There were race-winning celebrations at Inter Europol Competition for the first time this year as the #13 Ligier LMP3 driven by Charles Crews, Nicolas Pino and Guilherme Oliveira secured victory in the third round of the European Le Mans Series at Monza.
It was a dominant display from both the team and the trio of drivers. Charles was immediately on the move at the start, dispatching the pole-sitting #17 entry to move the head of the LMP3 pack. Charles completed two hours of the four-hour race, even leading the event outright briefly as the LMP2 runners pitted early on.
Nico took over on lap 63 and continued to push hard on the used tyres, sometimes leading and sometimes not as the pit stop sequences played out, but always in contention. This was also the case when a Safety Car closed the field a few laps into his stint, but undeterred he powered on to hand the Ligier over to Guilherme for the final stint right in the fight.
The Portuguese racer, armed with fresh rubber, quickly closed down a gap of 20 seconds to the then race leader, taking the position with six minutes of the race remaining. It was a great performance from him, under intense pressure to regain the lead as quickly as possible, just in case there was a late race incident and subsequent neutralisation.
Ultimately, Guilherme took the race-winning chequered flag almost ten seconds clear of his nearest challenger, earning him and his two teammates 25 valuable championship points to vault them up the championship order.
While there were plenty of celebrations for the #13 crew, the #14 sister car driven by James Dayson made an early exit from the race. Running ninth, the car ahead of him braked inexplicably early into the first turn, forcing the Canadian racer to hit his own brakes hard in order to avoid a collision. With the rears locked up, he spun into the left-hand-side barriers and was sadly therefore an early retirement.
On the right of the team garage, the #43 LMP2 driven by David Hansson, Fabio Scherer and Pietro Fittipaldi endured a tough race to finish in 11th position, following a terrific run in qualifying. Starting third, David was hit from behind, pushing the nose of his Oreca into the car ahead. This damage was carried throughout the race, with David, then Fabio and finally Pietro unable to extract speed from what had been a very competitive car.
The team remain at the Italian circuit for next week’s FIA World Endurance Championship round.
Charles Crews #13
“It’s a very special first win for me, it absolutely is and what a great podium to be on! We knew we had the speed, so we didn’t have to do anything out of the ordinary. Our engineer Juan gave us a perfect strategy, there were so many avenues to go down and he chose the correct direction every single time. My teammate Nico and Guilherme were absolutely perfect, and it is a great feeling to have this win.”
Nicolas Pinot #13
“It was a well-executed race and we managed to keep the strategy in place throughout all of the incidents early in the race, Charles did an amazing job keeping it clean in the beginning, Guilherme was flying in the end, and it was tight towards the final laps. We have learned enough from the other two races and for me, it was a logical step to get the podium and the win. We’re all very happy and the team did an amazing job.”
Guilherme Oliveira #13
“First of all, I need to thank Nico on the mega sting on used tyres and Charles for his two-hour stint in the car and then it was down to me to finish the race. We had a good strategy; we did everything right and we deserve this win!”
Pietro Fittipaldi #43
“It’s frustrating as we were in the right window in qualifying and we executed it well. Then we had some contact at the start. It wasn’t David’s fault as he got pushed from behind and he hit the guy ahead and we ended up having a massive hole in the nose. I also don’t think he should have incurred a penalty for the safety car infringement, but we had a good strategy and we were able to get to a good position at the end even if we were sitting ducks on the straight with the damage. It’s frustrating as we had our best ever qualifying in LMP2 and we were really excited to get a podium at Monza.”
Fabio Scherer #43
“It was a difficult race for me as I took the car over to make up some track positions and we only changed two tyres in the pitstop but the main issue was that I had splitter damage from Mt teammate before and it got worse and worse, otherwise I think the car would have been quite decent. I paid the cost for only changing the two tyres but that might have worked out but sadly we got a drive-through, and the race was compromised.”
James Dayson #14
“The car ahead of me braked at least 50 metres early heading into turn one. I locked the rears as a result and the car rotated into the wall. I guess I should just have hit him, it would have been a better outcome. The whole front of the car is badly damaged, and I am fortunate to have only tweaked my wrist and heel as it was a heavy impact.”