Wednesday 18 September 2019

ELMS: G-Drive leads the championship as the ELMS arrives in Spa-Francorchamps

Round 5 for the European Le Mans Series this weekend on the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the Belgian Ardennes.  All is still to play for in the penultimate race of the championship, especially in LMP2 and LMP3 where both title contenders are just a few points apart.  Luzich Racing has a more comfortable lead in the LMGTE class and might be able to clinch the title already this weekend. 

Earlier this summer, LMEM - organiser of the FIA WEC and ELMS - has renewed its contract with Spa-Francorchamps for another 4 years, up to 2023. Entry is free all weekend, including paddock access, pit and grid walk for all the fans.  And with a dry weather forecast & temps up to 25 degrees over the weekend, there's no reason not to pass by Francorchamps if you're around!  Except maybe that "little" chance of rain during the race on Sunday ... 

G-Drive Racing leads the championship in the LMP2 class with their #26 Aurus 01, after two victories in Monza and Barcelona and a second place in Silverstone. With 81 points the Russian team has an advantage of 9 points of IDEC Sport who won their first-ever ELMS race at Silverstone.  Graff is third so far in the championship with 53 points with their #39 Oreca, followed by Le Castellet winners Dragonspeed (40 points) and Duqueine Engineering (35 points) in the #30 Oreca 07.  

Inter Europol Competition arrives with a new and very ambitious line-up for the race in Francorchamps this weekend. Belgian driver Sam Dejonghe who has been racing in LMP3 with the team so far, makes his debut in the LMP2 class in his home race next to regular driver Jakub Smiechowski.  They will be joined by the experienced Mathias Beche who makes his return to the ELMS after racing with High Class Racing at Le Mans. 

Sam Dejonghe said: “I’m thrilled to make the step up to LMP2! The car and way of doing things in the top class of ELMS is new to me, so it’s a big challenge with limited tracktime. But I know Spa very well, know how the championship works and I feel comfortable in our team. The focus is there, and I will do everything I can to adapt quickly and deliver a performance on Sunday. Can’t wait to get behind the wheel!”

United Autosports waived its second Ligier goodbye and now has 2 Oreca’s on the grid for the 4 hour race on Sunday.  Missing on the grid will be Carlin Racing after Jack Manchester’s fierce crash at Silverstone.  The team used Cetilar’s spare chassis to race in Silverstone with Harrison Newey taking Manchesters’ seat. Fractured ribs prevent Manchester from racing in Spa, so the team decided to sit out this race and will return at the final race of the season in Portimao next month. 

At Cool Racing, Alexandre Coigny hasn’t completely recovered yet from his crash during the race in Silverstone which caused him to miss the teams’ maiden race and victory in the FIA WEC on Sunday.  He won’t be replaced in the #37 Oreca, which will be driven by Nico Lapierre and Antonin Borga. The #35 BHK Motorsport is also back to a 2 man line-up with season regulars Francesco Dracone and Sergio Campana. In the #23 Panis-Barthez Oreca, Leonard Hoogenboom is absent for the race in Spa. 

In LMP3 the difference between both championship leaders is even tighter than in LMP2; just 7 points between the leaders in the #13 Inter Europol Competition (76 points for Martin Hippe and Nigel Moore) and the second-placed #11 Eurointernational of Mikkel Jensen and Jens Petersen with 69 points.  The #2 United Autosports of Garett Grist, Tommy Erdos and Wayne Boyd sits in third place with 53 points, followed by the #17 Ultimate Norma and the #7 Nielsen Racing Norma of Anthony Wells and Colin Noble. 

With Sam Dejonghe moving up to LMP2 at Inter Europol Competition, Constantin Schöll, a very promising 21 year old Austrian Driver will take his place.  He will join Paul Scheusner in the #14 Ligier JSP3.  Mike Guash is still recovering from his accident in Spa where he went hard into the wall, ending up with a fractured vertebra.  He will be replaced by Andrew Bentley in the second United Autosports Ligier. 

Nicholas Adcock takes Nobuya Yamanaka seat in the #8 Nielsen Racing Ligier while the #19 M Racing Norma will also have a two-man crew for this weekend, since Yann Ehrlacher and Yvan Muller are absent due to other racing commitments. Lucas Légeret and Laurent Millara will be up for double duty in the #19 over the weekend. 

Luzich Racing arrives in Spa as the points leader in the LMGTE class.  The #51 Ferrari 488 leads the class with a total of 77 points. Alessandro Pier Guidi, Fabien Lavergne and Mikkel Mac won the 4 Hours of Le Castellet and Monza, finished third in Barcelona and fourth in Silverstone a few weeks ago. 

