Nigel Moore and Martin Hippe in the Inter Europol Competition team’s #13 Ligier LMP3 took second place and the first podium finish in the 2020 season opener of the European Le Mans Series at circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet. Kuba Smiechowski, Rene Binder and Matevos Isaakyan in the team’s #34 Ligier LMP2 finished in seventh place. A first top ten finish for the team in the European Le Mans series.
Due to the Covid-19 situation a few things were different. Except for the chief mechanic, nobody was allowed on the grid before the departure. Then for this race only the LMP3 class got an extra fuel stop (40”) as the fuel consumption of the new cars was higher than anticipated. And there was no podium for second and third places. The trophy for second place was brought to the pit box.
#13 LMP3. At 11am the first race of the season went underway. Martin Hippe in the #13 had a good start and went from seventh to third. He did a double stint and handed the car to Nigel Moore while in fourth place. Moore pushed and in the last hour of the race led for most of the hour, until with 17 minutes to go, he had to let the #2 of United Autosports pass, to take second place.
Nigel Moore: “It wasn’t a too bad race. Martin had a good start and held his own. During the first couple of days of testing, we struggled a bit with a brake problem which put the team on the back foot. We had to solve this first and then we missed a bit of time for the set up. But our guys did a great job with the pit stops, and mechanically the car was good. Martin and I are a good pairing and we got good points for this first round and am looking forward to Spa in a couple of weeks.”
Martin Hippe: “An interesting start to an interesting season with a delayed start. P2 is a good result for the start. We have to improve our speed a bit more though to catch the United guys. Congratulations to them, they did a good race today. We will work hard and fight them more in Spa.”
#34 LMP2. Kuba Smiechowski had a good start and moved up one place. During the full course yellow, Smiechowski came in and handed the car over to Matevos Isaakyan. After his stint, Isaakyan handed the car over to Rene Binder in eighth place. Binder brought the car over the finish in ninth place but because of some infringements of another team, the (provisional) result of this race is eighth. The car ran trouble free.
Matevos Isaakyan: “The word I am looking for is unlucky. With the issue at the beginning of the race (antenna) and with the safety car situation. And we are missing some speed compared to the others, but that is, I think, more track related. But we have the first points and a solid base for the future.”
Kuba Smiechowski: “The race itself was not so bad, but we did lack a bit of pace. We had bad luck with the safety car where we lost one lap as the leader overtook us. Then the race was over for us. Even though eighth is not a bad beginning, I am a little unhappy.”
Rene Binder: “It is not a bad start for the season, and it looked like we could reach P5, but for the small technical issue and the safety car. I think it was a solid start for the season, but now it is time to improve more.”
Sascha Fassbender (team manager): “We are happy to be back at the race track and finishing with the LMP2 in eighth place. We have done a lot of work to improve the car this winter. So, we are looking forward to Spa, to see what we can do there. For the LMP3 we are lucky to have finished second with all the problems we had in the free testing and the free practice sessions and finally, it is also a bit unhappy to lose the lead in the last 20 minutes of the race. It was a good result and helps us to reach our goal of winning the championship in 2020.”