A new season of the European Le Mans Series began at Circuit Paul Ricard. Prema, a newcomer in the championship, won the 4 Hours of Le Castellet with the Oreca 07 LMP2 piloted to victory by Louis Delétraz, Ferdinand Habsburg and Lorenzo Colombo – the latter who substituted for the injured Juan Manuel Correa.
A cautious start by the LMP2 field ensured polesitter Mathias Beche, in the #31 Oreca of TDS Racing x Vaillante, could took advantage of his position and stay ahead for a long while. Tijmen van der Helm made a strong impression by following in second, leading Lorenzo Colombo.
Five times, the race would be interrupted by the safety car or by a Full Course Yellow to retrieve cars stopped on the track.
After the driver changes, the #31 Oreca quickly lost the lead, its Bronze driver Philippe Cimadomo not matching the level of his more experienced competitors.
A new leading group then emerged and the battle for victory began between Prema Racing, Panis Racing, Cool Racing and Algarve Pro Racing which benefited from Sophia Flörsch’s excellent start. Due to a puncture, Nielsen Racing was thrown out of contention.
Finally, banking on strategy, the #9 Prema Racing Oreca consolidated its lead as Ferdinand Habsburg and Louis Delétraz built on the work of their Italian team mate without any issue.
The Italian team took the checkered flag with a lead of 10.936s over Algarve Pro Racing, whose performance did not seem to suffer any impact after the departure of its Russian sponsor. Bent Viscaal celebrated his debut in LMP2 with a podium, while Flörsch scored a second podium in a row, as she finished third in the last race of 2021, at Portimão.
Occupying the third step on the podium were Panis Racing drivers Julien Canal, Nico Jamin and Job van Uitert, confirming their ambitions for this year.
In GTE, the excellent performance of the #83 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GTE at the beginning of the race must be mentioned. Lead by Sarah Bovy who was well consolidating the gap to her competitors, the Iron Dames’ efforts were thwarted several times due to interruptions by the safety car.
At the line, Proton Competition’s #77 Porsche 911 RSR lost the victory by just a split second: 0.120s was all the difference between the Rinaldi Racing #32 Ferrari 488 GTE, which started from pole position, and saw both cars going side by side at the last corner. The Memo Gidley, Nicolas Varrone and Pierre Ehret trio therefore won ahead of Gianmaria Bruni, Christian Ried and Lorenzo Ferrari.
Report and photos by Yann Seite.
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