Road to Le Mans 2: The COOL Racing and RLR MSport Ligier JS P320s score a double podium
The second race of Road to Le Mans took place on Saturday 21st August in the late morning a few hours before the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was another action-packed race full of on-track incidents. COOL Racing scored its second podium finish of the weekend this time in second place with the #19 Ligier JS P320 driven by Niklas Kruetten-Mathieu de Barbuat. The #14 RLR MSport Ligier JS P320 crewed by Malthe Jakobsen and Michael Benham came home third.
In the second Road to Le Mans race the number of laps decided the end of the event. Competitors had to cover 13 laps before receiving the chequered flag. The sun was still hiding behind the clouds and the drivers started the race at 12:15 under cloudy skies. Several teams were given drive-through penalties for jumping the start including #26 and #32 entered by United Autosports, #25 run by Racing Spirit of Leman, Motorsport98's #98 and Nielsen Racing's #27, all of which failed to make up the time lost.
On lap 1, the #37 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 driven by Antoine Doquin and Josh Skelton in third place was hit by a rival brand in the Dunlop chicane resulting in a puncture on the left-hand front tyre. #37 had to pit and saw its hopes of a podium finish going up in smoke. Its sister car #19 in the hands of Kruetten and de Barbuat was in third place. #14 run by RLR MSport driven by Jakobsen and Benham was fifth in front of the United Autosports #26 with James McGuire and Guy Smith at the helm.
In the second chicane, COOL Racing's #69 in the hands of Maurice Smith and Matt Bell crashed and punted off Motorsport98's #98, which ended up in the tyre wall. The damage was terminal and the car had to be evacuated. The #33 CD Sport Ligier JS P320 with Michael Jensen and Adam Eteki at the controls was caught up in the incident and just managed to avoid its rivals before taking to the escape road between the tyre walls.
Nielsen Racing's #7 Ligier JS P320 victorious in the first race in the hands of Tony Wells-Colin Noble left the track and hit the wall. Even though #7 managed to limp back to the pits it was too badly damaged to continue and stayed there till the end of the race.
In the leading group, the #19 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 and the United Autosports' #26 were squabbling over fourth place and tagged each other. #19 went wide in the Forest Esses but held on to its position while #26 didn't emerge unscathed and lost a legality box.
The first cars began pitting from lap 6 onwards. After the stops #19 entered by COOL Racing was third in front of #28 run by Nielsen Racing. The #14 Ligier JS P320 was fifth and continued to improve its times with Jakobsen at the wheel. The young driver soon snatched fourth place. The COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 #19 in third began to catch its rivals and four laps from the finish it snatched second under braking for the first chicane on Les Hunaudières.
The #26 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 ran wide in the Forest Esses and spun. Jakobsen in #14 entered by RLR MSport was still on a charge. He put the hammer down and closed in on his rival until he cut the gap to almost nothing.On lap 10, he pulled off a stunning pass just before the first chicane to take third place, which he held to the chequered flag.
Bad luck hit the other British teams. With a lap to go to the finish the #27 JS P320 run by Nielsen Racing went into the Indianapolis tyre wall following a puncture suffering front bodywork damage. On the last lap there was another incident when the #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P320 spun off and slammed into a tyre wall. Both cars had to retire with only a lap or so till the end of the race.
After 13 laps, the #19 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 crossed the finishing line in second place followed by the #14 RLR MSport Ligier JS P320 in third giving the French constructor its second double podium of the week on the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit. Five more Ligier JS P320s completed the top 10. #71 entered by Team Virage finished fifth followed by #15 run by RLR MSport. Nielsen Racing's #28, Phoenix Racing's #5 and United Autosports' #23 saw the flag in eighth, ninth and tenth places respectively.
For the full classification of race 2, CLICK HERE.
Thanks to its victory in the first race and despite retiring in the second one, the Le Mans event helped the #7 Nielsen Racing Ligier JS P320 to take the lead in the provisional classification after arriving in the Sarthe in second place.
The competitors in the Michelin Le Mans Cup will rendezvous on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the fifth round of the championship. It will be followed by the final race of the season on the Portimao circuit in Portugal on 24th October.
Photo credit: DPPI Images