Category Archives: European Le Mans Series

“The European Le Mans Series Is At A Very High Level. We Have To Be Perfect.” – Tristan Gommendy Talks To EnduranceandGT.Co.Uk (10.04.18)

Photo: @ParenRaval

Tristan Gommendy, who finished second in the LMP2 class and third overall in the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans in the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA 07, is contesting the 2018 European Le Mans Series in the #39 Graff ORECA with team-mates, Alexandre Cougnaud and Jonathan Hirschi.

As the Official Test got underway at Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet, Gommendy set the quickest time in the morning session of Monday April 9, on a circuit that has undergone some changes in recent months. During the opening minutes of afternoon running, Tristan shared some thoughts on the European Le Mans Series, the new LMP1 Privateer entrants and the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans with EnduranceandGT.co.uk editor, Andy Lloyd.

Tristan, you went quickest this morning. A lot has changed at Circuit Paul Ricard with the resurfacing and the removal of the chicane. How did the circuit feel to you?

“We had a lot of rain this morning so it was difficult to judge the grip. I think we have to put more rubber on the track during the afternoon so the overall grip I can’t really judge. I’m quite surprised about a few bumps on the track. I expected a very smooth track but it’s not the case at all so I was quite surprised about that. It’s OK. There are a few changes but they don’t really transform the track so no big changes.”

Are you looking forward to the 2018 European Le Mans Series season?

“Yes, definitely. The European Le Mans Series is at a very high level. We have a lot of good drivers in the championship this year so it will be amazing. It’s really nice to compete with this level of drivers. It’s going to be a very challenging championship and, I think, probably one of the best sportscar championships. We have to be perfect – the team and the team-mates – to fight at the top because the level will be really high.”

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Photo: @ParenRaval

You were part of that amazing Le Mans experience in the Jackie Chan DC Racing team last year, part of a team that was fighting for the overall win. When you look back at that race, it must seem quite surreal how events unfolded at Circuit de la Sarthe last year.

“Yes, that’s true, because when you know Le Mans like I do, you know that you need everything to be on the podium ands if you want to win you have to be perfect – the drivers, the car and the team – everything has to be perfect. And finally – it was both cars (who were challenging for the win)!”

“It wasn’t really a big surprise because we had experienced, quick drivers in the team like Oliver Jarvis, Ho-Pin and myself. The team was strong and Jota Sport did an amazing job. We prepared for Le Mans with two or three races and a few tests so it wasn’t a big surprise. But you have to be lucky for Le Mans. You can be very prepared with the best line-up of drivers in the paddock and end up stopping in the first hour.”

“So you need everything and last year was amazing because both cars were up there, finishing one and two in class and two and three overall. It was amazing. I don’t want to think too much about it because when you do something like that, of course you think how I can do better! So we have to fight for the victory. I would like to win Le Mans so we will try to do it this year.”

What are your thoughts on the new LMP1 privateer chassis? Will that be a class that, as a professional driver, is of interest to you?

“Yes, definitely. But for the moment there are, for me, only a few chassis or maybe only one or two that will be very good. I think it is too early to have a good feeling about the privateer LMP1 class. Most of the teams have received their cars very late so we don’t know…nobody knows what we can expect from this category at the moment. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens at Le Mans this year.”

“For me the LMP1 Privateer class will, for me, in the next two or three years be the category that will win Le Mans. So if you want to win Le Mans as a driver you need to be in LMP1 so of course it’s interesting. For the moment, however, my choice is LMP2 because for me it’s the highest level you can race at in sportscars. But definitely next year LMP1 Privateer is going to be very interesting.”

The 2018 European Le Mans Series opens with the 4 Hours of Le Castellet on April 15.

DragonSpeed Quickest In Second Session At Circuit Paul Ricard. (09.04.18)

Photo: @Paren Raval

The #21 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 was quickest in the afternoon session at Circuit Paul Ricard, as the Official Test for the 2018 European Le Mans Series saw conditions improve from the early part of the morning session.

The #21 DragonSpeed entry, piloted by Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley and Nicolas Lapierre put in a 1:41.769, just over a quarter of a second quicker than the #28 IDEC Sport entry, driven by Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas.

Third quickest in the LMP2 class in the afternoon was the #26G-Drive Racing ORECA driven by Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne and Andrea Pizzitola, which lapped in 1:42.082

In the LMP3 class it was the #8 DKR Engineering Norma M 30, piloted by the Torils, Alexander and Miguel who topped the time-sheets with a 1:51.819. Second quickest was the #17 Ultimate Ligier JS P3, driven by Mathieu Lahaye, Paul Lahaye and François Heriau with a 1:51.188.

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Photo: @ParenRaval

In the LMGTE class it was the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR, piloted by Christian Ried, Joel Camathias and Dennis Olsen who again topped the class times with a 1:54.580.

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Photo: @ParenRaval

The final test session of the day is a two-hour stint, running into dusk, which begins at 19:00 local time.

