Published on September 4th, 2014 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
European Le Mans Series @ Circuit Paul Ricard on 13/14th September
The European Le Mans Series will be back in action after the summer break at the Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France on 13/14th September, and with an impressive grid of 38 cars. After a well-deserved pause the time has come for the next, and penultimate, round of the 2014 season which will feature 10 cars in the LMP2 class, 13 in LMGTE and 15 for GTC. The large number of national teams and drivers is no doubt be a major highlight for the French round of the ELMS, with more than 10 cars and around 30 drivers representing the Tricolore at the Varois track.
An unchanged LMP2 grid
Following its win in Austria, the French Signatech Alpine team tops the overall standings as it goes into its home race. Suffice to say that Paul-Loup Chatin, Nelson Panciatici and Oliver Webb, who will be driving the No.36 Alpine A450b-Nissan, are fired up and ready to give their fans something to cheer about at Paul Ricard. However, JOTA Sport won at Imola and has set every pole position since the beginning of the season, and will be determined to take the fight to them with its No.38 Zytek Z11SN Nissan in the hands of Simon Dolan, Harry Tincknell and Filipe Albuquerque. Thiriet by TDS Racing Racing will also be planning to fully play a part in its home race with its new car, the No.46 Ligier JS P2 entry driven by Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and Tristan Gommendy.
Among the other Frenchmen in the race, it’s a welcome return for Pierre Ragues who has been confirmed for the last two rounds of the season alongside Gary Hirsch and Christian Klien at NewBlood by Morand Racing (No.32 Morgan Judd). Forced to miss the Austrian round, the Irish Murphy Prototypes team will be back in business at Paul Ricard with its No.48 ORECA 03R Nissan with a line up to be confirmed soon. Franck Mailleux partners Swiss Michel Frey and Venezuelan Rodolfo Gonzalez at Race Performance (No.34 ORECA 03 Nissan) and the trio will also be making every effort to get good results for Mailleux’s home race. Meanwhile, Julien Schell will be heading the line- up for the No.29 Pegasus Racing Morgan Nissan with Nicky Leutwiler and Jonathan Coleman.
Greaves Motorsport is entering its two Zytek Z11 SN Nissans, the No.28 for Luciano Bacheta and Mark Shulzhitskiy, and the No.41 for Matt McMurry. The teammate for the youngest ever driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be the very experienced Johnny Mowlem, the 2013 ELMS LMGTE Driver Champion. Finally the French Sébastien Loeb Racing team is due to make its return to the championship at the Varois track with the No.24 ORECA 03 Nissan.
11 French LMGTE drivers
Nine Ferrari 458 Italias, two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, a Porsche 911 RSR and an Aston Martin V8 Vantage make up the list of the 13 cars entered in LMGTE for the French round. AF Corse field three F458s for Piergiuseppe Perazzini, Marco Cioci and Michael Lyons (No.54), Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Michele Rugolo (No.55) and a French trio for the No.70, François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Yannick Mallegol. The two Kessel Racing Ferraris, No.80 and 81 will be driven respectively by Michael Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini, and Thomas Kemenater and Matteo Cressoni. The line-up for the No.56 AT Racing entry will be Alexander Talkanitsa Sr and Pierre Kaffer, while the French SOFREV-ASP team has every intention of figuring strongly in its home race with the No.58 Ferrari of Fabien Barthez, Anthony Pons and Soheil Ayari. The other two cars from the Prancing Horse marque are JMW Motorsport’s No. 66 (Daniel McKenzie and George Richardson, with a third driver to be announced) and SMP Racing’s No.72 which will feature its regular crew.
Normandy’s IMSA Performance Matmut team will enter its two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, the No.67 for Erik Maris, Jean-Marc Merlin and Eric Helary, while the No.76 will be in the hands of Raymond Narac, Nicolas Armindo and the only female driver on the grid, Christina Nielsen. Finally the British Gulf Racing UK team will run the only Aston Martin Vantage V8 on the grid for Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall and Daniel Brown, while the team’s new Porsche 911 RSR will be driven by Mike Wainwright, Adam Carroll and Ben Barker.
GTC: the biggest class with 15 entries
Sébastien Loeb Racing is due to make its return for the French round with the sole Audi R8 LMS on the grid. The Porsche GT3 R of Prospeed Competition will be in the hands of Max van Splunteren, Gilles Vannelet and Mike Parisy, and the sole BMW Z4 GT3 of Team Russia by Barwell will be driven by Leo Machitski, Timur Sardarov and Jonny Cocker. The Pro GT by Almeras team will see its French trio of Franck Perera, Lucas Lasserre and Eric Dermont at the wheel of the No.93 Porsche 997 GT3R, and the line-ups of ART Grand Prix’s two McLaren MP4 12C GT3s remain unchanged with Kevin Korjus, Grégoire Demoustier and Yann Goudy in the No.98, and Ricardo Gonzalez, Karim Ajlani and Alex Brundle in the No.99.
The nine remaining cars of the 38 entries on the grid are all Ferrari 458s. Three are for SMP Racing with the No.73 currently leading the overall standings (Olivier Beretta, David Markozov, Anton Ladygin), the No.71 of Kirill Ladygin, Aleksey Basov and Luca Persiani and the No.57 of Boris Rotenberg, Mika Salo and Maurizio Mediani. While the two AF Corse Ferraris, No.63 and 95, are back with the same drivers, Le Castellet will also see the return of the No.94 (present at Imola only) driven by Thomas Flohr, Francesco Castellacci and Andrea Rizzoli. The No.60 Formula Racing F458 will be looking to make its mark again in the hands of Johnny Laursen, Mikkel Mac and Jan Magnussen, while the No.59 SOFREV ASP entry will again feature the French trio of Christophe Bourret, Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Jean-Philippe Belloc. The GTC class also welcomes a new team to the ELMS, the Italian Team Ombra which is entering the No.92 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 for Mario Cordoni and Marco Zanuttini.
The 4 Hours of Paul Ricard marks the beginning of the second part of 2014 European Le Mans Series season. It’s back to zero for everyone and there is all to play for in both the teams and drivers classifications. The race promises to be exciting and fast-paced with many French teams and drivers fired up to perform well at their home race.
It’s all happening on the 13th and 14th September at Circuit Paul Ricard. Pit action will start on Saturday at 10h30 for the first free practice session, with qualifying on Sunday from 09h30. The start of the 4 Hours of Paul Ricard will be at 13h00 (local) and the chequered flag will be shown at 17h00.