The Ligier JS P4s and Ligier JS2 Rs roared to life this Saturday morning at Circuit Paul Ricard for race one of the Le Castellet Heat. The #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage Ligier JS P4 took its third win of 2021 in the sports prototype category. After taking its first victory in Austria, the #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R repeated the feat, winning ahead of the #53 M Racing entry.
Starting from pole position, the #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage Ligier JS P4 driven by Jacopo Faccioni held on the lead. The #34 Les Deux Arbres with Nelson at the controls overtook the #33 sister car with Jacques Nicolet behind the wheel. Despite contact with the #53 M Racing Ligier JS2 R, the #33 Ligier JS P4 caught up to the #34 car and then moved past at the 20-minute mark of the race. The #23 of the Italian team continued to pull away from its adversaries, building up an almost 20-second lead.
At half-distance, the pitstop window opened. The #23 Ligier JS P4 was the first in its category to stop. Jacopo Faccioni handed over to Alessandro Cicognani. When the #34 Les Deux Arbres car came in for its stop, the #33 stayed out. However, the strategy did not pay off as Jacques Nicolet returned to the track behind the #23, which was back in the lead, and the #34. A battle ensued between the two Les Deux Arbres cars, which ended after contact and a spin by the #33. With a 25-second lead over its rivals, the #23 HP Racing by Monza Garage car went on for its third win of the season, with Jacopo Faccioni setting the fastest lap of the race in 2:04.917s. The podium was completed by the #34 and the #33 of Les Deux Arbres.
In the JS2 R category, the #24 of Orhès Racing driven by Olivier Pernaut got an excellent start. It overtook the #53 M Racing Ligier driven by Natan Bihel and even the #34 Ligier JS P4 of Les Deux Arbres. Behind it, the #4 COOL Racing machine with Cédric Oltramare at the controls remained in third place but was followed by the #95 CTF Performance with Nicolas Beraud. About 10 minutes after the start, the orange GT of CTF Performance passed the #4 of COOL Racing.
The battles at the sharp end of the order were tight. The #53 M Racing Ligier JS2 R got past the #24 of Orhès Racing with the hunter becoming the hunted. Olivier Pernaut kept the pressure on Natan Bihel, who resisted. Further back, the #95, the #4 and the #69 M Racing driven by Laurent Millara battled for third place. Cédric Oltramare in the #4 COOL Racing car finally made his way past the #95 CTF Performance car.
The #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R was the first to stop at the mid-way point of the race. It went back out with Mathieu Martins on board and once again took the lead from the #53 M Racing car. As the laps went by, the gap between the two leaders grew. The #24 was never challenged and went on for its second victory of the season. Mathieu Martins also set the fastest lap in the category in 2:07.917s. The #4 COOL Racing entry completed the top three, with Cédric Oltramare, who has shown tremendous form since the beginning of the weekend. The up-and-coming driver scored his first podium of 2021.
In the final laps of the race, Laurent Millara in the #69 Ligier JS2 R passed Fabien Delaplace in the #95 CTF Performance car and took the chequered flag in fourth place. Right behind them was the #25 Orhès Racing of Alain Bucher and Ayla Agren, followed by the #17 Arctic Energy machine driven by Sergei Egorov and Povilas Jankavicius.
Jacopo Faccioni, HP Racing by Monza Garage, Ligier JS P4 #23, Winner race one 1 Ligier JS P4:
“The race went very well. The car was incredible. We needed the first two rounds to fine-tune our set-up. And here we were excellent! “
Alessandro Cicognani, HP Racing by Monza Garage, Ligier JS P4 #23, Winner race one 1 Ligier JS P4:
“Jacopo got a great start! Then I was able to keep the pace and we won our third race of the season.”
Mathieu Martins, Orhès Racing, Ligier JS2 R #24, Winner race one 1 Ligier JS2 R:
“This is a very good result and I am very pleased. Olivier did the job in the first stint and I concentrated on being consistent in my stint. For the next Heats, we will have to win both races to get as many points as possible for the championship. “
Olivier Pernaut, Orhès Racing, Ligier JS2 R #24, Winner race one 1 Ligier JS2 R:
“Race one went very well. I made a good start, a very good start. I even managed to pass a Ligier JS P4. I tried to keep the pace, a good pace. I’m happy because I held on and Natan Bihel [in the #53 M Racing car] only managed to pass me at the end of my stint. And then Mathieu got the upper hand in his stint!”
Race two from the Castellet Heat will start at 2:50 this afternoon. Live coverage will be provided on the Ligier European Series website and its Facebook page and YouTube channel.
For the complete results from race one, CLICK HERE.