Race 1 of the weekend, which got underway early on Saturday morning (August 26), was packed with drama for the Ligier European Series teams right up to the finish line. In the Ligier JS P4 category, the #4 of HPRacing by Monza Garage scored its first win of the season. In the JS2 R category, the #42 ANS Motorsport car continued its winning ways, taking its third victory after its double success at Le Castellet.
JS P4 category: Last-minute victory for the #4 of HPRacing by Monza Garage
Starting from pole position, Bernardo Pinheiro, in the #60 of Team Virage Ligier JS P4, held on to the lead at the start. Behind, the #48 sister car, driven by Mihnea Stefan, was surprised by Dimitri Enjalbert in the #17 from Pegasus Racing. Mihnea Stefan was then the meat in a Pegasus Racing sandwich with the #16 of Julien Schell in hot pursuit.
A protracted battle for third place ensued. Julien Schell attacked, but Mihnea Stefan was determined to retake the position. There were several heated exchanges. But a drive-through penalty to the #48 for exceeding track limits terminated the duel.
Several competitors rushed into the pit lane when the pit stop window opened. The #60 Ligier JS P4 waited. When it came in, the #16 took the lead. Simone Riccitelli, in the #7 of LR Motorsport, was in the top 5 after a fine comeback from the back of the grid. Julien Schell was the last to make his mandatory stop and handed over to Yuki Tanaka. The track became damp, and the team opted for rain tyres. The #16 remained in the lead, ahead of the #60, now driven by George King, and the #4 with Panagiotis Kaitatzis aboard, who had taken over from Georgios-Periklis Kolovos.
With 20 minutes remaining in the race, the #60 Ligier JS P4 regained the lead. The #16 dropped back several places after being overtaken by the #17 of Anthony Nahra, the #48 and the #7 of Jacopo Mazza. Moments later, the #17 spun. Meanwhile, the #11 Monza Garage car with Chun-Ting Chou stopped on the pit straight, prompting a yellow flag and then a safety car period.
The #60 still led, followed by the #4, the #7, the #48, the #16 and the #50 of Les Deux Arbres with Steve Zacchia, who had succeeded Louis Rossi.
The race restarted with five minutes to go. The #50 Ligier JS P4 overtook the #16 and attacked the #48. The two cars were neck and neck, and the #48 spun. Mihnea Stefan slipped to eighth place. But he kept battling and regained fifth place on the final lap. Jacopo Mazza, in the #7, attempted an attack on the #4 for second place but also spun. He was later overtaken by the #50. Having run out of fuel, the #60 slowed down in the final moments and stopped on the track.
The #4 Ligier JS P4 of HPRacing by Monza Garage crossed the finish line in the lead. It is the first overall victory of the season for the team and for the Greek duo of Georgios-Periklis Kolovos and Kaitatzis Panagiotis, who also won the AM class. The #50 Les Deux Arbres with Steve Zacchia and Louis Rossi finished runner-up and won the PRO-AM class. The #7 of LR Motorsport with Simone Riccitelli and Jacopo Mazza, which also set the fastest lap of the race in 2:02.521s (set by Simone Riccitelli), completed the podium.
Georgios-Periklis Kolovos, HPRacing by Monza Garage, #4 Ligier JS P4, winner of race 1:
“It was a tough race. But we managed to overcome all the difficulties and we succeeded this weekend. This is our second meeting in the Ligier European Series and we plan to come back and to win more races!”
Panagiotis Kaitatzis, HPRacing by Monza Garage, #4 Ligier JS P4, winner of race 1:
“I drove the second stint in race 1. It was nice to be close to the front runners. I need to thank my teammate for this! He drove very hard and then I kept on pushing. It’s a really great win. We had a great time!”
JS2 R category: Third win for the #42 from ANS Motorsport
The #10 of RLR MSport Ligier JS2 R with Maximus Mayer put in an excellent start to immediately take the lead. David Rodorigo in the #43 from LR Motorsport car moved up two positions to second. Julien Lemoine, in the #42 of ANS Motorsport, made a strong overtake on the #29 from Pegasus Racing, driven by Jordan Meyer. Then he overtook David Rodorigo in the #43 to move up to second place.
Maximus Mayer in the #10 opened up a comfortable gap of about 15 seconds over the other GTs. The #29 of Pegasus Racing suffered several power cuts and came to a standstill on the track, which saw Jordan Meyer drop down the order.
Halfway through the race, the pit-stop window opened. Maximus Mayer was the first to stop. A few moments after exiting, the driver of the #10 car spun due to a mechanical failure. He was called to the pits by his team the following lap before being forced to retire. The #42 took control of the race, with the #43 and #86 behind.
The #43 Ligier JS2 R was getting dangerously close to the #42. With 15 minutes remaining in the race, David Rodorigo overtook Julien Lemoine for the lead with determination. The Italian driver crossed the finish line first. A penalty, however, for contact with the #42 while overtaking dropped him back to second place. Julien Lemoine and ANS Motorsport took their third overall victory. The #86 of Les Deux Arbres with Jacques Nicolet and Bastien Ostian finished third. The fastest lap of the race was set by Maximus Mayer in 2:10.656s.
Julien Lemoine, ANS Motorsport, #42 Ligier JS2 R, winner of race 1:
“The rain made it a difficult race. Especially since we didn’t expect it. It is tricky to find the right balance between performance and staying on the track with the slick tyres. It was tricky but also fun! At least we were not impacted by the stifling heat. It was quite cool in the car. I’m looking forward to the next heat. I have never raced at Spa-Francorchamps. I know it is a very difficult track. I will train on the simulator and try to make it work! We’ll see.”
Race 2 of the weekend, streamed live on the Ligier European Series YouTube channel and Facebook page.
For the results, CLICK HERE.