The Swiss team has a lead of 21 points over three teams who share second place after 4 rounds. The #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, #66 JMW Ferrari and #83 all-female Kessel Racing Ferrari all have scored 56 points so far in the championship. Further down is the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari (41 points) and the #88 Proton Competition Porsche. 

There are a few changes in the driver line-ups to be noted compared to the 4 Hours of Silverstone. In the #60 Kessel Racing Ferrari, Nicola Cadei will be replaced by South African David Perel.  In the #88 Proton Competition Porsche, Thomas Preining will be joined by … 

The #56 Project 1 Porsche of Egidio Perfetti, won’t race at Spa due to the team’s participation with 2 cars in the FIA WEC and the logistics needed for the upcoming 6 Hours of Fuji. The team has a third car in order at Porsche, but apparently, it hasn’t been delivered yet.  As in Silverstone, the Ebimotors Porsche also didn’t make it Francorchamps this weekend. 

Kristof Vermeulen.
Pictures: Kristof Vermeulen & Jellybaby.Media

Thursday 12 September 2019

ELMS: First win for IDEC Sport in Silverstone

The 4 Hours of Silverstone saw changeable weather with sunshine and heavy showers which set the stage for an incident-packed and drama-filled race for the fans to enjoy. The UK round of the 2019 European Le Mans Series was won by the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca with Memo Rojas taking the chequered flag after the no26 G-Drive Racing Aurus pitted for fuel four minutes before the end of the race.  

© ELMS/David Lord Photography

The no13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier of Nigel Moore closed down a two-minute gap to catch the no11 Eurointernational Ligier of Jens Petersen in the final hour of the race.  Petersen took the flag first but was given a 30-second penalty for not coming into the pits for a Black and Orange flag earlier in the race.   The no13 Ligier was declared the winner but was then handed a 1m43s penalty for not respecting the minimum driving time.  So the no11 Ligier was handed the win back and the no13 Ligier was second.

The no88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR was victorious in LMGTE, with Thomas Preining taking the flag 27.8 seconds ahead of the no83 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Rahel Frey.

The race started in dramatic fashion with the track being declared wet at the start as the rain clouds on the horizon got closer. The no21 DragonSpeed Oreca of James Allen kept the lead while behind the leaders there were a few cars that went off at the first corner, with all rejoining the battle. In LMP3 the no17 Ultimate of Jean-Baptiste Lahaye took the lead ahead of pole-sitter Yann Ehrlacher in the no19 M Racing Norma.

In LMGTE, it was the no60 Kessel Racing Ferrari out in front at the start with Sergio Pianezzola moving ahead of the no88 Porsche of Gianluca Giraudi, the Italian dropping back to 3rd as the no83 Kessel Ferrari of Michelle Gatting moved up to second place.

The rain that had been forecasted duly arrived and most of the grid dived into the pits for wet tyres after just 5 minutes of racing. The no21 DragonSpeed of James Allen didn’t pit and stayed out on slicks gambling that the rain would quickly clear. Mikkel Jensen made the same gamble in the no11 Eurointernational Ligier and the Dane found himself in the class lead.

The no43 RLR MSport Oreca of Matthieu Vaxiviere was revelling in the wet conditions, the French driver moving up the field to take the lead as the no21 DragonSpeed Oreca pitted for wets. Vaxiveire held an 18 second lead over the no23 Panis Barthez Competition Oreca of Will Stevens. The no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Wei Lu ended in the gravel at T7, bringing out the first Full Course Yellow of the race.  The car was quickly recovered and the race went green after only four minutes. A second FCY period was declared ten minutes later when the no22 United Autosports Oreca of Phil Hanson went off at Brooklands: the car lost all power and the British driver was forced to retire.

Once again the race went green very quickly after the car was placed behind the barriers at Luffield. The rain had stopped and the track had started to dry out. The no43 RLR M Sport Oreca was over 30 seconds ahead of the no24 Panis Barthez Ligier of Konstantin Tereschenko.  Mikkel Jensen also held a 30 second lead in LMP3 with Christian England in the no3 United Autosports Ligier in second. It was a Kessel Racing 1-2 as Sergio Pianezzola led in the no60 488 GTE, 15 seconds ahead of the no83 Ferrari of Michelle Gatting.

Matthieu Vaxiviere pitted from the lead to hand over to Canadian John Farano, rejoining the track with an 8-second lead. However, the more experienced drivers in the following cars soon caught and passed Farano, who was down to sixth a few laps later with James Allen back into the lead in the no21 DragonSpeed.

