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