G-Drive Racing’s James Allen Shares His Thoughts On The 2018 European Le Mans Series With EnduranceandGT. (09.04.18)

Photo: @ParenRaval

James Allen is about to start his second season in the European Le Mans Series, having finished third in the LMP2 Teams Championship, driving alongside Richard Bradley, Franck Matelli and Gustavo Yacamán in the #40 Graff ORECA 07. James also competed in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2017, finishing sixth overall and fifth in class. As the second session of the 2018 European Le Mans Series Official Test got underway at Circuit Paul Ricard, James spoke to EnduranceanGT editor Andy Lloyd about the forthcoming season.

James, you’re about to embark on your second season in the European Le Mans Series. Armed with the experience that you’ve gained in your first season and the considerable success you had at the end of 2017, what are your thoughts on 2018?

“My team-mates have changed, the car has been updated, the tyres are different – I’m confident but I’m not going in expecting to win straight out of the gate. I’m trying to focus on doing the best I can with what I have.”

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Photo: @ParenRaval

You mentioned that fact that you’ve got a new driver combination. What work have you been doing far to build up the driving relationship up between Enzo Guibbert, Jose Gutiérrez and yourself?

“Enzo and I did the Dunlop tyre test together at Motorland Aragon. We’ve also had a couple of tests here at Circuit Paul Ricard with Jose so I’ve had a chance to meet with them both and talk with them and figure out what kind of drivers they are. Hopefully we’re going to work well together this season.”

You’re approaching your second Le Mans. The first one is always very daunting but you must be approaching the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans in a very different manner, having already been through the race-week experience.

“Yes, I’m a lot less nervous this year. I was wondering last year if I could do the whole race and I definitely learned a lot of new things. I had an accident early in the morning last year that I’ve definitely learned from. Overall I’m quite a bit more relaxed about this year.”

And how was this morning for you? The track was getting quicker as the session progressed.

“Because we have new tyres we weren’t sure if the intermediates or the wets were better this morning. We found it was the wets that ended up being better. I hadn’t been out in the wet up to now so it was a new thing to get my head around. We were just trying to work on the pace and see how far we could go and we ended up being quite fast.”

The first round of the 2018 European Le Mans Series, the 4 Hours of Le Castellet, takes place at Circuit Paul Ricard on April 15.

Graff / Gommendy Tops Timing Screens After First Practice At Circuit Paul Ricard (09.04.18)

Photo: @ParenRaval

Conditions at the Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet, slowly improved throughout the morning session and lap-times fell as drivers became more confident in the tricky conditions. With a resurfaced track and the removal of a chicane, times were always going to be quicker than 2017 where the #21 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 driven by Hedman Lapierre and Hanley was on pole with a 1:52.761

Tristan Gommendy, driving the #39 Graff ORECA 07 he shares wit Alexandra Cougnaud and Jonathan Hirschi, set the fastest time of the four-hour first practice session with a 1:44.012 driven in the dying seconds of a session that saw lap-times tumbling in the final five minutes. Second quickest was the LMP2 category was the #35 SMP Racing Dallara P217 driven by Victor Shaitar.

Third quickest in the LMP2 category was the #32 United Autosports Ligier JSP217 driven by Hugo de Sadeleer, in the car he shaes with Willam Owen and Wayne Boyd

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In the LMP3 class it was the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3 which lapped quickest in the hands of Sean Rayhall, defending LMP3 champion, in the car he shares with John Falb. Rahall set a 1:53.081. Second quickest with a 1:53.269 was the #17 Ultimate Ligier driven by Matthieu Lahaye. Completing the top three times in theLMP3 class was the #19 M.Racing-YMR Norma M30 n which David Droux set a 1:53.584.

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Proton Competition set the fastest time of the session in the LMGTE class with a 1:56.548 in the #88 Porsche 911 RSR drven by Gianluca Roda, Giorgio Roda and Matteo Cairoli. Aaron Scott in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari F488 GTE was second quickest with a 1:56.766 in the car he shares with Matthew Griffin and Duncan Cameron.

Third quickest in the LMGTE class was the #66 Ferrari of defending champions JMW Motorsport driven by Liam Griffin, Alex Macdowall and Miguel Molina.

The track reopens at 14:00 local for a four-hour session prior to a one-hour break after which there will be a two-hour night session. No further rain is forecast for Monday.

 

 

2018 European Le Mans Series Opens With Test Days At Circuit Paul Ricard (08.04.18)

Photo: @ParenRaval

The 2018 European Le Mans Series season opens with two days of testing at Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet on Monday and Tuesday April 9 – 10, ahead of the opening round on April 15.

Teams arrived and garages were prepared on Sunday April 8 with participants being greeted with warm and dry conditions combined with a very strong wind. This is in contrast to the  forecast for Monday which predicts heavy rain with the wet conditions potentially continuing into  Monday.

