ELMS: The win and an all Ligier JS P320 podium in the season finale at Portimao

24 October 2021 - The final race of the 2021 European Le Mans Series season took place this past Sunday at the Portimao circuit. It was an opportunity for the Ligier JS P320 teams to shine one last time: best time in the two free practice sessions, and the pole position for the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320, victory and a 100% Ligier JS P320 top 3. The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 won the race in the LMP3 category, followed by the #2 United Autosports and the #9 Graff. The #19 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320, which was leading the championship, was the victim of several misfortunes and came up short of the title for a single point. It finished runner-up in the LMP3 class, ahead of the #2 of United Autosports.

The final weekend of the European Le Mans Series kicked off on Friday 22 October, with the opening free practice session. The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 of Martin Hippe, Ugo de Wilde and Adam Eteki set the fastest time of the session in 1:37.260s. The next day, it was the #2 United Autosports car with Wayne Boyd, Robert Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe leading the way with a session best lap of 1:36.953s.

Later in the day, the #2 Ligier JS P320 returned to the top of the timing screen to secure the last pole position of the season with a time of 1:36.372s. It was followed at 0.059s by the #13 Inter Europol Competition entry.

The final race of the 2021 season began at 1 pm on Sunday, 25 October. The #2 Ligier JS P320 with Robert Wheldon in the car defended its lead. But 30 minutes later, it dropped back to second. The #18 AIM Villorba Corse Ligier JS P320 driven by Andreas Laskaratos tried to avoid a spinning LMP2 car when it hit a wall near the pit lane entrance. The safety car intervened before the red flag was brandished to bring the race to a temporary halt. The shaken driver emerged from the accident uninjured.

After a 30-minute stoppage, the race resumed. The #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 made a solid re-start to take the lead of the race. The #13 Inter Europol Competition car was third, followed by the #9 Graff Racing of Matthias Kaiser and Rory Penttinen fourth and the #19 COOL Racing car of drivers Nicolas Maulini, Matt Bell and Niklas Kruetten.

The first round of pit stops relegated the #2 Ligier JS P320 to second place. It was still followed by the #13 of Inter Europol Competition. Behind in fourth place was the #20 Team Virage car of Rob Hodes and Alex Fontana, and the #9 of Graff Racing. After being pushed into a wall by a competitor at the start, the championship-leading #19 COOL Racing had to repair its front left flap. The team lost thirty seconds. But nothing was yet decided, and the team remained in the race for the title.

But the #19 car's bad luck continued. After the two-hour mark of the race, it slowed down on the track with a left front puncture. It had to pit again, which relegated it to the tail-end of the field.

With 90 minutes remaining in the race, the #42 Sainteloc Junior Team Ligier JS P320 driven by Fabien Michal and Lucas Legeret took the lead. The #13 was still third, while the #2 of United Autosports was fourth. With an hour to go, the #42 made a pit stop and moved up to sixth. The #13 took over second place, followed by the #9.

The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 and the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 battled for second place. But in the end, it was the #13 getting the nod with a 42-second lead from its rival. It crossed the finish line in second place ahead of the #2. The #9 of the Graff finished just off the podium. The #4, which had finished the race in the lead, received a post-race penalty. It was demoted to fourth place. The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 won the final race of the season. The #2 of United Autosports finished runner-up, and the #9 of Graff was third, making it an all Ligier JS P320 podium

The multiple GT 3 championship-winning Sainteloc Junior Team made a successful transition to LMP3. In its ELMS debut with a Ligier JS P320, the team made its mark by leading the category for a time. It finished fifth, which bodes well for next season.

The MV2S Racing team and its drivers Christophe Cresp, Fabien Lavergne and Adrien Chila also ran strong. The team, which made its ELMS debut this year after just a first season in the LMP3 Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2020, has made steady improvement throughout the season despite the numerous setbacks. After qualifying fourth, the team ran a clean race and flirted with a top-three finish. Although this was their best performance of the season, they retired following a starter failure.

The championship-leading #19 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320, finished in ninth place. It came up one point short of the 2021 LMP3 title. "It's a real shame that the LMP3 crew missed out on the title," commented Nicolas Lapierre, COOL Racing Team Owner. "But they can be proud of their performance. This is our first year in the category, and we will be back next year; the objective will be to win the title. This first season is very encouraging for COOL Racing. We are a young structure, but the potential is definitely there, and we are looking forward to 2022.

With two runner-up results (Monza and Portimao) and two third places (Spa-Francorchamps and Le Castellet), the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 finished third in the championship.

For race results, CLICK HERE.