The fine weather was short-lived for the last meeting of the 2023 season! Heavy rain fell on Saturday, 21 October, at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, just before the start of race 2. Nonetheless, the drivers gave it their all in the season finale, with victory going to the #60 Team Virage Ligier JS P4 and the #42 ANS Motorsport Ligier JS2 R.
There were no sunny skies, but a very wet track for the start of the last race of 2023. All in all, it was a memorable end to the season for the teams and their drivers.
JS P4 category: George King and Bernardo Pinheiro in the #60 Team Virage take the final victory
Due to the track conditions, the race began behind the safety car. The green flag was waved a few minutes later. The #75 RLR MSport Ligier JS P4 with Ian Aguilera led from the #50 of Les Deux Arbres (Steve Zacchia). Further back, the #7 from LR Motorsport (Jacopo Mazza) overtook the #1 from Team Virage (Kevin Madsen) for third place. It was then the turn of the #4 of HPRacing by Monza Garage (Panagiotis Kaitatzis) to overtake the #1. The #60 of Team Virage (Bernardo Pinheiro) also seized the opportunity to overtake its sister car, followed by the #17 of Pegasus Racing with Anthony Nahra.
The #4 continued its ascent and snatched third place from the #7. Moments later, the latter spun and dropped to eighth place. At the front, the #48 of Team Virage (Mihnea Stefan) tried to overtake the #1. Contact also caused the #48 to make a mistake.
The #4 from HPRacing by Monza Garage gained one position after overtaking the #50 of Les Deux Arbres. But doing the same to the #75 of RLR MSport proved more difficult, as the #75 fiercely protected first place. They were wheel-to-wheel on several occasions. But the pressure imposed by the Greek driver finally allowed him to move into the lead. The #75 then had to battle against the #50 with Steve Zacchia behind the wheel. Once again, it was a hard-fought battle. The #75 resisted, and finally, the #50 was caught at its own game by the #60 of Team Virage, now in third place.
As the pit-stop window opened, the #75 overtook the #4 for first place. The latter got loose and went off the circuit but quickly rejoined the race and regained the lead as its rivals made their mandatory stops. The #4 missed the stop window. The driver change was finally with 20 minutes remaining in the race, resulting in a two-minute stop-and-go penalty.
The #4 still led ahead of the #50, now driven by Louis Rossi and the #60 in the hands of George King. The #60 launched a successful attack on the #50. Eleven minutes from the chequered flag, the British driver was the new race leader. The #75 with Haytham Qarajouli overtook the #50 and then the #4. Simone Riccitelli, in the #7, did the same and was third. A few seconds later, Haytham Qarajouli in the #75 got loose and spun, which worked to the advantage of the #7 and the #50.
The #60 Team Virage crew of Bernardo Pinheiro and George King won the season’s final race. They are the 2023 JS P4 Vice-Champions, which is another fantastic result for the Polish team. Simone Riccitelli and Jacopo Mazza finished second in the #7 from LR Motorsport, with Simone Riccitelli setting the fastest lap of the race in 2:04.070s. The #50 Les Deux Arbres and drivers Steve Zacchia and Louis Rossi completed the podium and won the PRO-AM class. Lance Fenton and Kevin Madsen in #1 of Team Virage took top honours in the AM class.
Bernardo Pinheiro, Team Virage, #60 Ligier JS P4, winner of race 2:
“It feels amazing to take this home win. I went to this weekend with no expectations really because I didn’t test here. It made it a bit harder. I’m super happy and it makes it even more special. When I started, the track was just drying up. It was getting better and better. It was hard to manage the tires. I just kept it safe, tried to bring it home. It feels good finishing runner-up of the championship. It’s hard not to think of what could have been without all the DNFs but I’m quite happy. This is my first European championship so I’m quite satisfied.”
George King, Team Virage #60 Ligier JS P4, winner of race 2:
“It a good way to send out the season. Another win in the books makes it even more special. Obviously being Bernardo’s home race too. My mum and dad were here, Bernardo had his whole family. When I jumped in, there was a dry line forming. Half way through my stint it felt like a completely dry track. It was a bit challenging to try to find the right tire pressure. This is my second year in Ligier European Series. It feels great but it could have gone a lot better. We could have challenged Mihnea till this final race but I’m super happy.”
JS2 R category: Julien Lemoine finishes in style with a double victory in the #42 of ANS Motorsport
Despite the track conditions, the #10 RLR MSport Ligier JS2 R with Maximus Mayer behind the wheel was unflappable. He remained in the lead at the start. In second place, the #42 of ANS Motorsport with Julien Lemoine engaged in an intense battle with David Rodorigo in the #43 from LR Motorsport. Behind, the #29 from Pegasus Racing with Laurent Millara overtook the #86 from Les Deux Arbres, driven by Jacques Nicolet for fourth place.
With the pitstops over, the #10, now driven by Martin Rich, still led the category. As the #43 tried to overtake the #10, the two cars made contact. Not far behind, the #42 took advantage to regain a position. The #43 received a drive-through penalty for the contact with the #10, which made it loose its advance in the race.
Julien Lemoine and the ANS Motorsport #42 ended their season in style with a final double victory overall and in the AM class. Maximus Mayer and Martin Rich were second overall, with the added bonus of the win in the PRO-AM class and the fastest lap of the race in 2:09.248s (Maximus Mayer). David Rodorigo crossed the line third at the controls of the #43 from LR Motorsport.
Julien Lemoine, ANS Motorsport, #42 Ligier JS2 R, winner of race 2:
“It was definitely a tricky race, especially for the traction. It was difficult not to spin. I battled hard with David Rodorigo [#43 LR Motorsport]. I did a few mistakes but I still managed to hold onto the lead. It feels great to be the 2023 JS2 R Champion. This is my first full season in a championship so I’m very happy with this result and looking forward to what will come next.”
This concludes season 4 of the Ligier European Series. See you on 12 and 13 April 2024 at the Barcelona circuit for the start of season 5 of the championship!
For the results of Race 2, CLICK HERE.
The final championship classification
JS P4 category, overall :
Team Virage was crowned JS P4 champion for the second consecutive time at Spa-Francorchamps, with Mihnea Stefan in the #48 (218 points). At Portimão, the team also claims the runner-up title with Bernardo Pinheiro and George King in the #60 (167 points). LR Motorsport rounds off the top 3 in the championship with Simone Riccitelli and Jacopo Mazza in the #7 (137 points).
JS P4, PRO-AM category :
Les Deux Arbres wins its first Ligier European Series title in the PRO-AM class with the #50 driven by Steve Zacchia and Louis Rossi (243 points).
JS P4, AM class:
Team Virage also clinches the title in the AM class with American duo Lance Fenton / Kevin Madsen at the wheel of the #1 (254 points).
JS2 R class, overall :
In its first full season in the Ligier European Series, ANS Motorsport wins the JS2 R championship overall with Julien Lemoine in the #42 (236 points). LR Motorsport is runner-up with David Rodorigo in the #43 (179 points). RLR MSport finishes third in the championship with the #10 driven by Maximus Mayer (145 points).
JS2 R, AM category:
ANS Motorsport’s overall victory is also accompanied by victory in the AM class with the #42 driven by Julien Lemoine (236 points).
JS R, PRO-AM class :
RLR MSport is declared champion of the PRO-AM class with Maximus Mayer in the #10 (200 points).
For the full classification, CLICK HERE.