Another 1-2 finish by the Ligier JS P3s gives Ligier the LM P3 title in the European Le Mans Series!
21-22 September 2019, fifth and penultimate round of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and the Michelin Le Mans Cup (LMC). After a 100% Ligier top 3 at Silverstone, the Ligier JS P3s scored another victory in the ELMS with a thrilling 1-2 finish! The #11 Eurointernational Ligier JS P3 snatched victory from the #13 Inter Europol Competition JS P3 in the last corner scoring its third victory of the season. Inter Europol Competition continued its momentum clinching its fifth podium of the year. With one event to go to the finish Ligier has already won the ELMS LM P3 title for the fourth year on the bounce! Eurointernational and Inter Europol Competition are running neck and neck with 94 points each so the last race promises to be an all-action one. In the LMC, the Ligier JS P3s also scored a double podium thanks to the #98 Ligier JS P3 run by Motorsport98 and the #55 Ligier JS P3 entered by Spirit of Race.
A Ligier JS P3 1-2 finish in ELMS
The sun was shining at Spa, a complete contrast to the pouring rain last year!
Mikkel Jensen who started in fifth place in the #11 Ligier JS P3 entered by Eurointernational quickly overtook his rivals and installed himself in third spot on the first lap. After 30 minutes racing he was second while the #13 Ligier JS P3 of Inter Europol Compétition, seventh on the grid, was fifth with Martin Hippe at the wheel.
The first deployment of the Safety Car unsettled the race rhythm. Jens Petersen took over from Jensen in the #11 Eurointernational entry. He lucked out as he emerged behind the Safety Car and lost a lap to the leading LM P3s.
After just over two hours came the Safety Car again. The leading #7 Norma found itself in front of the Oreca leading the race. This meant that the Norma was now in front of the Safety Car while its competitors were blocked behind the Safety Car and the Oreca and had to keep their pace down. When the race restarted the Norma had a comfortable 2-minute lead over its rivals. Nigel Moore in the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 was second in front of the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 crewed by Wayne Boyd, Garett Grist and Tommy Erdos, the #11 Eurointernational JS P3 and United Autosports' second entry, #3, driven by Andrew Bentley and Christian England. #11 then shot past #2 and slotted into third place while #13 began to close the gap to the leading Norma.
Another yellow flag! The #11 Eurointernational Ligier JS P3 pitted. Jensen got in and rejoined in ninth position. Up front the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 continued to eat into the #7 Norma's lead.
Full Course Yellow. The lead gifted to the #7 Norma in first place was now only a minute. When the race resumed there was still an hour to go. Jensen in the #11 Ligier JS P3 continued to pick off his rivals. In just 15 minutes he fought his way up to third behind the #13 Ligier JS P3 run by Inter Europol Competition.
A Full Course Yellow – again. The leading #7 Norma lost its left-hand front light and came into its pit. The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 with Moore at the wheel took the lead. The #7 Norma was now second in front of the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JS P3.
With 15 minutes to go to the finish another Full Course Yellow! Bad luck for the leading #13 Ligier JS P3 which was hit by a puncture and had to pit. On the restart the #7 Norma was back in front closely pursued by the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 and #11 run by Eurointernational going flat out. The #2 and #3 United Autosports Ligier JS P3s were 5th and 6th.
Only one lap to go. The Ligier JS P3s continued to push. Moore in the #13 Inter Europol Competition JS P3 got past the #7 Norma and Jensen in #11 entered by Eurointernational who was just behind also muscled his way past the Norma.
But the race wasn't over yet and in the final corner Jensen overtook Moore and snatched victory from him!
Jensen-Petersen gave the Eurointernational team its third victory of the season (the fourth for a Ligier). The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P3 of Moore -Hippe crossed the line in second place only 0.307s behind Jensen clinching the squad's fifth podium on the trot. The two teams are now dead-heating in the provisional LM P3 classification with 94 points each, 33 points in front of the first Norma. They have given Ligier its fourth consecutive LM P3 title with a race still to go before the end of the season!
The #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 that was lying fifth spun on the last lap and had to retire, a body blow for the team, which was third in the provisional classification up till then. It has lost a position and is now 8 points behind the third-placed team. Its sister car, the #3 Ligier JS P3, finished fifth followed by the #14 Ligier JS P3 run by Inter Europol Competition and driven by Paul Scheuschner-Constantin Schöll.
In LM P2, the three Ligier JS P217s in the field hit bad luck. The #24 Panis-Barthez-Compétition Ligier JS P217 driven by Timothé Buret-Konstantin Tereschenko was on the pace right from the start. After starting in 12th place, the team quickly fought its way past its rivals overtaking its sister car the #23 Oreca and the #26 Oreca entered by G-Drive Racing. But a problem put a stop to its comeback and the car had to pit. Later on in the race, a brake problem led to its retirement.
The #34 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P217 of Kuba Smiechowski-Sam Dejonghe-Mathias Beche made a great start to the race. From 14th on the grid the team fought its way up into the top 10 and after an hour it was oscillating between 8th and 9th position. At half distance #34 was lying seventh. But a wheel nut problem cost it time in the pits and the team had to make do with 12th place.
The #27 Ligier JS P217 run by Idec Sport for three gentlemen drivers, Erik Maris-Stéphane Adler-William Cavailhes was forced to retire 15 minutes from the chequered flag due to a mechanical problem.
The Ligier JS P3s also scored a double podium in the LMC
The #98 Ligier JS P3 entered by Motorsport 98 with Eric De Doncker and Dino Lunardi at the wheel recuperated second place and the #55 Ligier JS P3 of Spirit of Race with Claudio Sdanewitsch and Michele Rugolo third after the disqualification of three Normas for infringement of the LM P3 category Technical Regulations.
Rendezvous on 26-27 October for the sixth and last round of the ELMS and the LMC.
Photo Credit: Inter Europol Competition