Ultimate Cup Series: first victory of the season and a 100% Ligier JS P320 podium at Paul Ricard!
30th April – 2nd May: The Ligier JS P320s shone in the first round of the Ultimate Cup Series on the Paul Ricard circuit in France. The French-made sports prototypes clinched pole position and monopolised the podium in the Challenge Proto category with victory going to the #88 Ligier JS P320 entered by Team Virage. In fact, the team scored a double podium as their second car #77 finished third while #13 run by Mirage Racing took second place and set the fastest lap in the race.
The first meeting of the 2021 Ultimate Cup Series was originally scheduled for Dijon before being moved to the Paul Ricard circuit. It took place in changeable weather conditions, but this did not prevent the Ligier JS P320s from putting on a dominant performance. After free practice on Friday 30th April the teams took part in three qualifying sessions on Saturday 1st May and the average time of these was used to decide the positions on the grid for the race. The #88 Team Virage Ligier JS P320 driven by Miguel Cristovao, Julian Wagg and Mathis Poulet set the fastest time in the first two sessions giving the reigning champion team the first pole position of the season with the best average accumulated time of 1m 40.979s in Q1, Q2 and Q3. The #13 Mirage Racing Ligier JS P320 in the hands of Emilien Carde and Mathias Bèche came out on top in the third and final session.
The start was given behind the safety car on a soaking wet track shortly before 20:00. The #88 and #77 Ligier JS P320s run by Team Virage were first and third on the grid with #13 entered by Mirage Racing in second place. Team Virage made the choice of stopping at the pits for the first of the three obligatory halts. The #13 Mirage Racing Ligier JS P320 stayed out and took the lead. Its driver lineup comprising Emilien Carde and the very experienced Mathias Bèche pulled away from their rivals and opened up a two-lap lead over the #88 Mirage Racing Ligier JS P320.
With 20 minutes to go to the chequered flag #13 had covered 92 of the 105 laps in the lead and had to pit for the last time. It rejoined in third place behind #77 entered by Team Virage. But Bèche pushed like crazy and managed to catch #77 driven by Pontus Fredricsson and Stéphane Adler. However, there wasn't enough time left for the team to retake the lead so Mirage Racing crossed the line in second place seven seconds behind the winner, #88 run by Team Virage. Despite a puncture in the closing laps, the #77 Team Virage Ligier JS P320 came home in third place.
And so the first Ultimate Cup Series meeting finished with a 100% Ligier JS P320 podium in the Challenge Proto category. Team Virage got their season off to a great start with a double podium
Mirage Racing put on a scintillating performance on its first outing in LMP3 with second place on the podium and the fastest lap in the race set by Bèche in 1m 30.362s.
The second round of the Ultimate Cup Series will take place in Aragon in Spain on 25-26-27 June.
Photo credit : Iconic Motorsport