Barcelona Heat, Race 1: Team Virage and Les Deux Arbres win in the season-opening race.

The first race of the 2024 Ligier European Series season kicked off on a sunny Saturday morning at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It was an eventful start, with the safety car deployed for the race start following two on-track stoppages. With the safety car’s return to the pits, the competitors were given the green light on the Catalan circuit for a race full of twists and turns, which saw Inter Europol Competition and Les Deux Arbres take the chequered flag in the lead for the first time this season.

However, following post-race investigations, the #7 of Inter Europol Competition was penalised an additional 36 seconds on its race time for failing to respect the minimum pit-stop time. As a result, the #1 of Team Virage won race 1, and the #7 was relegated to 9th place.

JS P4 category: Victory for Team Virage after a fierce battle

The #53 M Racing JS2 R with Cindy Gudet at the wheel went wide on the formation lap and off the track. A few seconds later, the #16 Pegasus Racing Ligier JS P4 (Yuki Tanaka) came to a standstill, prompting the race to start behind the safety car.

Poleman Jeronimo Berrio in the #66 Team Virage Ligier JS P4 led from Romain Favre in the #7 of Inter Europol Competition and Ian Aguilera in the #77 from RLR MSport. As the laps ticked by, Jeronimo Berrio extended his lead over the #66, while the midfield battle raged between Ben Caisley in the #4 of Nielsen Racing and Lucas Medina in the #32 Team Virage entry.

Halfway through the race, the safety car reappeared on track following the stoppage of the #60 Iron Lynx by LRMotorsport JS2 R. During the neutralisation of the race, the mandatory pitstop window opened, and the teams implemented their strategies to take advantage and gain positions. Nielsen Racing won the battle of the pitstops to return to the track in the lead with Logan Hannah at the controls of the #4 Ligier JS P4. The race restarted seven laps later, and Logan Hannah was overtaken by Pedro Moreno in the #66 for the race lead, followed by Romain Favre (#7) and Theo Micouris (#1 Team Virage). The three young drivers battled hard, with each wanting to move into first place.

Unfortunately, their momentum was cut short with another safety car period to remove Clément Moreno and his #31 ANS Motorsport Ligier JS2 R from the gravel trap. The race resumed with five minutes to go, and Romain Favre launched an attack on Pedro Moreno to take the lead in his #7 Ligier JS P4, followed by Theo Micouris in the #1. Romain Favre held off his Colombian counterpart to take the chequered flag, giving Inter Europol Competition its maiden Ligier European Series victory. The British crew of Haydn Chance and Theo Micouris in Team Virage #1 finished second, followed by another JS P4 from the Polish team, the #66 of Pedro Moreno and Jeronimo Berrio.

However, following post-race investigations, the #7 of Inter Europol Competition was penalised an additional 36 seconds on its race time for failing to respect the minimum pit-stop time. As a result, the #1 of Team Virage won race 1, and the #7 was relegated to 9th place. The #66 Team Virage was promoted second ahead of the #71 Monza Garage with Chun-Ting Chou and James Winslow.

Lucas Medina and Alim Geshev won the PRO-AM category in the #32 Team Virage JS P4.

Haydn Chance, Team Virage, Ligier JS P4 #1, race 1 winner:

“I think the start kind of cost me my first stint to be honest. I seemed to struggle a little bit with the grip but then I started to gain position. We took second place at the chequered flag and then were promoted first after the winning car took a penalty. I think my stint was ok. It could have been better, and I still have some work to do to improve even more.”

Theo Micouris, Team Virage, Ligier JS P4 #1, race 1 winner:

“When I got out of the pitlane I knew it was going to be close. I was in fifth position, so I had to attack very early on. So, getting out of the pitlane I was getting the tyres as warm as possible and when I attacked, I managed to get to third position and then the Safety Car came in. After that I knew I could challenge for the lead. I tried to put as much pressure as I could, but I could not get close enough for a couple laps. Then another safety car came in, which helped us. But unfortunately, I could not get the move on track to pass the first car. But still, I’m very happy to take the win.”

JS2 R category: Les Deux Arbres takes the overall win in the season-opener

The race in the JS2 R category was just as eventful as in JS P4.

When the green flag flew, Matteo Pianezzola in the #60 from Iron Lynx by LRMotorsport Ligier JS2 R passed poleman Clément Moreno in the #31 from ANS Motorsport, with Julien Schell in the Pegasus Racing #29 entry close behind in third place.

Unfortunately, Matteo Pianezzola encountered a technical issue on lap six and stopped on the track, causing the second safety car period of race 1. Julien Schell, in #29, took the lead ahead of Antoine Lepesqueux (#50 Les Deux Arbres) and Clément Moreno, who spun.

Following the mandatory pitstops, David Caussanel entered the track in the lead in the #29, followed by Clément Moreno in the #31 and Louis Stern in the #18 of Pegasus Racing. When green-flag racing resumed, Clément Moreno took advantage of the traffic on the restart to retake the lead from David Caussanel in the #29.

In midfield, Cindy Gudet, in the #53 from M Racing, made up ground and gradually climbed up the order.

The battle raged between Clément Moreno (#31) and Noé Da Cunha in the #50. However, Moreno got caught under braking for turn one of his 20th lap and came to rest in the gravel trap, causing the third Safety Car period of the morning.

The race restarted five minutes from the chequered flag, with Noé Da Cuhna in the lead, followed by David Caussanel and Louis Stern. Cindy Gudet managed to climb back up to fourth place in her #53 JS2 R.

After a hard-fought battle, Noé Da Cuhna crossed the chequered flag in the lead, giving the Les Deux Arbres team and his teammate Antoine Lepesqueux their first win of 2024. David Caussanel and Julien Schell (#29 Pegasus Racing) and Louis Stern (#18 Pegasus Racing) finished behind and were first and second, respectively, in the AM classification.

Jacques Nicolet and Sita Vanmeert won the PRO-AM category after an error-free race in the #86 of Les Deux Arbres.

Antoine Lepesqueux, Les Deux Arbres, Ligier JS2 R #50, race 1 winner:

“We adopted a fairly conservative strategy at the start. The aim was clearly to find a stable performance throughout the race, which we succeeded in doing because we won! We saved our tyres well, which enabled us to move up to P2 during the pit stops just behind the leading car. We then came out helped by circumstances with the safety car period, allowing us to reduce the gap when I handed over to Noé, who finished the race in the lead.”

Noé Da Cuhna, Les Deux Arbres, Ligier JS2 R #50, race 1 winner:

“I came out P4 behind the Safety Car, and although it was challenging to manage the traffic with the JS P4s, we made the most of it, and on the whole, it was an excellent race for us!”

The second 60-minute race of the Barcelona Heat starts this afternoon at 1:30 pm and can be viewed live on the Ligier European Series  YouTube channel.

CLICK HERE for the results.