Ligier European Series: The Red Bull Ring is where the drivers really take the bull by the horns!
14-15 May 2021 – For the first time the Ligier European Series set up its tent at the Red Bull Ring circuit at Spielberg in the Austrian mountains. The track made very tricky by the changeable weather conditions led to some great scraps between the drivers. In the Ligier JS2 R category, #53 entered by M Racing scored its third win while its main rival, #24 run by Orhès Racing, clinched its maiden victory in the second race of the Austrian round. In the Ligier JS P4 category, the HP Racing by Monza Garage #23 continued its neck and neck battle with #34 entered by Les Deux Arbres as they shared the wins in Austria.
The second round of the Ligier European Series got under way on Friday 14th May with the free practice sessions. The early laps were very challenging for the drivers who had to learn how to master the finer points of the Austrian roller-coaster. In GT, the #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R driven by Mathieu Martins and Olivier Pernaut set the fastest time in 1m 39.921s. In the prototype category, #23 run by HP Racing by Monza Garage in the hands of Jacopo Faccioni and Alessandro Cicognani dominated their rivals with a lap in 1m 37.586s.
Come the afternoon and it was time for the two qualifying sessions which, unlike free practice, took place on a wet track. In the first one, the #53 M Racing Ligier JS2 R crewed by Natan Bihel (1m 40.374s) and the #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage Ligier JS P4 (1m 37.726s) clinched the pole positions in their respective categories. The times were much closer in the second session and the #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R set the fastest lap in GT in 1m 51.143s. Meanwhile in the battle between the Ligier JS P4s, #33 run by Les Deux Arbres with Jacques Nicolet at the wheel came out on top thanks to his lap in 1m 47.523s.
On Saturday 16th May the cars lined up on the grid for the first race in the late morning. Right from the start the greasy track caught out some of the drivers causing several yellow flags and two deployments of the safety car.
The #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R made a blinder of a start and overtook M Racing's #53 to go into the lead in the race. #95 run by CTF Performance in the hands of Nicolas Beraud and Gilles Poret (replacing Fabien Delaplace in this round) moved up from third to second place. But the tenacious Bihel in #53 fought his way past his rivals and retook the lead. All the Ligier JS2 Rs profited from the presence of the safety car on the track to stop as soon as the pit window opened with the exception of CTF Performance's #95. After several leadership changes victory finally went to M Racing's #53, which also set the fastest lap in the race in this category in 1m 40.446s. Into second and third came the #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R followed by #69 entered by M Racing and driven by Laurent Millara.
In the Ligier JS P4 category, the #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage entry immediately pulled away from its rivals as soon as the start was given and went to score an unchallenged victory. Behind it the two Les Deux Arbres cars; #33 driven by Jacques Nicolet and #34 with IDEC Sport boss Patrice Lafargue at the wheel, were locked in battle. After overtaking #33 under yellow flag, #34 was given a drive through penalty which it failed to serve correctly. She was therefore penalised a second time and came third. Lafargue set the fastest lap in the race in a time of 1m 38.055s. Overall, it was a great result on what was his first outing in a sports prototype.
The second race started at 16:00 by which time the Red Bull Ring was bathed in bright sunlight. In the GT category, the #25 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R driven by F1 commentator Julien Fébreau (and Alain Bucher) made a lightning fast getaway from third place in the category. It shot past its sister car #24 and #53 entered by M Racing and took the lead. Further back in the pack, battle raged between Arctic Energy's #17 in the hands of Povilas Jankavicius and Sergei Egorov and #95 run by CTF Performance as well as between the two COOL Racing Ligiers with Maurice Smith in #13 and Cédric Oltramare in #4.
Later on in the race, the #53 Ligier JS2 R regained the lead followed by Orhès Racing's #24. Its sister car #25 then fought tooth and nail with CTF Performance's #95 for third place on the podium, a scrap that lasted a long time. After several clashes #95 finally got the better of its rival. With around 20 minutes to go to the chequered flag, the #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R sliced past M Racing's #53. After having already racked up three podium finishes, Mathieu Martins and Olivier Pernaut finally scored their first victory as well as setting the fastest lap in the race for the Ligier JS2 Rs in 1m 39.973s.
In the sports prototype category, the #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage Ligier JS P4 snatched the lead from Les Deux Arbres #33 on pole at the start. Jacques Nicolet was then overtaken by #34 with Patrice Lafargue at the wheel. But Jacopo Faccioni and Alessandro Cicognani lost first place after being hit with a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. This handed the lead to the #34 Les Deux Arbres Ligier JS P4 where it stayed until the chequered flag; it again set the fastest lap in the race in 1m 37.544s. #33 finished second and #23 third.
The third round of the Ligier European Series will unfold under the blazing sun on the Paul Ricard circuit in the Var on 4 – 5 June 2021 for the Le Castellet Heat.
To read the full article on free practice, CLICK HERE.
To read the full article on qualifying, CLICK HERE.
To read the full article on race 1, CLICK HERE.
To read the full article on race 2, CLICK HERE.
Photo credit: DPPI Images