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European Le Mans Series

Prema Takes Maiden Win; LMP3, GTE Decided on Last Lap

Italian squad scores first LMP2 victory with dominant performance at Paul Ricard…

Photo: MPS Agency

Prema’s Lorenzo Colombo, Ferdinand Habsburg and Louis Deletraz have won the 4 Hours of Le Castellet in a race that saw both the LMP3 and GTE categories decided in last-lap battles.

After starting third, the team’s No. 9 Oreca 07 Gibson moved up to second place behind polesitters TDS Racing when United Autosports’ No. 22 Oreca driven by Phil Hanson encountered a left front wheel issue during the car’s first pitstop.

Habsburg then took over the car from Colombo in the second hour during a round of stops during a Full Course Yellow for a slow moving No. 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE Evo of Duncan Cameron.

With Bronze-rated Philippe Cimadomo taking over at TDS, Habsburg was able to maintain the race lead throughout a trouble-free stint, handing over to Deletraz with just over an hour of racing remaining.

The Swiss driver took the car to the flag, giving the Italian top single seater squad its first victory in sports car racing.

Behind them, Algarve Pro Racing scored a surprise podium with the two-driver crew of Sophia Floersch and Bent Viscaal.

Floersch and Viscaal started the race towards the edge of the top ten in the No. 19 Oreca 07 Gibson, but quietly worked their way up and were in podium contention by the start of the race’s final hour.

The team then gambled on an off-sequence fuel strategy, with Floersch handing over to Viscaal with 48 minutes remaining.

While the team could not make it to the end with one more stint, the Stewart Cox-led squad came in for a splash from the lead of the race with some fifteen minutes remaining on the clock.

This allowed Viscaal to exit the pits in second place overall, just ahead of the No. 65 Panis Racing Oreca with compatriot Job van Uitert behind the wheel.

The debuting Viscaal managed to keep the fellow Dutchman behind, with Van Uitert, Julien Canal and Nicolas Jamin coming home in third.

Paul Lafargue, Paul Loup Chatin and Patrick Pilet finished fourth for IDEC Sport, ahead of the No. 37 Cool Racing Oreca of Yifei Ye, Niklas Kruetten and Nicolas Lapierre.

Lapierre scored a top-five finish thanks to a late pass on the No. 34 Racing Team Turkey Oreca of Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Jack Aitken, which finished sixth and won LMP2 Pro/Am.

Maurice Smith, Michael Benham and Malthe Jakobsen, meanwhile, won the LMP3 class from pole for Cool Racing thanks to a last-lap pass from Jakobsen.

Jakobsen’s No. 17 Ligier JS P320 Nissan overtook the No. 13 Ligier of Nico Pino in the closing lap of the four-hour race, taking away what had looked like a certain win for the Polish-flagged squad.

Charles Crews, who shares the car with Pino and Guilherme Oliveira, seemingly laid the groundwork for a victory when he overtook Smith in the opening exchanges of the race and pulled away.

Inter Europol only briefly lost the lead in the third hour when Bailey Voisin moved ahead in the No. 2 United Autosports Ligier, only for Oliveira to set the record straight a number of laps later.

Even a shorter final stop for the Anglo-American squad couldn’t take the lead away from the No. 13 Ligier and the win looked in the bag for Inter Europol when Jakobsen closed the gap in rapid fashion.

The young Dane, fresh off an LMP3 class win in the Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, passed Pino to take victory on the final lap of the race.

Voisin, Josh Caygill and Finn Gehrsitz would later be classified as second after the Inter Europol car lost its finishing position following post race scrutineering.

The Belleville washers in the differential of the No. 13 car were found not to be in conformity.

It was disqualified as a result, promoting the N0 5 RLR MSport Ligier of Michael Jensen, Nick Adcock and Alex Kapadia to third in class behind United Autosport. 

In GTE, Rinaldi Racing took a hard-fought class victory, holding off Proton Competition in a sprint to the flag to win from pole position.

The No. 32 Ferrari of Memo Gidley, Pierre Ehret and Nicolas Varrone led the field to green but Ehret was passed by the No. 83 Iron Lynx Ferrari driven by Sarah Bovy in the opening laps of the race.

Gidley would regain the lead during a round of stops under yellow, but the squad would drop back somewhat as other teams inserted their faster drivers into the car.

However, Varrone was in prime position to inherit the lead when Iron Lynx’ No. 60 Ferrari pitted from the lead late in the race for Davide Rigon to hand over to Matteo Cressoni.

The Argentinean had far from an easy run to the flag, as he was then hunted down by the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR-19 driven by Porsche factory driver Gianmaria Bruni.

Bruni heavily pressured Varrone but the Rinaldi Ferrari held on, with the two cars passing the line side by side.

Just 0.120 seconds separated the Ferrari and the Porsche, which was co-driven by Lorenzo Ferrari and Christian Ried.

Proton’s second car, the No. 93 driven by Michael Fassbender, Zach Robichon and Richard Lietz completed the podium.

RESULTS: 4 Hours of Le Castellet

Davey Euwema is a Sportscar365 reporter based in The Netherlands, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, DTM, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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