The weekend concluded at the Toboggan des Ardennes in Belgium on Saturday, 24 September. The Ligier European Series leaves the Spa-Francorchamps circuit with the victory of the leaders of the two categories, Gillian Henrion (#16 Team Virage Ligier JS P4) and Haytham Qarajouli (#75 RLR MSport Ligier JS2 R). Two victories that see both win the championship in their respective category.
Ligier JS P4: Gillian Henrion and Team Virage return to victory
The green flag waved at 1:05 pm. Pole position holder but defeated in race 1, Gillian Henrion in the #16 Team Virage Ligier JS P4 surged ahead and retained the lead. Behind him, Andrei Vajda (Smart Driving) in the #85 car and Natan Bihel (M Racing) in the #53 were in a duel for second place. The Frenchman’s attacks paid off as he passed his Romanian counterpart. Alexandru Mirea, in the #44 entry (second Smart Driving car), and Anthony Nahra, in the #17 from Pegasus Racing, were battling for fourth place. A mistake by Mirea allowed Nahra to take the position. Without delay, the driver of the sky-blue Ligier JS P4 attacked Andrei Vajda.
Unfortunately, it was a bitter blow for Pegasus Racing. The #17 went over the Raidillon’s vibrators and spun. The car set off a few metres further down the track but came to a standstill, causing the safety car to be deployed. This situation did not help Gillian Henrion in the #16, who saw his lead evaporate.
Team Virage and Gillian Henrion clinch the title at Spa
Just after the mid-way point of the race, the drivers made their mandatory pitstop, and everyone entered the pitlane at the same time, which changed the race order. The #44 Ligier JS P4 came out in the lead, ahead of the #33 Les Deux Arbres (Erwin Creed), the #53, the #3 (Simone Riccitelli), the #16 and the #85. At the restart, the #33 attacked the lead car. The overtaking move was daring as the two made contact through the uphill Raidillon corner, with the Ligier JS P4 of Les Deux Arbres getting the upper hand.
The #53 Ligier JS P4 overtook the #44 from Smart Driving to pick up a position. Alexandru Mirea then lost two places. First to the #16, then the #3. Then Gillian Henrion attacked Natan Bihel in what became another duel between the two French drivers. The #16 passed the #53, then the #33. Gillian Henrion was back in the lead of the race. A place he would not relinquish until he crossed the finish line, with the fastest lap of the race in 2:24.899s. Natan Bihel received a stop-and-go penalty for not respecting the minimum pit stop time and dropped to fifth place. Andrei Vajda and Smart Driving finished second. The Les Deux Arbre gentleman duo of Jacques Nicolet and Erwin Creed completed the podium.
With 243 points in the classification, Gillian Henrion, who has won every race but one since the start of the season, leaves Spa-Francorchamps with the title of Ligier JS P4 Champion.
Ligier JS2 R: RLR MSport’s Haytham Qarajouli confident in race two
The safety car was deployed soon after the start following contact between the #40 RLR MSport Ligier JS2 R (Horst Felix Felbermayr) and the #96 CTF Performance (Laurent Piguet). The race was over for the British team and its Austrian driver, whose car was in the gravel trap. Starting from pole position in GT, Haytham Qarajouli in the #75 RLR MSport car continued to lead the race. The #25 entry from TM Evolution (Freddy Menanteau) was next, followed by the #69 of M Racing (Laurent Millara).
The #4 COOL Racing Ligier JS2 R (Cédric Oltramare) moved up to third place ahead of Laurent Millara. A string of Ligier JS2 R then stood out from the rest of the field, with the #75, the #25, the #4 and the #69 were in a four-car battle for the lead. When the pit stop window opened, the #75 still led, followed by the #4. But with the GTs all pitting at once and during the safety car period, the race order changed.
RLR MSport, M Racing and COOL Racing battle for first place
Laurent Millara in the #69 M Racing Ligier JS2 R was the first to leave the pits. Bruno Chaudet in the #25 was second, but Haytham Qarajouli in the #75 passed him at the restart. Another driver, Cédric Oltramare in the #4, also came in contact with the TM Evolution Ligier JS2 R as he moved up to third place.
Haytham Qarajouli chased Laurent Millara and passed him with 18 minutes to go in the race. Just until the end, the #69 M Racing Ligier JS2 R chased the category leader in the hope of taking the win. The #4 COOL Racing car was also getting dangerously close. However, Haytham Qarajouli stayed focused and did not lose his nerve to go on for the win. It was a fitting comeback performance after his retirement in race 1 in the morning. The victory is all the sweeter for the Kuwaiti driver, who has clinched the 2022 Ligier JS2 R title.
Laurent Millara took the chequered flag in second place. But the 15-second penalty he was given after contact with the #25 relegated him to third place. Cédric Oltramare inherited second place. Belgian driver Mathieu Detry in the #11 TM Evolution with Alain Grand set the fastest lap of the race in 2:33.449s. The team finished fifth.
Gillian Henrion, Team Virage, #16 Ligier JS P4, winner race 2:
“After race 1 and the problems we had during pit stop, I was more motivated than ever starting race 2. With the wet track, I kept braking later and later. The Ligier JS P4 is just an amazing car to drive on a wet track. It was such a great race. I cried when I crossed the finishing line. I’m so happy to have clinched the Ligier JS P4 title. I can’t wait for Portimão and to start a new challenge next year in LMP3!”
Haytham Qarajouli, RLR MSport, #75 Ligier JS2 R, winner race 2 :
“It was quite nice to drive on a wet track. It wasn’t too wet in Race 2 compared to this morning where we stayed on slicks. We couldn’t keep the heat in the tyres so it didn’t really work out for us. Spa-Francorchamps has the fastest corners of the circuits on the 2022 calendar. It’s quite nice to see what the car can do at such a high speed. I am very happy to win the championship. It was fantastic to do my first European season in a competition like the Ligier European Series”.
The season finale of the Ligier European Series will be held in the southern Algarve, at the Portimão circuit, on 14 and 15 October. While the champions of both categories can look forward to the closing weekend with serenity, everything is still up for grabs for second and third place in the championship.
For the complete results of Race 2, CLICK HERE.
For the championships standings, CLICK HERE.