ELMS: Two Ligier JS P320s on the podium in Belgium
19 September 2021 – After a two-month summer break, the European Le Mans Series was back in action at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps circuit. After four hectic hours of racing, the #19 COOL Racing and #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320s finished second and third in the LMP3 category. The #8 Graff Racing entry set the fastest lap of the race. The #19 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 still leads the provisional LMP3 general classification.
Round five of the 2021 European Le Mans Series season took place in fair weather conditions. But the "Toboggan des Ardennes" was not kind to the LMP3 machines. Several incidents marred the four-hour race.
The #19 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320, driven by Nicolas Maulini, Matt Bell and Niklas Kruetten, made a remarkable run through the field after qualifying 13th in the category. After the opening hour, it was up to fifth place. And it didn't stop there. It continued to gain ground on its rivals and was in the lead at half-distance. However, it was eventually overtaken and had to settle for second place. The #19 car took its fourth podium result of 2021 after victories in Barcelona and the Red Bull Ring and second at Circuit Paul Ricard.
The #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P320, with drivers Wayne Boyd, Robert Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe started third in the category and enjoyed a trouble-free race. At the end of hour one, the #2 car was still running third in class, before being overtaken in hour two by the #8 Graff Racing car, driven by Eric Trouillet, Sébastien Page and David Droux. Heading into hour three, the #2 was back up to third, where it remained for the rest of the race. The #2 car claimed its second podium finish of the campaign to go along with its third-place result at Circuit Paul Ricard.
After starting fourth on the grid in LMP3, the #8 Graff Racing Ligier JS P320 dropped back to ninth in hour two of the race. However, it eventually climbed back up the order to third before being overtaken by the #2 United Autosports car. It finished just off the podium in fourth place but set the fastest lap on the Spa-Francorchamps track in 2:15.411s, with David Droux behind the wheel. Fifth place went to the #20 Team Virage Ligier JS P320 and the trio of Rob Hodes, Garett Grist and Charles Crew. The #18 AIM Villorba Corse entry driven by Alessandro Bressan, Andreas Laskaratos et Damiano Fioravanti finished sixth
From P2 on the grid in the LMP3 category, the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 with drivers Martin Hippe, Ugo de Wilde and Aidan Read quickly took the lead in class and began to pull away. But a steering wheel problem forced them to return to the pits several times, causing them to lose positions. On lap 47, it went off the track and hit a tyre barrier, which brought an end to its race. The sister car, the #14 Ligier JS P320 driven by Mattia Pasini, Mateusz Kaprzyk and Nicolas Pino was no luckier. Fighting for fourth place with the #3 United Autosports Ligier JS P320, it spun and hit the rear of the #3 car. While both cars got going, the #14 car spun out again a few laps later and plummeted down the order. It lost all hope of a podium finish when it received a drive-through penalty for causing the incident with the #3. And there was more misfortune to come. It had to come back to the pits to repair damage to the rear and encountered other mechanical problems. It finished the race 13th in the category.
The ELMS round at Spa-Francorchamps was a weekend to forget for the #15 RLR MSport Ligier JS P320, driven by Michael Benham, Alex Kapadia and Malthe Jakobsen. Less than an hour after the start, it was run into by an LMP2 car. The damage was too extensive, and the team retired from the race. It was a devastating blow for the team. After finishing second at the opening round in Spain, it has suffered several setbacks, preventing it from returning to the podium. It is the second time the team has been unable to finish a race following a collision with a competitor.
The same fate befell the #5 MV2S Racing Ligier JS P320 of Christophe Cresp, Fabien Lavergne and Adrien Chila. With five laps to go, the car crashed into the safety barriers at the Raidillon. Thankfully, the driver was unharmed.
The LMP3 championship will be decided on 24 October in Portimao, on the Algarve Autodrome. The #19 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 leads the championship on 98 points.
For the full race results, CLICK HERE.