With a slightly altered lineup, Thiriet by TDS Racing put on another stellar performance to win the Four Hours of Le Castellet, its third European Le Mans Series victory in a row.
Mike Conway subbed in for Ryo Hirakawa, with the Japanese driver competing in the Super GT Suzuka 1000km this weekend in the No. 46 Oreca 05 Nissan.
The LMP1 regular took the first stint from pole position, before co-drivers Pierre Thiriet and Mathias Beche took over. The French crew led most of its home race, except for a few laps during pit stop cycles.
Conway took a strong lead at the start of the race, with Nicolas Lapierre second in DragonSpeed’s similar Oreca Nissan. However, Lapierre’s co-drivers Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley were unable to match his pace. That car ultimately finished third.
An early driver change saw Conway hand over to Thiriet after 45 minutes, while many of TDS’ rivals elected to double stint their first driver.
Harry Tincknell, with blistering pace in his opening double stint, moved the G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S Nissan from ninth to second, passing Hedman towards the end of his stint. He couldn’t, however, reach Thiriet.
After the second round of pit stops, Julian Leal found himself second in the SMP Racing BR Engineering BR01 Nissan. Co-driving with Stefano Coletti and Andreas Wirth, his No. 32 car finished the race in second position.
Lapierre made his way past Tristan Gommendy in the final few minutes to put the DragonSpeed car on the bottom step of the podium.
After a crash on Friday, prospects for the weekend didn’t look too bright for Eurasia Motorsport, but the two-driver team of Nico Pieter de Bruijn and Gommendy managed to take the No. 33 Oreca Nissan to fourth overall, with Pu Jun Jin unable to race after his accident.
Giedo van der Garde and Simon Dolan weren’t able to replicate Tincknell’s pace but were able to hold on to give G-Drive Racing a fifth-place finish.
Graff became the first LMP3 team to beat United Autosports to a class win this season, as Paul Petit, Eric Trouillet and Enzo Guibbert took the honors in the No. 9 Ligier JS P3 Nissan.
They led home Duqueine Engineering’s No. 19 car, which was in turn ahead of championship-leading No. 2 car of United Autosports, which had won every race until this weekend.
Tockwith Motorsports delivered an impressive performance in its LMP3 debut.
Coming from Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, the English squad had a two-driver lineup of Nigel Moore and Philip Hanson.
A late-race spin for Hanson denied them a podium finish, but rather had to settle for sixth.
JMW Motorsport became the first repeat winners of the season in GTE, with Rory Butcher, Andrea Bertolini and Rob Smith surviving attempts from Formula Racing and Aston Martin Racing.
Class pole-sitter Andrew Howard lost a few positions in his opening stint, but Darren Turner was able to bring the Beechdean-backed Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE back up the field, battling it out with Butcher.
Alex MacDowall brought the car home in third, behind the all-Danish Formula Racing squad’s Ferrari F458 Italia.
There were two Full Course Yellow periods throughout the race, the first of which was to recover RLR MSport’s stranded LMP3 car.
The second FCY was to recover Duncan Cameron’s AF Corse Ferrari, which was sent into a spin by John Falb on the pit entrance.
RESULTS: Four Hours of Le Castellet