Kuba Smiechowski (POL) and Martin Hippe (GER) were back in Inter Europol Competition team’s #13 Ligier LMP3 for the first race of the Eureopean Le Mans Series at Le Castellet today (15 April 2018). Three ELMS rookies, German Paul Scheuschner, Italian driver Luca Demarchi and last minute addition to the team, Henning Enqvist from Sweden, were teammates on the #14 LMP3. It was the experienced crew in the #13 LMP3 that finished ahead of its sistercar in 6th place, the #14 finished 12th.
The start went well for both cars. The #13 gained three positions and went from 12th to 9th and the #14 went from 17th to 16th. Some nice overtaking actions in the first hour of the race and some places gained by unfortunate problems for other cars, saw the #13 car in 7th and the #14 in 11th place.
Seven minutes after the one hour mark, Paul Scheuschner got into the #14 car. It spent just 1m21s in the pits and only fell back to 12th. Then the #13 came in for fuel and tyres, and dropped back after another quick pitstop of 1m22s, to place nine.
The second hour saw a long full course yellow because of an incident between an LMP2 and a LMGTE, which gave the team the chance to have the #13 come in for a driver change and for fuel and new tyres. Martin Hippe took over from Smiechowski. Pitstops by the other competitors followed and at the end of the second hour the #13 was in 7th place and the #14 in 13th. The third hour saw no change in place for either car.
At the end of the third hour Scheuschner handed the #14 over Luca Demarchi. After a few laps it was back in 13th place. The #13 car also came in for its last and third pit stop, it remained 7th.
In the last hour Hippe in the #13 LMP3 was able to move up to 6th place with 26 minutes to go. And with nine minutes to go Demarchi overtook the Eurointernational #12 car to move up to 12th. Those were the positions when they took the chequered flag.
#13 Kuba Smiechowski: “It was a difficult stint. The car was pretty slippery and what I heard when I got out of the car, was that the tyre pressure was a bit low. I think two tyres suffered very slow loss of air. I was fighting to stay on the track. Jörg (Kranzfelder) my engineer, made a good decision to pit when we did during the FCY. We were lucky with the safety car. But overall I had a good stint and felt good handing the car over to Martin.”
#13 Martin Hippe: “During my stint I was struggling with the LMGTE cars. Especially with one which lost a lot of oil and cooling fluids. My windscreen was completely covered and I was driving in the blind. My second stint with a clean windscreen was a lot beter and I could improve my laptimes a lot. I tried to push as much as I could and overtook a few cars but the gap in front was just too big to move up. Overall I was happy with the result, it’s a solid start of the season.”
#14 Henning Enqvist: “It was a nice experience to be in the ELMS for my first time together with Inter Europol team. I really like the atmosphere in the paddock and the competetive level on track. I knew going to the ELMS would be a challenge for me. However I think that I did a good job together with the team. I’m happy with my stint even though I was struggling a bit with trail brake vibrations which for sure compromised the preformance. After this positive experience I really look forward to be back in ELMS at Monza.”
#14 Paul Scheuschner: “First of all I like the ELMS as a professional race series and it’s competitiveness The car was not easy to drive, a late change in set-up and a flat spotted tyre did not help. But I did enjoy the race. I also know I need to get used to managing the speed difference between the cars. And already looking forward to Monza.”
#14 Luca Demarchi: “The race was fine and I was starting to find my pace around the track. Specially with the faster LMP2 I was always cautious and trying to keep the proper line. I wanted to be safe but also quick. I am very happy about the pace I had and the car was good. I am already looking forward to the next race.”
Next race for the team: Magny Cours 21 – 22 April VdeV
Next race ELMS Monza 12 – 13 May