There were further woes for Farano when he was the innocent victim of a collision between the no30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca of Nicolas Jamin and the no14 Inter Europol  Competition Ligier of Sam Dejonghe. The no43 Oreca was clipped by the no14 Ligier and Farano had to return to the pits where a damaged wishbone needed replacing.  Nicolas Jamin was given a drive-through penalty for causing the accident.

A Safety Car was deployed when the no3 United Autosports Ligier of Mike Guasch and the no24 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier of Timothe Buret collided and the LMP3 car ended hitting the concrete wall hard. The American driver was conscious and taken to the circuit medical centre for checks. 

After twenty minutes the race resumed only for a second Safety Car to be deployed almost immediately as the no37 Cool Racing Oreca and the no19 M Racing Norma collided, the Oreca ending up in the middle of the track and was hit by the no30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca. With an hour to go the race resumed with the no39 Graff Racing Oreca of Jonathan Hirschi out in front of the field. The Swiss driver was judged to have acted dangerously during the Safety Car period and was given a drive-through penalty. The no26 G-Drive Racing Aurus of Jean-Eric Vergne took the lead with Memo Rojas in the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca following.

Jens Petersen in the no11 Eurointernational Ligier was nearly a lap ahead of the no13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier of Nigel Moore, the British driver lapping over five seconds faster than the leader.

In LMGTE the no83 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Rahel Frey was leading with the no88 Proton Competition Porsche of Thomas Preining closing rapidly.  The Austrian passed the Swiss driver on the run into Stowe Corner and started to open up a gap. The no51 Luzich Racing and no60 Kessel Racing Ferraris were battling hard for third place with the no60 488 getting the upper hand.

With 30 minutes to go Ben Hanley in the no21 DragonSpeed was out in front, passing the no26 G-Drive Aurus for the lead.  However, it was short-lived when Ben Hanley had to pit and Jean-Eric Vergne went back into the lead ahead of the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca and the no39 Graff Oreca 07.  It looked like Vergne was heading for the Russian team’s third win in a row, but the French driver had to pit for a ‘splash and dash’ fuel stop. This put Rojas into the lead and the victory.

The no11 Eurointernational Ligier was being caught by the no13 Inter Europol Ligier but it looked like Petersen was going to hold on.  But disaster struck when the team received a black and orange flag to bring the car in to repair a damaged splitter. The German driver stayed out and took the chequered flag but was issued with a drive-through penalty converted to a 30 second time penalty, dropping the no11 Eurointernational Ligier down the order. This promoted the no13 Ligier of Martin Hippe and Nigel Moore into the class winning position.

However, it all changed again when the no13 Ligier was handed a 1m43 second penalty for not respecting the driving time for the bronze driver.  This switched the two cars around again so Mikkel Jensen and Jens Petersen were declared the LMP3 winners of the 4 Hours of Silverstone.  The no2 United Autosports Ligier of Wayne Boyd, Garret Grist and Tommy Erdos took the final podium place.

In LMGTE the no88 Proton Competition Porsche crossed the line to take a debut ELMS win for Thomas Preining, Gianluca Giraudi and Ricardo Sanchez, with the no83 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Michelle Gatting, Manuela Gostner and Rahel Frey taking their second podium finish of the 2019 season.


Electric-hydrogen LMPH2G debuts at Michelin Le Mans Cup in Francorchamps next week

A year ago, at the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps round of the 2018 European Le Mans Series, the Automobile Club de l’Ouest and GreenGT launched the MissionH24 project to promote hydrogen in motor racing. At the time the electric-hydrogen LMPH2G test car completed a solo demonstration lap to illustrate its development potential and the safety of the technology before a knowledgeable audience.

On 20th September 2019, MissionH24 will reveal the progress made in the last 12 months during which a household name – Total – have joined the project. The LMPH2G prototype, now in the hands of the H24Racing team for its development into a racing machine, will take part in the two practice sessions for the fifth round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup, part of the ELMS Spa-Francorchamps support bill. The LMPH2G will therefore make its track debut in a race environment, amid other competitors.

During the two free practice sessions, the LMPH2G will refuel at the first mobile hydrogen filling station, designed by Total, especially for racing. A world premiere!  Earlier this year the LMPH2G was the first hydrogen car to complete a lap of the full circuit of the Le Mans 24 Hours on Saturday just before the race. 

To see H24Racing drivers Norman Nato and Olivier Lombard in action and witness the world’s first mobile hydrogen station of its type refueling the LMPH2G prototype, be sure to come to Spa-Francorchamps on Friday 20 September, 10:15–11:15 and 17:00–18:00.