Le Mans Cup: An all Ligier JS P320 podium at Imola extravaganza
14 May 2022 - Round two of the Michelin Le Mans Cup at the Imola Autodrome in Italy. It has been six years since the championship last visited the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit. But one thing is sure, its return in 2022 did not lack for drama, with a race full of surprises right up to the chequered flag. The Ligier teams ran the table with the best time in free practice, the pole position and a Ligier top 3. The #69 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 wins round two of the Michelin Le Mans Cup at the Imola Autodrome in Italy. United Autosports completed the podium with the #23 and #22 cars, finishing second and third.
On Friday, 13 May, the Ligier JS P320 topped the timesheet in free practice 1, with the #23 United Autosports (John Schauerman and Wayne Boyd) setting the fastest time in 1:38.607s, followed by the #43 Racing Spirit of Leman (Jacques Wolff and Josh Skelton). Later in the day, the French manufacturer's LMP3s locked out the top 5 in free practice 2, with the #69 COOL Racing (Maurice Smith and Malthe Jakobsen) leading the way with a lap of 1:38.358s.
Saturday 14 May began with qualifying. Pole position went to the #29 MV2S Forestier Racing Ligier JS P320 with Jérôme de Sadeleer completing a lap of the Imola track in 1:39.052s. A solid result for the team that finished second in the season-opener at Circuit Paul Ricard last month.
A flurry of yellow flags at Imola
The race started at 5:30 pm. The #29 MV2S Forestier Racing Ligier JS P320 (Louis Rousset and Jérôme de Sadeleer) held on to the lead, while the #37 of CD Sport (Fabien Michal and Adam Eteki) moved from third to second place. A few minutes later, the #33 of Team Virage (Rob Hodes and Ian Rodriguez) came to a standstill in the gravel, bringing out the safety car for the first of many interventions. At the restart, the #29 and #37 held position. The #76 of Reiter Engineering (Freddie Hunt and Mads Siljehaug) was running fourth, ahead of the #10 Racing Spirit of Leman (Alexander Mattschull and Tom Dillmann) and the #7 Nielsen Racing car (Anthony Wells and Colin Noble).
Thirty minutes into the race, the safety car was deployed again after a spin by the #6 ANS Motorsport Ligier JS P320 (Jonathan Brossard and Nicolas Schatz). The #30 of the Frikadelli Racing Team (Klaus Abbelen and Felipe Laser) attempted to avoid the #6 but went off the track and into the gravel. The incident forced both cars to retire.
Battles among the #76, #37 and #69 Ligier JS P320s
Right after the restart of the race, the leading #29 MV2S Forestier Racing Ligier JS P320 lost control after accelerating too aggressively, making contact with another competitor. The #37 CD Sport inherited the lead whilst the safety car returned to the track. A few seconds later, two incidents occurred almost simultaneously at different sectors of the circuit. The driver changes came with 60 minutes remaining in the race.
The #76 of Reiter Engineering was the new the leader of the race. The #37 CD Sport dropped to second place, ahead of the #77 Team Thor (Audunn Gudmundsson and Michael Markussen), the #69 of COOL Racing and the #7 of Nielsen Racing.
The yellow flags kept coming. Behind the leading #76 Ligier JS P320, the #37 CD Sport and the #69 COOL Racing battled for second place. The gap narrowed to next to nothing, but the #37 was hanging on. After dropping the #69, it ran down the Reiter Engineering car. A restart with 27 minutes left on the clock allowed the #37 to gain the position. A few minutes later, the #69 overtook the #76 for second place.
The #37 disqualified, victory for the #69
The final yellow flag period came ten minutes before the end of the race. The third-place #32 of United Autosports (Daniel Schneider and Andrew Meyrick) suffered a puncture. When the race went green, it was time for the #37 and the #69 to race for the win. The gap was minimal, but the CD Sport car held its ground and crossed the finish line first. The team's euphoria was unfortunately short-lived. It was penalised by 30 seconds for repeated track limit infringements and dropped to fifth place.
The victory went to the #69 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320. Two United Autosport cars completed the podium, the #23 (John Schauerman and Wayne Boyd) and the #22 (Andres Latorre Canon and Garnet Patterson).
This tumultuous round at Imola concludes with two teams on level points in the championship. The #10 Ligier JS P320 of Racing Spirit of Leman and the #69 of COOL Racing will continue their battle for LMP3 supremacy on 11 June at the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours circuit.
For the complete results, CLICK HERE.