Monza Heat, Race 1: Team Virage and COOL Racing take the reins

Race one of the Monza Heat provided plenty of excitement on Saturday, 2 July. Bold overtaking and fierce battles were the order of the morning at the Temple of Speed. In the sport-prototype category, Gillian Henrion in the #16 Team Virage Ligier JS P4 made it seven victories from seven starts since the beginning of the season. In the GT class, Cédric Oltramare, behind the wheel of the #4 COOL Racing Ligier JS2 R, scored his first victory in the Ligier European Series.

Ligier JS P4: The #16 of Team Virage overcomes all the obstacles

The race started at 11.25 am. Polesitter Gillian Henrion in the #16 Team Virage Ligier JS P4 held on to the lead, ahead of Natan Bihel in the #53M Racing entry. A few minutes later, the safety car came out onto the Autodromo di Monza after the #3 LR Motorsport spun. The Italian team managed to get going but was now shotgun on the field. When the green waved, Andrei Vajda in the #85 Smart Driving car powered his way past the #53 to move into second place. Just behind them, the #17 Pegasus Racing car of Dimitri Enjalbert and Anthony Nahra suffered damage probably after an audacious move at the start, resulting in a second safety car period.

When the race resumed, the #53 Ligier JS P4 overtook the #85 to retake its position. Gillian Henrion built his lead up to four seconds. The safety car was back on track just before the opening of the pit stop window after a Ligier JS2 R went off the circuit. All the Ligier JS P4s made their stops except the #44 Smart Driving – Risk Racing car with Alexandru Mirea behind the wheel.

The race was back on the boil with 20 minutes to go. The #85 Ligier JS P4 jumped the restart, overtaking five other cars, including the race-leading #44. Behind, Natan Bihel (#53) passed Gillian Henrion (#16). The Team Virage rookie and championship leader needed several attempts to regain the lead. The #85 received a drive-through and gave way to the #16, followed by the #53. George King and Ronnie Valori in the #23 Monza Garage car were looking good for the third step of the podium.

Gillian Henrion went on for a comfortable win with a more than a 13-second margin of victory to give the Polish Team Virage squad its seventh consecutive victory. The French teenager also set the fastest race time of 1:54.159. Despite a minor scare following a spin, Natan Bihel (#53 M Racing) finished second, ahead of George King and Ronnie Valorie in the #23 Monza Garage car.

Ligier JS2 R: COOL Racing finishes on the top step of the podium for the first time

The GT class got off to a flying start with stout battles between the three leading cars: the #75 RLR MSport driven by championship leader Haytham Qarajouli, the #29 Pegasus Racing of David Caussanel and Christophe Weber and the #4 COOL Racing, with Cédric Oltramare. Behind them, the #11TM Evolution of Alain Grand and young EuroNascar driver Paul Jouffreau went off in turn 3, causing a yellow flag. When the action resumed, Cédric Oltramare moved up to second place behind the #75 but was chased by the #29. The gaps were very close, with only a few tenths separating the three Ligier JS2 Rs.

Later, Cedric Oltramare took the attack to the #75 of Haytham Qarajouli. The Kuwaiti resisted, and the two cars ran door handle-to-door handle. David Caussanel, in the #29 made a bold move to overtake his two rivals. The #4 dropped to second place and the #75 to third. Before the pit stop window opened, a spin by the #22 Smart Driving car (Marian Oancea and Radu Dumitrescu) brought out the safety car.

The #96 CTF Performance Ligier JS2 R  of drivers Fabien Delaplace and Laurent Piguet took the lead in the second stint. But a spin dashed the team’s hopes of victory. After passing the #29 Pegasus Racing car, Cédric Oltramare seized the opportunity to take the lead. He quickly opened up a gap of almost 20 seconds. Behind him, the #75 and the #40 of RLR MSport were fourth and fifth. The best action in the race as the finish neared was the battle for sixth place between two gentlemen crews, the #69 M Racing with Laurent Millara and the #25 TM Evolution with Bruno Chaudet and Freddy Menanteau. On the last lap, Freddy Menanteau got the better of Laurent Millara, who was struggling with his car.

COOL Racing team loyalist Cédric Oltramare took his first-ever victory in the Ligier JS2 R championship after an eventful start to the 2022 season. CTF Performance’s #96, with Fabien Delaplace and Laurent Piguet, crossed the finish line in second place. For the first time this season, the #29 Pegasus Racing team and drivers David Caussanel and Christophe Weber finished on the podium. David Caussanel also set the fastest lap of the race in 2:00.511.

Race two of the Monza Heat will start this afternoon at 2.50 pm and will be streamed live on the Ligier European Series website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

For complete results, CLICK HERE.