Le Mans Cup: Another success for the Ligier JS P320 at Monza

2 July 2022 - The Ligier JS P320s performed brilliantly in round four of the Michelin Le Mans Cup at Italy's revered Temple of Speed. The German Reiter Engineering team, which made its LMP3 debut this year, scored its first pole position, with Freddie Hunt in the #76. But nothing went according to plan in the race. The first hour was chaotic, with a succession of yellow flags, Full Course Yellows and Safety Car periods. Racing Spirit of Leman overcame all the challenges to take its third victory with the #10 after a great duel with the #29 of MV2S Forestier Racing, which picked up its second runner-up result of 2022. Racing Spirit of Leman's sister car, the #43, completed the podium ahead of the fourth-place #9 AT Racing Ligier, which snatched the position on the final lap. The #10 of Racing Spirit of Leman consolidates its lead in the general classification ahead of the #29 of MV2S Forestier Racing.

Of the 35 cars entered for round four of the Michelin Le Mans Cup at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, 29 were LMP3s.

An all Ligier JS P320 front row

The German Reiter Engineering team, with Freddie Hunt behind the wheel, created a surprise in Saturday's early afternoon qualifying session with the fastest time of 1:44.838s. This was the first pole position in the Michelin Le Mans Cup for the team and driver, who are new to the LMP3 class and the championship. The #29 MV2S Forestier Racing car with Jérôme de Sadeleer qualified second, just 0.465 seconds off the pole.

The 1 hour and 50-minute race started Saturday at 5.10 pm in the still sweltering heat, with track temperatures approaching 50°.

A duel at the sharp end between Reiter Engineering's #76 and MV2S Forestier Racing's #29

The #76 Reiter Engineering Ligier JS P320 (Freddie Hunt / Mads Siljehaug) and the #29 of MV2S Forestier Racing (Jérôme de Sadeleer / Louis Rousset) maintained their advantage at the start. Less than five minutes later, the race was under caution. After two LMP3s collided, one of them got stuck in the gravel trap. The Safety Car came out to allow the car to be collected and returned to the track.

At the restart, the#29 immediately attacked the #76. Freddie Hunt resisted, but Jérôme de Sadeleer was better on the brakes at çthe second chicane to take the lead.

An erratic first hour of the race

Meanwhile, the #22 of United Autosports (Andres Latorre / Garnet Patterson) was pushed by a rival and spun at turn one. The #57 Graff Racing car (Stephan Rupp / Ryan Harper-Ellam) had nowhere to go and made contact, resulting in retirement for both teams.

After a 20-minute Safety Car period, the race was back on the boil. And turn one struck again with two competing chassis colliding. While one of them spun, they both got going.

Another incident occurred as the #10 Racing Spirit of Leman (Alexander Mattschull / Tom Dillmann) attacked the #69 COOL Racing Ligier (Maurice Smith / Malthe Jakobsen) for fifth place. And yet again, at turn one, a rival chassis made a mistake in the braking zone and crashed into the wall, resulting in a Full Course Yellow.

When the race resumed, Freddie Hunt in the #76 Reiter Engineering car closed up to the #29 MV2S Forestier Racing entry and attacked hard. But he went off-line and lost some time.

It was now the turn of a GT car to cause a yellow flag. But this time it was short-lived. The #28 of MVS2 Forestier Racing (Christophe Cresp / Emilien Carde) and the #43 of Racing Spirit of Leman (Jacques Wolff / Josh Skelton) were fighting for 8th place. The battle was cut short. The #28 was immobilised in the middle of a chicane after being hit from behind by another car. But it did manage to get going.

As the first pit stops began, there was yet another yellow flag. A GT car was stuck in a gravel trap. A Full Course Yellow allowed the car to return to the track. Forty-nine minutes remained when the race went green. The #76 of Reiter Engineering was back in the lead. Could the rookie team go on for its first win? Alas, no! A drive-through penalty for not following the start procedure dashed their hopes.

Reiter Engineering's disappointment

“We've got a drive-through penalty for a rookie error we made at the start of the race. It's a pretty chocking race. I'm very disappointed because we had such a good pace in the Ligier. Our steering wheel overheated, which it has done in the past. Our error was not having a spare one in the cool bag so we had to grab one and by the time we got one it was too late, we had passed the two minutes before the start [competitors are not allowed to make any further manipulations to the car within two minutes of the start].

We are all new to the car so we are getting used to it. So we are slowly improving, which feels nice. We had a success in Le Mans with a podium and then pole position here and I really wanted to win. And it's not gonna happen now.”

MV2S Forestier Racing #29 and Racing Spirit of Leman #10 door handle-to-door handle

The #76 served its penalty, promoting Louis Rousset in the #29 to first place. At the third place, Tom Dillmann in the #10 quickly moved into second, then attacked the race-leading #29. The two leaders were behind a backmarker. When they eventually passed him, they were nose to tail.

With 30 minutes to go, Louis Rousset was doing his best to fend off Tom Dillmann, with four-tenths of a second separating them. Both teams were holding their breath. In the first race of the year at Circuit Paul Ricard, the two drivers battled hard for first place. While Tom Dillmann won, would history repeat itself? A GT went off the circuit, resulting in another yellow flag, followed by a Full Course Yellow to remove the car. The two drivers and their teams caught their breath. Everything could be decided on the restart.

Tom Dillmann ran down Louis Rousset to take the lead. The second Racing Spirit of Leman car, the #43, was fourth, followed by the #9 of AT Racing (Alexander Talkanitsa / Charles Milesi).

The #43 Racing Spirit of Leman and the #9 AT Racing on the offensive

With 23 minutes remaining, an LMP3 went off, causing another neutralisation. The race restarted with 18 minutes to go. The #76 Reiter Engineering car was trying to overtake the #9 AT Racing car for fifth place.

In the final ten minutes, the #43 of Racing Spirit of Leman was fighting for third place. With six minutes to go, there was another Full Course Yellow. When the race resumed, there were two minutes left. The #43 made an exterior overtake for third place. It was now up to the #9 with Charles Milesi to do the same. He looked for an opening and took the lead on the last lap. What a race! The #9 had to settle for fourth, only two seconds adrift of third place.

A Top four lockout for the Ligier JS P320

Racing Spirit of Leman secured its first double podium finish with the win for the #10, the third since the beginning of the season after Le Castellet and race one of Road to Le Mans, and third place for the #43. The #29 of MV2S Forestier Racing finished runner-up for the second time this season after Le Castellet. After their setback, the #76 Reiter Engineering car came home in sixth place.

This is the fifth consecutive victory and fifth 100% Ligier podium in five races. The #10 of Racing Spirit of Leman extends its championship lead with 74 points, ahead of the #29 of MV2S Forestier Racing on 41 points. The #69 of COOL Racing, which retired from the race while running in the top five, is third.

For the complete results, CLICK HERE.

For the championship classification, CLICK HERE.

Now it's time for the summer break. The Michelin Le Mans Cup will resume on 24 September 24 at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.


For more info about the Ligier JS P320, CLICK HERE.