The programme for Monday and Tuesday is designed to allow maximum track-time for the 2018 European Le Mans Series grid.

The programme for the two days of testing starts on Monday April 9 at 09:00 when the circuit opens for testing until 13:00. After a one-hour lunch break the track re-opens at 14:00 until 18:00. The day finishes with a two-hour night session, finishing at 21:00.

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Photo: @ParenRaval

The track is open for a total of a seven hours on Tuesday, starting at 09:00.

With 45 cars entered for the season, 19 in LMP2, 18 in LMP3 and 8 in LMGTE this promises to be a highly-competitive season with the opening two test days just a taste of what is in store.

 

 

 

“My Goal Was Always To Go Into Endurance Racing” – Ecurie Ecosse’s Christian Olsen Talks With EnduranceandGT.co.uk (25.03.18)

London-based Danish driver Christian Olsen recently announced that he would be competing in the 2018 European Le Mans Series, driving for Ecurie Ecosse Nielsen Racing in its Ligier JS P3 alongside Alex Kapadia and Colin Noble. Christian recently took time out from his pre-season preparation and studies to share his thoughts on the new season with EnduranceandGT.co.uk editor Andy Lloyd.

Danish drivers have been highly successful in endurance and sportscar racing and have a rich history at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. How much of an influence was that success on your decision to move into prototypes this season?

“Obviously I grew up watching Tom Kristensen dominate the Le Mans 24 hours and we also have one of the best GT drivers in the world with Nicki Thiim. My family has always been quite involved in motorsport and I think that in Denmark, because it’s such a small country, we are very big on supporting our countrymen wherever they may be which is why when you’re down at the Le Mans 24 Hours, out of the 300,000 people there, almost every shot that the camera will get there’ll be a Danish flag in it. It’s part of the culture somehow with Le Mans and with endurance racing. I’m not entirely sure why that is and why we’ve had that much presence there.”

“I would say that the success of Danish drivers in endurance racing has definitely had a huge impact on me. My goal from when I was 11, and I started go-karting, was always to go into endurance racing.”

The move from single-seaters to prototypes is going to require adjustments. What will be the first areas for you to get comfortable with in this new form of racing for you?

“I definitely think the consistency aspect. Consistency is paramount in any racing series and to able to, on command, go out and drive within a couple of tenths of a target time with all the distractions going on is obviously part of any racing driver’s skills. As you move up to the professional level it’s almost expected that you’re able to do that. I’m the bronze driver and Colin (Noble) and Alex (Kapadia) are the two Silvers drivers and that means I’m going to have to do a minimum of an hour and 45 minutes in the car during a 4-hour race. I definitely think that staying in the rhythm is going to be an area to focus on.”

“One issue I’ve worked on is where I could get distracted if I made a mistake, or if something unexpected happened in a race, it could take me some time to move on from that. Now I’m entering a series where I need to be able to drive to target lap times one after the other. So mental consistency and concentration will probably be the biggest area to focus on, moving from sprint races that might be from 35 to 40 minutes in duration to being in the car for an hour and 45 minutes.”

You’re driving for Ecurie Ecosse, one of the most famous names in sportscar racing. How does it feel to have that heritage behind you?

“It’s almost an honour to be considered part of the same racing team that Jim Clark raced for. To be honest, when I first had contact with Ecurie Ecosse it was as Nielsen Racing. It was only after we had completed the contractual work that I realised it was Ecurie Ecosse Nielsen Racing and obviously they’re an amazing team to be driving for. To say in the future that you’ve driven for Ecurie Ecosse is not something that a lot people get to do.”

You’ll be racing at some of the most iconic circuits in the world in 2018. Which of the circuits will you feel most at home at, do you think?

“That’s a good question. I definitely think that would have to be Spa and that’s because Spa is simply the one I’ve driven at most out of the circuits on the calendar. Of all the circuits I’ve driven at in my career that’s my all-time favourite. I know it sounds like a bit of a cliché but there’s a reason behind it. It’s a clichéd favourite for many race drivers because it’s an amazing place – aesthetically and atmospherically!”

I know you’re at the start of your prototype career but have you had any thoughts beyond 2018 as to how you would like your career to develop or is it really too soon to say?

“I don’t think it would be too wise going into this level of motorsport without having a plan as to where you want to be going. I have given a lot of thought to that. Most people in my position would say they want to be driving at the 24 Hours of Le Mans but you have to consider all the practicalities and logistics behind becoming a driver at Le Mans. That requires a much more complex and deeply evolved plan as to how we’re going to progress on from this season.”

“The most important thing for this first season is to get my name out there, to secure good results and give anybody who’s looking on a good perception as to who I am. My ultimate goal is to become a professional driver and if I feel like I’m headed in the direction of where this might actually become a profession then, yes obviously I want to drive the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but if that takes a few years extra because I get some paid drives in another GT series, they will take priority.”

The 2018 European Le Mans Series opens at Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet on April 15