ELMS: Win for United Autosports and a double podium for COOL Racing at Imola
15 May 2022 - In their debut at the Imola circuit in Italy, the Ligier JS P320s racing in the European Le Mans Series made a powerful impression, locking out the top four places in the race. The #3 United Autosports car scored its first win of the season, while the #27 COOL Racing finished second, followed by its sister car, the #17 in third, with the fastest lap of the race. RLR MSport's #5 finished just off the podium.
The first free practice session of the weekend on Friday 13 May concluded with the #17 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 (Maurice Smith, Michael Benham and Malthe Jakobsen) topping the timingsheet. The winner of the first race at Le Castellet set the fastest time of the session in 1:38.666s. On Saturday, the #15 of RLR MSport (Horst Felbermayr Jr, Valentino Catalano and Austin McCusker) led the way in the LMP3 category with a time of 1:38.488s.
Qualifying took place in the early afternoon. For the second time in a row, Malthe Jakobsen in the #17 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 was the fastest in the LMP3 category with a lap of 1:37.182s.
Duel between the #17 and #14 Ligier JS P320s
On Sunday, 16 May, the 4 Hours of Imola got underway in front of the Tiffosi. The #14 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JS P320 (Noam Abramczyk, Mateusz Kaprzyk and James Dayson) leapt to the front and snatched the lead from the #17 COOL Racing. In the hustle and bustle of the start, the sister cars of COOL Racing (the #27 with Nicolas Maulini, Jean-Ludovic Foubert and Antoine Doquin) and Inter Europol Competition (the #13 with Nicolas Pino, Charles Crews and Guilherme Oliveira) went off the track. The #27 immediately rejoined the race, but the damage was more severe for the #13, which headed for the pits. And, it wasn't over yet. Less than ten minutes after the start, the #6 360 Racing entry (Terrence Woodward, Ross Kaiser and Mark Richards) hit a wall, resulting in the first safety car period of the race.
At the restart, it was a close battle between the #14 Ligier JS P320 and the #17. The Inter Europol Competition LMP3 progressively built up a gap of more than 40 seconds. Another safety car period ensued after contact between two GT cars. The field took advantage to make their first pit stops. The #15 of RLR MSport came in for service in third place and left with the lead. The #17 remained in second place, while the #14 dropped to fourth.
Imola's technical circuit plays havoc with the drivers
In the second hour of the race, the LMP3 category-leading #15 Ligier JS P320 had already completed 31 laps of the Imola circuit. But the threat of the #17 continued to loom large, with only three seconds separating the two sport-prototypes. RLR MSport's second car, the #5 (Michael Jensen, Nick Adcock and Alex Kapadia) was running in third place, ahead of the #14 of Inter Europol Competition and the #3 of United Autosports (Kay Van Berlo and Andrew Bentley). With 2 hours and 50 minutes remaining, the race went green. But ten minutes later, the #5 of RLR MSport made contact with a GT car, causing another full-course yellow.
The #15 Ligier JS P320 returned to its box for repairs but was unable to restart, and the #3 United Autosports took the category lead. The #2 sister car (Bailey Voisin, Joshua Caygill and Finn Gehrsitz) was second, followed by the #14 of Inter Europol Competition. When the race resumed, the #14 overtook the #2.
The #3 of United Autosports wins
Halfway through the race, the #3 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 continued to set the pace, with an almost one-minute lead from the #14. The latter was being chased by the #27 of COOL Racing, which moved into second place shortly before hour three of the race. Its sister car, the #17, was in fourth place, followed by the #5 of RLR MSport.
As the #14 Ligier JS P320 set its sights on the podium, it ended up in the gravel with less than five minutes to go, causing the last full-course yellow of the race. The #3 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 won for the first time this season. COOL Racing, which was victorious in the Michelin Le Mans Cup the day before, left Imola with a double-podium result in the European Le Mans Series. The #27 finished second, ahead of the #17, with Malthe Jakobsen setting the fastest lap of the race in 1:39.256s. The #5 of RLR MSport finished fourth.
With its second podium finish of 2022, the #17 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 leads the #3 of United Autosports by 11 points in the championship. The ELMS will return to Italy for round three on 3 July at the Temple of Speed, Monza.
For the complete results, CLICK HERE.