Photo: @JEP – www.jakobebrey.com
The #21 DragonSpeed ORECA 07, piloted by Henrik Hedman, James Allen and, taking the chequered flag, Ben Hanley crossed the line to take overall victory in the 4 Hours of le Castellet, the opening round of the 2019 European Le Mans Series.
Hanley brought the #21 car home 16.655 seconds ahead of the #28 Idec Sport ORECA, driven by Paul Lafargue, Paul Loup Chatin and Mémo Rojas. Taking the final overall podium position was the #30 Duqueine Engineering ORECA, piloted by Nicolas Jamin, Pierre Ragues and Richard Bradley.
The LMP3 category saw victory go to the #17 Ultimate Norma M30 with the driver line-up of Mathieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and François Heriau, the #30 car finishing one lap ahead of the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JS P3 crewed by Mikkel Jensen and Jens Petersen. The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier completed the top three in class.
Ferrari took a 1-2 in the LMGTE class with the win going to the #51 Alessandro Pier Guidi / Nicklas Nielsen / Fabien Lavergne-crewed Luzich Racing Ferrari F488 GTE Evo which took the chequered flag a lap ahead of the #83 Kessel Racing entry, piloted by Manuela Gostner, Rahel Frey and Michelle Gatting. The #77 Dempsey=Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR completed the top three in class.
Roman Rusinov, at the wheel of the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 led from pole on the opening laps but it was James Allen, driving the opening stint in the #20 DragonSpeed entry, who took the initiative when the young Australian passed Rusinov on the outside of Turn 14 to take the lead on the tenth lap.
Allen then pulled out a gap of 20 seconds by Lap 15 to the now-second placed #25 Algarve Pro entry with Andrea Pizzitola at the wheel. After the first set of driver-changes had cycled through, Henrik Hedman, now driving the #20 car, held a three-second advantage over the #30 Duqueine Engineering entry. Hedman fell back to sixth before pitting to hand back to Allen.
As the four-hour race entered the final 60 minutes Ben Hanley, now driving the #21 car, was in second place but closing on Nicolas Jamin in the #30 Duqueine Engineering entry. With Jamin stopping for fuel, Hanley was able to open a 47-second gap to Paul Loup Chatin’s #28 IDEC Sport ORECA. As the clock counted down, Hanley held on to his lead with Richard Bradley passing Norman Nato’s #26 G-Drive entry for the final podium position.
Mikkel Jensen, at the wheel of the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JS P3 powered through the field to take the class lead on the opening lap. The #9 Realteam Racing Norma, driven by David Droux, closed to within two seconds of Jensen but the Dane held on to his lead. After driver changes had cycled through, however, Jens Petersen, now driving the #11 entry struggled to keep Mathieu Lahaye at bay in the #17 Ultimate Norma and Lahaye eventually passed for the class lead and a debut ELMS victory for the French team.
In the LMGTE class, Fabien Lavergne, at the wheel of the #51 Luzich racing Ferrari passed the pole-sitting #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche driven by Christian Ried on the first lap. As the race approached the halfway mark, the #51 Ferrari was almost a minute ahead of the field but was required to visit the pits to repair damage sustained in an earlier contact, Lavergne handing the Ferrari over to Nicklas Nielsen who brought the car home.
The European Le Mans Series grid next assembles at Monza on April 10 – 12.