Second and final race of the weekend at Monza for the Ligier European Series. With their #16 Ligier JS P4, Gillian Henrion and Team Virage defended their class dominance, winning race two and adding a fourth Saturday sweep to their tally. In the Ligier JS2 R category, Haytham Qarajouli and RLR MSport, with their #75 take their fourth victory of 2022. The two drivers and teams thus strengthen their lead in the classification in their respective categories.
Ligier JS P4: Hectic race but victory for the #16 Team Virage
The second race of the weekend got underway at 2.50 pm. From third on the grid, the #3 LR Motorsport Ligier JS P4 driven by Simone Riccitelli (and Nicola Neri) surprised the #16 of Gillian Henrion and Team Virage at the start and jumped into the lead. Several cars made contact, including the #99 Monza Garage car driven by the young Taiwanese Ray-Yu Wang, which got stuck in the gravel trap. Barely five minutes later, the race was under the control of the safety car. At the restart, the #3 car maintained its lead ahead of the #16 and the #53 M Racing car of Natan Bihel. But Gillian Henrion wasted little time in passing Simone Riccitelli for command of the race.
It was a four-team battle for second place among LR Motorsport (#4), M Racing (#53), Smart Driving (the #85 with Andrei Vajda) and Monza Garage (the #23 with George King and Ronnie Valori). The action was also heating up further back in the field. Jacopo Faccioni in the #12 HP Racing by Eurointernational and Alexandru Mirea in the #44 Smart Driving were in a skirmish for sixth place, with the Romanian team finally getting the nod.
At half-distance and when the pit window opened, Gillian Henrion had a new challenger in the person of Alexandru Mirea. The driver of the #44 Ligier JS P4 came out of the pits in front of the #16 Team Virage and defended his second place with everything he had. Behind him, Gillian Henrion began his offensive. A battle that gave the team managers of both teams a cold sweat. The #16 finally managed to get past, at the cost of a slight contact with his rival.
Gillian Henrion now had to take on Nicola Neri in the #3 LR Motorsport Ligier JS P4, which had come out of the pits with the lead. But the Italian team was already seeing victory slip away when they received a 10-second penalty for failing to respect track limits. Twenty minutes before the chequered flag came out, they were overtaken by the #16 and then by the #44. Natan Bihel, in the #53, then took third place.
The #16 Ligier JS P4 left Monza with its record-setting fourth consecutive double win. Gillian Henrion clocked the fastest race time of 1:54.194. Smart Driving took its first podium finish with the #44 of Alexandru Mirea, while third place went to Natan Bihel and the #53 of M Racing.
Ligier JS2 R: RLR MSport and Haytham Qarajouli lead from start to finish
After a podium finish in Race 1, RLR MSport’s #75 Ligier JS2 R driver Haytham Qarajouli was keen to exact his revenge. He made a perfect start in front of the team’s sister car, the #40 of Horst Felix Felbermayr and Cédric Oltramare in the #4 COOL Racing entry. The fight for fourth place was tight among Laurent Millara (#69 M Racing), Radu Dumistrescu (#22 Smart Driving) and Freddy Menanteau (#25 TM Evolution). Further back, the #11 TM Evolution entry driven by Paul Jouffreau and the #29 of Pegasus Racing with Christophe Weber battled for seventh place. The curbs and the scorching heat forced the #25 Ligier JS2 R to retire 20 minutes into the race following a puncture.
The #75, the #40 of RLR MSport, and the #4 of COOL Racing ran in the top three when it came time for the mandatory pit stops. This order remained unchanged at the start of the second stint. Haytham Qarajouli, Horst Felix Felbermayr and Cédric Oltramare were separated by roughly seven seconds. But galvanised by his victory in race 1, Cédric Oltramare did not want to settle for third place and caught up with the young Austrian from RLR MSport. A driving error was all he needed to move up to second place. Just as third place seemed assured for the #40 Ligier JS2 R, bad luck struck again as it stopped at the pit exit and retired with only two laps remaining.
The #75 RLR MSport Ligier JS2 R took its fourth win of the season ahead of the #4 of COOL Racing. The retirement of the #40, which set the fastest lap of the race in 2:00.428, promoted the #69 of M Racing and Laurent Millara to the third step of the podium.
Gillian Henrion, Team Virage, Ligier JS P4 #16, Winner of Race 2:
“It wasn’t an easy race. On the start I had an issue with my brakes so I wasn’t completely at ease. I lost one position and I was fighting back when the safety car came in. After I managed to pass Simone Riccitelli [#3 LR Motorsport] and to regain the lead. We were back in second place after the pit stop because of the Silver / Bronze rule. It was a hard fight with Alexandru Mirea [#44 Smart Driving]. I had a lot of fun”.
Haytham Qarajouli, RLR MSport, Ligier JS2 R #75, Winner of Race 2:
“I felt quite comfortable in the second race as we created quite an early gap and pretty much sustained it till the end. It was really hot there. I wouldn’t say I managed the heat but I tolerated it! I’m looking forward to the next meeting at Spa-Francorchamps.”
For the complete results, CLICK HERE
For the provisional classification, CLICK HERE.
The Ligier European Series will now take a well-deserved summer break! Heat five of the season will take place on 23 and 24 September at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium.