ELMS: A double podium for the Ligier JS P320 at Le Castellet

6 June 2021 – Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France hosted round three of the European Le Mans Series. After two all Ligier podiums at the first two rounds of the season in Barcelona and at the Red Bull Ring, the #19 COOL Racing and #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320s brought the constructor a double podium finish.

Friday 4 and Saturday 5 June, the Ligier JS P320 set the three fastest times in the two free practice sessions. On Friday, the #20 Team Virage entry driven by Rob Hodes, Garett Grist and Charles Crews led the way with a lap of 1:49.060s. The #13 Inter Europol Compétition car of Martin Hippe, Ugo de Wilde and Ulysse de Pauw set the best time in session two the following day with a lap of 1:49.612s.

The race got underway on Sunday at 11 am. Starting fourth in the category, the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 of Wayne Boyd, Robert Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe jumped into the lead. The first yellow flag came at the 40-minute mark of the race. The #18 Aim Villorba Corse Ligier JS P320 of Alessandro Bressan, Andreas Laskaratos and Damiano Fioravanti lost a wheel. Some teams chose to make their first pitstop. The #2 United Autosports team went with a different strategy and stayed out. At the re-start, it was solidly in the lead with a more than 34-second lead, and it continued to increase its advantage.

The safety car came out just as it was about to make its stop. The third place, #13 from Inter Europol Compétition entry, stopped on the track after contact with a GT competitor. The #2 Ligier JS P320 had no choice but to make a stop during the safety car period for fear of running out of fuel, which turned out to be costly. It was allowed to stop for just five seconds for fuel only and then had to come in again to complete its stop. Then the #2 car had to wait at the red light at the pit exit while the rest of the field passed. It lost its lead and had to come in yet again after three laps behind the safety car.

Just as it managed to make up the ground it had lost, another incident occurred 45 minutes from the end of the race when the #20 Team Virage suffered an engine fire. Any chance of the #2 car taking the victory was over. It finished third, behind the #19 COOL Racing car driven by Nicolas Maulini, Matthew Bell and Niklas Kruetten. The #19 COOL Racing squad, which had won the first two rounds of the season in Barcelona and at the Red Bull Ring, added to its lead in the category provisional general classification.

The #15 RLR Msport Ligier JS P320 with Michael Benham, Alex Kapadia and Malthe Jakobsen at the controls finished fourth. The sport-prototype started ninth and remained in the mid-field for a portion of the race. But thanks to the RLR Msport trio's strong stints, they finished just off the podium. The #7 Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P320 of Anthony Wells and Colin Noble qualified 10th in LMP3 and struggled in the first two hours to fall to 15th in the category. However, the squad battled back in the second half of the race to take the chequered flag in fifth place.

Starting 15th in the category, the #14 Inter Europol Compétition Ligier JS P320 of drivers Julius Adomavicius, Mateusz Kaprzyk and Mattia Pasini gained a fistful of positions in the first hour of the race and was up to fourth, then second place before eventually finishing sixth.

The legendary Monza circuit in Italy will host round four of the European Le Mans Series on 10 and 11 July.

For the complete race results, CLICK HERE.

Photo credit : DPPI Images