The Ligier European Series drivers had just a few hours of respite before race 2, which began at 12:55 p.m. on Saturday, 23 September at Spa-Francorchamps. After the frustration of not winning at Aragon, it was redemption for Bernardo Pinheiro and George King in the #60 Team Virage Ligier JS P4. The duo took their first success of the season. Their teammate in the #48, Mihnea Stefan’s third-place finish, was good enough for the Romanian driver to become the 2023 JS P4 category Champion. In the JS2 R category, ANS Motorsport’s #42 with Julien Lemoine secured a second victory after their morning triumph.
JS P4 category: Successful race for the #60… and the #48!
After securing the pole position the previous day, the #48 Team Virage Ligier JS P4, with Mihnea Stefan, maintained its advantage at the start. But the #4 of HPRacing by Monza Garage, driven by Ronnie Valori, immediately threatened the championship leader. Jacopo Mazza, in the #7 of LR Motorsport, moved up two places to third, followed by Bernardo Pinheiro in the #60 Team Virage, who made up four places. The battles were already intense. There was contact at the front between the #48 and the #4, with Ronnie Valori taking the lead. With more damage to his car, Mihnea Stefan was overtaken for second place by the #7.
Bernardo Pinheiro increased the pressure on the #48 Ligier JS P4. Mihnea Stefan resisted for several laps but eventually ceded the position. But he was not ready to throw in the towel and began to chase down his Team Virage teammate. Duels broke out further back for seventh and eighth place between the #5 of Smart Driving (Davide Amaduzzi), the #11 from HPRacing by Monza Garage (Chun-Ting Chou) and the #17 of Pegasus Racing (Anthony Nahra).
The #48 Ligier JS P4 was the first to make its mandatory pit stop, followed by the rest of the sport-prototype field. The #4, now driven by Jacopo Faccioni, returned to the track in second place behind the #1 of Team Virage, with Lance Fenton on board. The #4 quickly took the lead in the race. The #60 and #48 followed after also overtaking the #1.
George King picked up the pace, came back on Jacopo Faccioni at top speed and moved to the sharp end of the order. Meanwhile, the Italian was down on power and was overtaken by the #48 and then by the #7, driven by Simone Riccitelli. The #60 took off, leaving the #48 and #7 to battle for second place. Simone Riccitelli attacked Mihnea Stefan, who resisted for several minutes before finally yielding.
After a painful retirement in race 1 at Aragon, George King and Bernardo Pinheiro (#60 Team Virage) have finally got their long-awaited victory. Simone Ricciteli and Jacopo Mazza (#7 LR Motorsport) finished runner-up ahead of Mihnea Stefan (#48 Team Virage). Ronnie Valori clocked the fastest lap in the race in 2:24.493s.
The #50 of Les Deux Arbres with Steve Zacchia and Louis Rossi won the PRO-AM class, while Lance Fenton and Kevin Madsen (#1) finished first in the AM class.
With two races remaining at Portimao in less than a month, the Ligier European Series has its 2023 Ligier JS P4 Champion! With third place in race 2, Mihnea Stefan has amassed enough points to clinch the crown.
The #60 of Team Virage with Bernardo Pinheiro and George King is second with 124 points. But nothing has been decided yet. Two other teams are still very much in the hunt: the #7 of LR Motorsport and drivers Simone Riccitelli and Jacopo Mazza (109 points) and the #75 of RLR MSport with Haytham Qarajouli and Ian Aguilera (98 points).
Bernardo Pinheiro, Team Virage, #60 Ligier JS P4, winner, race 2:
“It’s been a long time coming. With all the bad luck we had this season it feels good to be here. It was a fun race to win. I’m very happy about it. We had a good start of the race. It was quite clean. I catched up to Mihnea [Stefan in the team’s sister car #48 Ligier JS P4]. I felt good with the car and had a good pace before handing the wheel over to George.”
George King, Team Virage, #60 Ligier JS P4, winner, race 2:
“It feels like this win is even more special. And winning at Spa makes it that much more special. When I came out of the pit, I think we jumped two positions. The team didn’t actually tell me what position I was in until I passed the Monza Garage car [#4 HPRacing by Monza Garage Ligier JS P4]. And it kind of clicked that we were leading. Then we just tried to survive. Towards the end of the race, the tyres started to come off but then it was just managing it to the win.”
JS2 R Category: Double victory for the ANS Motorsport Ligier JS2 R #42
The #42 ANS Motorsport Ligier JS2 R enjoyed a successful start, with Julien Lemoine immediately slipping between two Ligier JS P4s to the disadvantage of his GT category rivals. Jacques Nicolet in the #86 of Les Deux Arbres overtook Simon Butler in the #10 of RLR MSport for second place. Giacomo Pollini in the #43 from LR Motorsport got the better of Simon Butler and Jacques Nicolet. The Italian went on to overtake the championship leader. While in third place, the #86 spun and tumbled to the bottom of the classification.
The #43 Ligier JS2 R came in for its mandatory stop. Just as David Rodorigo was about to take control of the GT category, a mechanical issue prevented him from continuing in the race, which allowed Julien Lemoine to regain the lead in the race.
The driver of the #42 ANS Motorsport Ligier JS2 R added another victory to his tally, both overall and in the AM class, to extend his championship lead. It is its second double win of the season in the general classification after the Le Castellet round. Simon Butler and Maximus Mayer (#10 RLR MSport) finished second and won the PRO-AM class ahead of Jacques Nicolet in the #86 of Les Deux Arbres. Giacomo Pollini in the #43 LR Motorsport Ligier JS2 R posted the fastest lap of the race in 2:33.439s.
With their double victory at Spa, Julien Lemoine and ANS Motorsport have strengthened their lead in the general classification. They now have 186 points. The #43 Ligier JS2 R of LR Motorsport with David Rodorigo is second (149 points). Jacques Nicolet, in the #86 of Les Deux Arbres with 119 points, is still in contention for second place in the general classification.
Julien Lemoine, ANS Motorsport, #42 Ligier JS2 R, winner, race 2:
“The first part of the race was difficult. I was trying to keep the pace with the Silver driver just in front of me. I had to make sure I was as close as possible to him before the pit stop window opened. The second part of the race was a lot easier. I really enjoyed the Raidillon. It’s very impressive at first especially since you have to take it with as much throttle as possible.”
For the complete results, CLICK HERE.
For the provisionnal classification, CLICK HERE.
The 2023 Ligier European Series is drawing to a close. The championship finale will be held in Portugal, at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, on 20 and 21 October.