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European Le Mans Series

Spa Weekend Notebook

Sportscar365’s weekend notebook from Spa-Francorchamps…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

***Nicolas Lapierre’s pole came after an accident in the closing stages of Free Practice 3, when the Frenchman hit the tire barrier in Turn 18. It put the American team, led by Elton Julian, into a race to repair the Oreca 05 Nissan for qualifying. The pole was DragonSpeed’s second in ELMS competition this season.

***There was also trouble for the debuting WRT Ligier JS P2 Judd in FP2, which crashed in the hands of Laurens Vanthoor, due to an apparent stuck throttle. Vanthoor rebounded to qualify 8th for Sunday’s four-hour race.

***While DragonSpeed’s Oreca 05 Nissan was fastest in both Free Practice sessions, it was the Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P2 Nissan that dominated the Bronze Driver Collective Test on Friday morning. Fabien Barthez was quickest.

***United Autosports can take the LMP3 class title this weekend with the No. 2 lineup of Alex Brundle, Christian England and Mike Guasch. They lead the points standings with a margin of 30 points with just this round and the Estoril finale remaining.

***Graff Racing has elected to remain in the ELMS next year with its new Oreca 07 and not make the jump to the WEC as initially evaluated. “We may make a cameo appearance if a place if available but it’s the safe choice to remain in ELMS, as the level is very high,” team owner Pascal Rauturier told Endurance-Info.

***The team plans to also submit an entry request for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the car set to begin testing at the end of January. Drivers have yet to be confirmed. Graff will also continue its LMP3 program with its Ligier JS P3s.

***Pegasus Racing is yet to decide on its racing plans for next year. The Morgan Nissan LMP2 car it currently campaigns will not be eligible in 2017 in the top LMP2 class. Julien Schell’s team tested a Ligier JS P3 Nissan and Corvette Z06 GT3 at Magny-Cours recently.

***The By Speed Factory entry has been handed over to SPV Racing. The No. 5 Ligier JS P3 Nissan still runs under the By Speed Factory banner this weekend but with a new lineup of Kim Rodkjaer, Dan Polley and Kevin O’Hara behind the wheel.

***Race Performance has set aside is LMP2 program to focus on its LMP3 entry in the ELMS. The team’s Oreca 03R will return to try and defend its Asian Le Mans Series title later in the year, however. For the 2017 ELMS season, the team plans to continue its LMP3 entry along with a new-generation LMP2 car.

***SMP Racing has tried to put together an Asian LMS program with a BR Engineering BR01 Nissan, but timing restrictions with the ELMS and WEC rounds make it challenging for the start of the season. However, the Russian squad hasn’t ruled out an entry at Buriram and Sepang.

***There are rumors of Double R Racing looking towards an LMP2 entry in WEC next season. Anthony Hieatt’s team currently competes in Formula 3 and Formula 4.

***Harrison Newey tested with Algarve Pro Racing at Monza recently. The 18-year-old Formula 3 driver’s name was still on the side of the No. 25 Ligier Nissan as it arrived in Belgium.

***Creventic is planning the launch of a prototype-only series, featuring LMP3, CN and other entry level machinery. An event featuring three three-hour races will kick off the 24H Proto Series in January at Dubai, with additional to-be-announced 12-hour events later in the year.

***Ivo Breukers, of Creventic, told Sportscar365 they’ve received significant interest in the series, with a formal announcement and preliminary entry list set to be released early next week. 

***Ietoshi Kaneko, a major player in the endurance racing world in the 1990s and 2000s, passed away suddenly this week. The Japanese manager, most famously linked with Freisinger Motorsport, and former team owner of T2M Motorsport had remained active in the paddock with Larbre Competition through countryman Yutaka Yamagishi, and had attended the WEC round at Circuit of The Americas last weeken.

***The community is also mourning the loss of former ACO Vice President Alain Bertaut. Bertaut got his start as a journalist before turning his attention to driving, and was a five-time starter at Le Mans from 1962 to 1967. He also spent 20 years with the ACO, having been responsible for the development of the sporting and technical regulations. Bertaut was 88.

***The Four Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will start at 2 p.m. local time on Sunday, and can be streamed live on the series’ Dailymotion and YouTube channels.

John Dagys and Laurent Mercier contributed to this report

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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