ELMS: Another victory for Inter Europol Competition in Spa, which takes the championship lead
25 September 2022 - The fifth and penultimate round of the European Le Mans Series season at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. The #17 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 dominated the first part of the weekend (free practice and qualifying). But it was the #13 Inter Europol Competition car winning the race to take its season total of victories to three, becoming the new favourite for the LMP3 championship title. Lastly, the #7 of Nielsen Racing claimed its first podium of the season.
The championship-leading #17 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 (Maurice Smith, Michael Benham and Malthe Jakobsen) got off to a flying start this weekend, with the best time in both free practice sessions (2:11.741s in session 1 and 2:16.669s in session 2).
Since the start of the season in April at Le Castellet, the Swiss team has claimed every pole position. And the streak continued at Spa-Francorchamps. Eighteen-year-old Danish driver Malthe Jakobsen scored his fifth pole of 2022 with his best lap of 2:11.062s.
A chaotic start to the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
The penultimate race of the year kicked off in the late morning on a wet surface. As in Monza and Barcelona, the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 (Charles Crews, Nicolas Pino and Guilherme Oliveira) overtook the #17 COOL Racing entry on the opening lap to take the category lead. Three LMP3s went off at Combes corner: the #5 of RLR MSport (Michael Jensen, Nick Adcock and Alex Kapadia), the #27 of COOL Racing (Jean-Ludovic Foubert, Antoine Doquin and Nicolas Maulini) and the #10 of Eurointernational (Xavier Lloveras and Miguel Cristovao). The safety car intervened after an LMP2 went off the circuit.
Shortly after the restart, the #3 United Autosports car with Andrew Bentley (James McGuire and Kay Von Berlo) behind the wheel made a fine overtake on the outside and overtook the two leading cars for the lead of the race. His teammate Joshua Caygill in the #2 car (with Bailey Voisin and Finn Gehrsitz) moved up to third behind the #13. Further back, the eighth-placed COOL Racing #17 was hit from behind by the RLR MSport #15 (Horst Felix Felbermayr Jr, Austin McCusker and Valentino Catalano). A full course yellow was employed as Maurice Smith returned to the pits. The damage was too extensive for the #17 car to continue. The LMP3s took advantage of this to make their pit stops, except for the #3 and #2.
The Ligier JS P320s in the lead
Then it was the second Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320, the #14 (James Dayson, Noam Abramczyk and Mateusz Kaprzyk) to lead the race ahead of the two United Autosports cars. The #13, winner of the last two races in the ELMS, stepped up in top five. The #3 car took over first place while the #13 car occupied second place. As the two-hour mark approached, there was another full course yellow and another round of pit stops.
When the race resumed, the #3 Ligier JS P320 was overtaken in the last chicane by the #11 of Eurointernational (Max Koebolt, Jérôme De Sadeleer and Santiago Concepcion Serrano). Behind them, the #13 of Inter Europol Competition began another ascension in the order. One, two, then three places gained. The Polish team's LMP3 reeled in the #11, which did not resist for long, resulting in another leader change.
The title looms for #13 of Inter Europol Competition
With an hour to go, the #7 Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P320 (Anthony Wells and James Littlejohn) was third, 24 seconds ahead of the #11 Eurointernational car. Ten minutes later, the British team had a scare when the #5 RLR MSport car hit them from behind. But James Littlejohn managed to restart, and his lead allowed him to keep his sights on third place.
For the third consecutive time this year in the ELMS, the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 took top honours in the LMP3 category. This victory, combined with the retirement of its principal rival, the #17 COOL Racing, puts it in an excellent position to win the LMP3 title. With 79 points, the #13 is 19 points to the good of the #17. These two Ligier teams will fight it out for the LMP3 title.
The #7 Nielsen Racing scored its first podium finish of the season, while the #14 Inter Europol Competition car set the fastest lap in the race in 2:14.219s (with Mateusz Kaprzyk).
The battle for the title will be a great one on 16 October at the season finale in Portimão.
For the complete results, CLICK HERE.
For the provisional classification, CLICK HERE.
For more information about the Ligier JS P320, CLICK HERE.