Signes, France-based chassis manufacturer ORECA dominated the LMP2 class at Round Four of the 2018 European Le Mans Series from Autodromo Nazionale Monza, taking the top six positions in the premier category in a race that saw four interruptions for safety-car interventions.
The #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA 07, piloted by Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and, taking the final stint to the chequered flag, Jean-Eric Vergne, won in decisive fashion, 29.828 seconds ahead of the #33 TDS Racing ORECA driven by Matthieu Vaxivière in the car he shared with François Perrodo and Loïc Duval.
Taking the final podium position in the LMP2 class, and just 2.108 seconds behind the #33 car, was the #28 IDEC Sport entry with the driver line-up of Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas.
In the LMP3 class, the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JS P3, piloted by Giorgio Mondini and, taking the final stint, Kay Van Berlo who took the victory ahead of the #6 360 Racing Ligier of Terrence Woodward and Ross Kaiser.
The LMGTE class saw an almost lights-to flag win for the#55 Spirit Of Race Ferrari F488 GTE driven by Duncan Cameron, Matthew Griffin and Aaron Scott.
Ben Hanley, at the wheel of the #21 DragonSpeed ORECA started from pole and had begun to open a gap to fellow front-row starter Roman Rusinov in the #26 G-Drive entry but, with less than 15 minutes run, the #39 Graff ORECA, driven for the opening stint by Alexandra Cougnaud, went off at speed at T7, bringing out the safety-car and neutralising the race for 19 mins. DragonSpeed took advantage of the pause to pit the#21 car and change drivers to Henrik Hedman.
The race had enjoyed green-flag racing for less than 10 minutes before the safety-car was called in to action for the second time when Enzo Guibbert, taking the opening stint in the #40 G-Drive Graff-run ORECA, went off. Guibbert was unhurt and the race was neutralised for a further 18 minutes for recovery and barrier repair.
When the race restarted, the #29 Duqueine Engineering entry, with Pierre Ragues at the wheel, led the field, closely followed by the #30 AVF By Adrian Valles Dallara driven by Henrique Chaves.
As the 90-minute mark approached Roman Rusinov took the lead in the #26 G-Drive entry, pursued by Philip Hanson in the #22 United Autosport Ligier JSP217, just over three seconds behind. However further disruption was just round the corner after the #20 Racing For Poland Ligier JS P3 spun at the Ascari Chicane, causing the race to be neutralised for nearly 20 minutes to allow for recovery.
Andrea Pizzitola had just taken over driving duties in the #26 car when the safety-car was called upon for the fourth time after the #18 M Racing-YMR Ligier made contact with the #9 AT Racing Ligier JSP3 and the race was neutralised for 13 minutes. There was momentary confusion when the leading #22 United Autosports car with Philip Hanson at the wheel went past the safety-car and only correct and careful handling by Race Control avoided chaos.
When the race returned to green-flag running, Pizzitola retook the lead with Will Stevens chasing in the #23 Panis-Barthez Compétition Ligier.
The final driver change saw Jean-Eric Vergne take over driving duties in the #26 G-Drive entry and although Paul-Loup Chatin briefly took the lead with 30 minutes to go, Vergne brought the car home for the victory.
Roman Rusinov was delighted with the win.
“It’s a great weekend for us,” said the 36-year old Russian driver. “From the beginning the car was competitive and all the team did a really great job, Jean-Eric and Andrea were fantastic during then whole weekend also. We really showed our pace during the race. I did a good start but then it was impossible to follow the DragonSpeed with Hanley inside. Then we were unlucky with the first pitstop when we lost some positions, but then I think my teammates did an amazing job and we recovered from that quite well.”
Round Three of the 2018 European Le Mans Series takes place at the Red Bull Ring on July 22.