.55.145. Alex Brundle came half a second short and was fouth fastest after 90 minutes.

In GTE the championship leading Ferrari 458 GTE of AT Racing was fastest in the hands of Alessandro Pierguidi who drove a 1.58.080. Darren Turner just missed the top spot as he put a 1.58.107 on the table, a mere 0.027 seconds behind the Ferrari. AF Corse took third and fouth spot with the #55 Ferrari ahead of the #55. The top 6 in GTE was divided by just 0.271 seconds. 

The ELMS Bronze driver collective test this morning was shaken up when Pu Junjin crashed out at Signes and went into barriers with the #33 Eurasia Motorsport Oreca05.  The driver was conscious and immediately taken care off by the circuit medical staff. He was then evacuated by helicopter to the hospital for further medical examinations. Junjin has a shoulder injury and won't be able to compete in Sundays race. The tub of the Oreca05 is brought over to the Oreca workshop for repairs but it's still not clear whether the team will be able to join the race on Sunday.  

Race Performance has been fined 5000 € for withdrawing the #34 car from Le Castellet without any force majeur reason. The Murphy Prototypes team also received a fine of 3000 € for the late announcement of the crew's composition.

Track action for the European Le Mans Series resumes tomorrow early morning at 08.10h with the second 90 minute practice session.

Kristof Vermeulen.