Another victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona and a 100% Ligier JS P320 top 4!
30th January 2022 - Ligier Automotive added another victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona to its laurels. After its outright win in 2016 with the Ligier JS P2, the French constructor scored its second consecutive victory in the LMP3 category thanks to the Riley Motorsports team and their #74 Ligier JS P320. In the opening round of the American Championship the five Ligier JS P320s out of the nine LMP3 entered brought honour to the French brand. In 24 hours racing the Ligier JS P320s left first place to their rivals for a mere three laps! The victorious #74 Ligier JS P320 set the fastest lap in the race, a full second quicker than the best time in 2021. Into second came #33 entered by Sean Creech Motorsport followed by #54 run by CORE Autosport. Andretti Autorsport's #36 that clinched pole at the end of the qualifying race the previous weekend finished just shy of the podium in fourth place. The four Ligier JS P320s saw the flag in 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th places respectively in the overall classification. With a total of 61 cars entered the LMP3 Ligiers had every reason to be proud!
Saturday 29th January at 13:40 (local time), the eagerly-awaited rendezvous arrived and the start of the 2022 24 Hours of Daytona was given. This was only the second year in which the new-generation LMP3s were accepted in the blue-riband American endurance championship. On the track battle raged between the nine LMP3s including the five Ligier JS P320s entered by five different American teams.
The starting grid line-up was decided by the results of the qualifying race that took place on Sunday 23rd January in the ROAR. It was won by the #36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 (READ THE ARTICLE HERE).
The #74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 dominates
The #74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 (Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga, Kay van Berlo and Michael Cooper) started the race in eighth place in the LMP3 class. The French car made a great getaway and took first place at the end of the opening hour. But the other Ligier teams weren't ready to abandon victory so quickly. The #74 lost ground before rejoining the top 3 a few hours later. It reinstalled itself in the lead in the LMP3 category in the 11th hour where it stayed throughout the whole of the second half of the race. It won the iconic event for the second year running and also set the fastest lap in 1:42.133s, over a second quicker than the best time in the race in 2021. It finished 13th overall out of the 61 cars entered!
“There isn't one race on the schedule that's easy to win,” Robinson said. “But when you do it with the team like we have (…) and all the prep we do, it does generate the results. (…) These LMP3s are amazing cars. This race felt more like a sprint race for 24 hours. We were all pushing.”
Second place for Sean Creech Motorsport
The #33 Ligier JS P320 entered by Sean Creech Motorsport (Joao Barbosa, Malthe Jakobsen, Sebastian Priaulx and Lance Willsey) started in fifth place in LMP3 and put on a great performance. In the first 12 hours, the LMP3 with the star-studded livery oscillated between first and fourth place. At half-distance the team was third and there was still more to come. In the closing minutes of the race it slipped past #54 run by CORE Autosport to snatch second. Sean Creech Motorsports clinched their second consecutive second place in the 24 Hours of Daytona as #33 had already finished in that position in 2021.
“This was one of the most challenging races here, with the cold temperatures at night,” said Barbosa. “We really had to manage the tires, but it was the same for everyone. It's sweet and sour right now. You always want to win, but it's such a tough race so to finish on the podium with this team is a real testament to all the work they've put in. We lacked just that little bit of luck with the yellows, and some speed at the end. But we'll try again next year.”
CORE Autosport overcomes obstacles and seals third place
The #54 CORE Autosport Ligier JS P320 (Jon Bennett, Colin Braun, George Kurtz and Nic Jonnsson) had a pretty hectic race as it kicked off the 24 Hours of Daytona with a puncture in the sixth minute. Shortly afterwards when the race was under yellow flags #54 was rammed in the rear by a GT. The damage, initially minor, got worse and worse as the hours unfolded. Despite this, the #54 fought its way up into second place in the category before being hit with its first penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Twelve hours after the start it was lying fourth. It then charged up into second in the 14th hour and was battling for the lead. But the damage incurred in the collision at the start of the race made the car more and more difficult to handle and the team was given another penalty. The #54 crossed the finishing line in third place.
“Of course, we're a little disappointed with the result, but the disappointment is built on the fact that we had such a good run and really had a chance to win this race from the first hour. I'm super proud of the team. Everyone did their part, but racing is racing. I'm happy to be on the podium and pleased with the effort. I think it will lead to better things at Sebring”, explained Bennet.
Andretti Autosport just shy of the podium
The #36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320 (Jarett Andretti, Josh Burdon, Rasmus Lindh and Gabby Chaves) started the race on pole, but lost the lead to #74 run by Riley Motorsports. It was back in first place in the fourth hour and then dropped back down the time sheets after an electrical problem which forced it to stop at its pit. At half-distance, the #36 Ligier JS P320 was fifth and it pulled back a place in the second half of the race finishing just shy of the podium..
Setback for Performance Tech Motorsport
The #38 Performance Tech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 (Dan Goldburg, Hikaru Abe, Garett Grist and Nico Pino) finished the 24 Hours of Daytona on a low note. It started from the back of the grid and fought its way back up the classification to break into the top 3. But during the night it was involved in a collision with an LMP2 and suffered serious damage on the left-hand rear. After spending almost an hour in the pits #38 rejoined the race. But fresh problems linked to the collision appeared and forced the team to stop several more times at its pit. Finally, the #38 retired less than two hours before the chequered flag fell.
“It is a tough pill to swallow when you make it this far and then can't take the checkered flag,” Team Principal Brent O'Neill said. “We were running up in the top three when an LMP2 took us out last night. After that, it was just a game of catch-up as we tried to keep the issues with the car under control. I'm really proud of the crew for pushing through (…) It was really tough conditions for them and the drivers.”
Thanks to its third victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona the French constructor's American campaign has got off to a flying start!
The Ligier JS P320s in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will meet up again to do battle between 16th and 19th March in the second round of the championship: the 12 Hours of Sebring. In 2021, the #54 CORE Autosport Ligier JS P320 won the race followed by two more Ligier JS P320s.
For the full race results, CLICK HERE.
For more information about the Ligier JS P320, CLICK HERE.