Will Stevens, Julien Canal and James Allen captured a long-awaited first European Le Mans Series victory for the Panis Racing team in Sunday’s 4 Hours of Monza.
Stevens brought the Tech 1-prepared No. 65 Oreca 07 Gibson to the checkered flag five seconds clear of Tom Gamble in the No. 22 United Autosports Oreca that was also driven by Jonathan Aberdein and Phil Hanson.
It marked Panis Racing’s first ELMS victory since its LMP2 class debut in 2016, and went one better than its second-place results at Portimao in 2018 and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya earlier this year.
Canal started from eighth on the grid but had risen to second after a round of pit stops during a safety car period in the opening hour. The interruption was caused by the WeatherTech-Proton Porsche 911 RSR-19 spinning into the gravel at the second Lesmo.
A handful of teams including Panis Racing and United Autosports benefited from pitting just before the safety car was announced, meaning they were at the head of the train when racing resumed approaching the end of the first hour.
Hanson led into the safety car after overtaking pole-sitter Roman Rusinov’s No. 26 G-Drive Racing Aurus-Oreca at Turn 1 after 34 minutes.
Rusinov stayed out to the end of the safety car as the rest of the field came in, only to run out of fuel coming off Parabolica at the restart. The G-Drive car, in which Franco Colapinto led qualifying, initially lost several positions but recovered to finish eighth.
At the head of the field, Hanson led from Canal through to a Full Course Yellow period occurring midway through the second hour. The lead changed during the round of stops held during the FCY, with Allen emerging less than a second ahead of Aberdein.
Panis Racing then controlled the remaining two and a half hours of the race. Allen grew the lead over Aberdein to around 13 seconds at the halfway mark, but the margin came back down as Gamble chased Stevens into the last hour.
An off-track moment for Gamble in avoidance of a stricken LMP3 at the first Lesmo impacted United’s pursuit, as Stevens managed to secure a landmark Panis win.
JOTA completed the podium with its guesting No. 82 Oreca that usually competes as the No. 28 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Former WEC driver Jazeman Jaafar joined JOTA regular Sean Gelael for the British team’s one-off ELMS return and ended up taking third place at the final set of stops.
A third FCY of the day occurred in the final hour to clear up an LMP3 car that was involved in the incident that sent Gamble into the gravel. A quicker final service from JOTA brought Jaafar out ahead of Louis Deletraz in the No. 41 Team WRT Oreca.
Deletraz tried to launch past Jaafar when the FCY was removed, almost clipping the end of the pit wall as he did, but couldn’t find a way past on the run down to Turn 1.
That proved to be Deletraz’s best chance to reclaim third, as the Swiss driver settled in behind Jaafar for the remainder of the contest. Deletraz, Robert Kubica and Yfei Ye nonetheless maintained their points lead with a fourth top-five in as many races.
BHK Motorsport was a surprise package running in third for the middle portion of the race, aided by the timing of its first pit stop when the safety car came out.
Markus Pommer was in third with one and a half hours remaining, but had a costly pit stop lasting around three minutes due to a penalty for an infringement during BHK’s pit call under the safety car. The No. 35 Oreca ended up finishing 18th and last in LMP2.
Rene Binder, Tristan Gommendy and Memo Rojas were fifth for Duqueine, ahead of G-Drive Racing’s Pro-Am Aurus driven by Roberto Merhi, Rui Andrade and John Falb.
The No. 25 G-Drive crew came away with the Pro-Am sub-category win after Merhi Racing Team Turkey’s Charlie Eastwood to the line by two seconds.
Behind the recovering No. 26 G-Drive car were the Orecas from IDEC Sport and Algarve Pro Racing.
LMP3 honors went to DKR Engineering as the team’s full-season driver Laurents Hoerr notched up his second straight victory alongside Mathieu de Barbuat.
De Barbuat won by a 21-second margin of Wayne Boyd, who teamed up with Rob Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe in United Autosports’ No. 2 Ligier JS P320 Nissan.
The DKR Duqueine D08 Nissan survived a clash with one of the Nielsen Racing Ligiers at the first Lesmo, which triggered the final FCY period of the race.
Martin Hippe, Ugo de Wilde and Mattia Pasini completed the LMP3 podium for Ligier squad Inter Europol Competition, after de Wilde overtook Cool Racing’s Niklas Kruetten on the final lap.
Ferraris Dominate GTE on Home Soil
Alessandro Pier Guidi, David Perel and Duncan Cameron won the GTE class in the No. 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.
Pier Guidi overtook No. 80 Iron Lynx Ferrari driver Matteo Cressoni in the Turn 1 braking zone near the end of the penultimate hour, shortly before pitting to hand over to Perel.
Perel started his stint behind Giorgio Sernagiotto in the No. 60 Iron Lynx Ferrari but made an overtake at the same spot s Pier Guidi, while Cressoni’s co-driver Miguel Molina was laying chase.
Molina dispatched Sernagiotto and pressured Perel but couldn’t find a way past the South African.
Perel took the win by a 2.8-second margin as Molina, Cressoni and Rino Mastronardi came through in second to maintain their slightly reduced points lead over the No. 55.
The No. 60 Iron Lynx Ferrari dropped to fifth at the end, behind other Ferraris from AF Corse and JMW Motorsport. The six Ferraris in GTE ended up finishing first through sixth.
RESULTS: 4H Monza (Provisional)