The Le Castellet weekend ended on a high note for Team Virage and ANS Motorsport and their respective drivers, Mihnea Stefan and Julien Lemoine. The Romanian and Frenchman climbed onto the podium’s top step for a second time after Race 2 in the early afternoon on Saturday, July 15.
JS P4 category: More domination for Team Virage
Mihnea Stefan got a clean start in his Ligier JS P4 (#48 Team Virage) to quickly build a lead over the other sport prototypes. Behind, the battle for second place erupted between the #60 of Team Virage (Bernardo Pinheiro) and the #50 from Les Deux Arbres (Steve Zacchia). Steve Zacchia eventually overtook his Portuguese rival, but Bernardo Pinheiro was in no mood to give up. A game of cat and mouse began between #50 and #60. Bernardo Pinheiro finally got the better of Steve Zacchia. As the pit-stop window opened, Mihnea Stefan in the #48 car had a lead of more than ten seconds over his teammate in the #60 car.
After the pitstops, the #1 Team Virage Ligier JS P4 with Lance Fenton was in the lead. Mihnea Stefan was second ahead of Louis Rossi in the #50. With 20 minutes remaining, the #48 was back in the lead, ahead of the #1. The #50 followed suit to take second place, but a pit stop a few minutes later to sort out a technical problem saw it lose its position, to the benefit of George King in the #60.
The #7 LR Motorsport Ligier JS P4, driven by Simone Riccitelli, gained several places up to third. But Ian Aguilera in the #75 was hot on his heels, and the two drivers swapped positions several times.
Mihnea Stefan took his second double victory of the season after the opening round in Barcelona. Team Virage’s #48 Ligier JS P4 was joined on the podium by its sister car, the #60 (George King and Bernardo Pinheiro), which finished runner-up for the second time of the day. The #7 crossed the finishing line in third place but a penalty at the end of the race demoted it to fourth position. The #75 rounded out the top three, its second podium since the start of the championship in April.
Nicola and Daniele Cazzaniga in the #4 HPRacing by Monza Garage Ligier JS P4 won the PRO-AM class and set the fastest lap of the race in 2:00.991s (with Daniele Cazzaniga). Lance Fenton and Kevin Madsen in the Team Virage #1 Ligier JS P4 added another AM class win to their tally.
Mihnea Stefan, Team Virage, #48 Ligier JS P4, winner, race 2:
“Race 2 was a bit more relaxed for me. It was really good from start to finish. The team did everything they could to give me the best set up this weekend. We pushed very hard through to the end of the race”.
JS2 R category: An impeccable race for ANS Motorsport
At the start, the #42 ANS Motorsport Ligier JS2 R with Julien Lemoine maintained its advantage. Meanwhile, the #43 of LR Motorsport (David Rodorigo), the #86 from Les Deux Arbres (Jacques Nicolet) and the #95 of CTF Performance (Gilles Poret) battled for second place. David Rodorigo secured the spot and pulled away, leaving Jacques Nicolet and Gilles Poret to duel for third place. The gaps were getting smaller and smaller, and Jacques Nicolet tried to hold on, but after several laps, the driver of the #86 lost to Gilles Poret.
The order after the pitstops remained unchanged: the #42 Ligier JS2 held on to the lead, followed by the #43 and the #95. Fifteen minutes before the end of the race, David Rodorigo stepped up the pressure on Julien Lemoine. The Italian driver managed to snatch first place in the category from the Frenchman. But a driving error cost him a shot at victory, and the #42, was back in the lead. Maximus Mayer, in the #10 of RLR MSport, made a great comeback drive to finish third.
The #42 ANS Motorsport Ligier JS2 R continued its fine form to take its second overall win of the weekend, nine seconds clear of the #43 LR Motorsport car, which scored its fifth podium result in the 2023 season. The #10 of RLR MSport finished third and first in PRO-AM with the fastest lap of the race set by Maximus Mayer in 2:06.742s. The ANS Motorsport #42 car also took top honours in AM.
Julien Lemoine, ANS Motorsport, #42 Ligier JS2 R, winner, race 2:
“I’m very pleased with this first double win. I don’t know what made the difference compared to the first two meetings. It could be the preparation. I tested at Paul Ricard to prepare so that definitely helped. Race 2 was challenging. It was very hot and I was exhausted by mid-race. There were some very tough battles! Now I look forward to Aragon, hoping for a little breeze there.”
The weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard draws to a close. The summer break will be brief this year, as the Ligier European Series resumes on 25 and 26 August. The championship will visit the Motorland Aragon circuit in Spain for the first time.
For Race 2 results, CLICK HERE.
For the JS P4 and JS2 R provisional classification, CLICK HERE.