Nary a weekend has gone by without Natan Bihel, aboard the #53 MRacing Ligier JS2 R, winning a race. And it was more of the same in the season finale Portimao Heat on 23 October, with the win in race 2. With a 27-point lead in the championship, he is the 2021 Ligier JS2 R category Champion. Now, a look back at the fantastic season of the driver from Mayenne.
Runner-up in the Ligier JS2 R category in the inaugural season of the series in 2020, Natan Bihel returned for a second season in 2021. Still with his favourite team, MRacing, managed by Yvan Muller. “I have been working with them for almost six years now. They have taught me everything I know,” explained Natan.
Barcelona, April 2021. Natan Bihel got his season off to a great start, winning the first two races of the opening round in Spain. Right at home aboard the #53 Ligier JS2 R, he even clocked the best time of the weekend in the category. But the duo of Mathieu Martins and Olivier Pernaut, in the #24 Orhès Racing Ligier JS2 R, became his main rivals for the title. The following month, the duo picked up their first win of the season ahead of Natan Bihel at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. “Mathieu [Martins] and Olivier [Pernaut] were very quick. I got the better of them in the first Heat. But they came back strong in the second,” said the MRacing driver after the race.
In early June, Natan Bihel won his first double pole position of 2021 at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet. “After the morning free practice, which was somewhat complicated, we were a little sceptical. But we looked at the data and the videos to see what was wrong, and we found it immediately“, he commented. After two hectic races and a few contacts with Mathieu Martins and Olivier Pernaut, the MRacing driver returned home with his fourth victory of the season. He was back at it in the following Heat at Monza, where he again scored a double pole position and won for the fifth time of the year.
And as the saying goes… Three’s company! The #53 Ligier JS2 R was again uneatable in the two qualifying sessions at Spa-Francorchamps, in the Belgian Ardennes. “It was a little intense with Mathieu [Martins] in the first session. It was a battle on every lap as everyone was trying to get the pole. But I didn’t make any mistakes. We had a good car, and we worked hard in free practice to get ready and have the perfect car. I had less difficulty in the second qualifying session“, Natan explained after the first day of the weekend. Victorious in race one, he continued to hold a 27-point gap with Mathieu Martins and Olivier Pernaut.
Despite this lead, there was no room for error in Portimao. So Natan Bihel was cautiously confident heading into the last race meeting of the season. He collected his fourth double pole position and finished his campaign with a victory and a second place. With a 27- point lead, the Frenchman won the Ligier JS2 R Championship of the 2021 Ligier European Series season.
“All season long, we had to be in front. I faced stiff competition from Olivier [Pernaut] and Mathieu [Martins]. I had to hold on until the end, that’s what I did, and today I’m champion, and I couldn’t be more pleased“, declared Natan Bihel during the award ceremony on Saturday 23 October. A season mastered to the end thanks to his MRacing team, to whom the driver expresses his gratitude. “Today I won this title, and it’s also thanks to them, so a huge thank you“, he added.
While Natan’s season in the Ligier European Series has concluded, he has unfinished business in the Ligier JS Cup France, where he will be back in a Ligier JS2 R. The final will take place on 5 and 6 November in Portugal, on the Estoril circuit. Currently in second place, 1.5 points behind the leader in the provisional general classification, will Natan Bihel win a second Ligier JS2 R title in 2021?