NewBlood by Morand Racing collected its first European Le Mans Series victory of the season in Sunday’s hard-fought and caution-free Four Hours of Paul Ricard.
Christian Klien drove the No. 43 Morgan-Judd to a 5.518-second win over the Paul-Loup Chatin-driven No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450b in second, which increases its championship lead in LMP2 heading into next month’s season finale.
Klein took over the lead with just over one hour remaining, passing the No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03 Nissan of Rodolfo Gonzalez, which would later serve a penalty for having its engine fired its final refueling stop.
The Austrian ex-Formula One pilot held on from there, fending off a late charge by Chatin for the win. Gary Hirsch and Pierre Ragues completed the driving duties in the winning Morgan-Judd.
It marked the fourth different LMP2 team to claim top honors in as many races this season.
The pole-sitting Murphy squad still salvaged a podium finish in third, despite the late-race penalty, ahead of the No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN Nissan, which led early in the hands of Audi factory driver on loan, Filipe Albuquerque.
Remarkably, the top-five cars all finished on the lead lap, despite the race not featuring a single safety car period.
There were, however, a few incidents, including a first-lap crash for the No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan of Matt McMurry, which eliminated the 16-year-old American and co-driver Johnny Mowlem from the race.
The No. 46 Thriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2-Nissan, meanwhile, retired with suspension failure, while mechanical issues derailed the Pegasus Racing Morgan-Nissan as well.
AF Corse claimed its third GTE class win of the season, with the No. 55 Ferrari F458 Italia of Matt Griffin, Michele Rugolo and Duncan Cameron leading a sweep of the top-five positions for the Italian manufacturer.
Rugolo edged out the No. 56 AT Racing Ferrari of Pierre Kaffer for the victory, in a race that was dominated early by the No. 86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche 911 RSR of Ben Barker.
The 991-based Porsche, in its series debut, however was unable to maintain the lead when co-driver Michael Wainwright climbed aboard and lost further ground late in the running with a penalty.
The No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari completed the podium in third.
SMP Racing scored its second consecutive class win in GTC, but this time it was the No. 73 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Olivier Beretta, David Markozov and Anton Ladygin that took top honors.
The Russian squad finished ahead of the AF Corse-run Formula Racing squad in second, which was co-driven by Jan Magnussen
A late charge by Kevin Korjus in the No. 98 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C denied SMP of a double podium finish.
RESULTS: Four Hours of Paul Ricard