The last two rounds of the European Le Mans Series have seen Inter Europol Competition secure back-to-back LMP3 victories with its #13 Ligier JS P320 driven by Charles Crews, Nico Pino and Guilherme Oliveira. Following on from a dominant showing at Monza last month, the trio repeated the success this weekend in Barcelona, with Charles vaulting to the head of the field at the start, a position he and his teammates maintained throughout the four-hour race.
Charles completed the first half of the race, extending his advantage at one point to over a minute, before handing over to Nico, who was – as ever – right on the pace. A late race time penalty for track limits certainly put the pressure on though, with Guilherme having to push extra hard in the final stint to maintain the advantage over the #4 DKR Engineering entry. Ultimately, another valuable 25 points were secured with the win, putting the #13 trio right in title contention ahead of Spa Francorchamps.
The sister #14 Ligier had a tougher day in Spain. Starting from ninth, Noam Abramczyk was able to make gains to run fourth, pressuring the car ahead for position. He handed over to James Dayson, who found that second gear was not shifting as he would like. By his own admission, he was maybe caught out by this mid-race as he spun into the gravel. With two laps lost, he and his teammates had to settle for tenth position.
The #43 LMP2 Oreca, brand new for this race with the other car currently in Japan, ran well for much of the race. Pietro Fittipaldi started from eighth, make gains and used the first stop well to vault fourth. David Heinemeier Hansson maintain the position but was forced to pit the car due to a water leak and subsequent overheating. Once back out, the car ran flawlessly, but with seven laps lost, P16 was the result.
Very much a case of mixed fortunes, the team celebrate and commiserate ahead of the Fuji round of the FIA World Championship in two weeks’ time.
Charles Crews #13
“The start was actually easier than we expected as we moved P1 and I was able to pull a small gap to the united car. I said we had figured this out at Monza, and we have. We led all but one or two laps and were upfront all day. We have figured it out nicely and it certainly wasn’t a cakewalk at the end, but we got the much-needed points. The goal of course is to win the next two and if we can accomplish that, we will be home free!”
Nico Pino #13
“It was a bit like Monza, and we had it all under control, even right to the end when the DKR car was closing in and we had a ten-second penalty after my stint, but Guilherme was able to push at the end we got the result we needed. We have moved up in the championship battle, so everything is going to plan, and we just have to keep doing the same at Spa.”
Guilherme Oliveira #13
“It was quite tough even though we had the race under control from the start. I had the final stint with the focus on bringing the car home and then we got a time penalty, which at the time was a bit worrying! We still got the win though, so it worked out well.”
James Dayson #14
“I had an issue with the second gear throughout the two stints and it wasn’t pulling properly which really made the third sector a real challenge. I don’t know if there was something wrong on the downshift going into T12, or simply a mistake, but I spun and was in the gravel. It’s frustrating as we had good pace and the balance of the car was awesome…”
Pietro Fittipaldi #43
“We didn’t get the tyres correctly heated for qualifying, so then I started from P8 and was able to gain two positions and then we were stuck in traffic, and we opted to save fuel. I was able to pass another couple of cars when they were on their in-laps and then do an overcut for another position in the stops. We worked our way up to P4 nicely and were able to gap the cars behind and David was doing a great job in position before we had the water leak and then the overheating issue which is a shame as it cost us a good result.”
Fabio Scherer #43
“The speed was there for a podium probably, so it could have been really really good, but the water leak cost us which is sad. We keep going for the next one and I feel frustrated, but that is also extra motivation for Spa. Every race we improve the car and its speed so we do have some positives to take from the race weekend.”
Sascha Fassbender, Team Manager
“The #13 really shined this weekend and we had issues with the #14 and #43, but we are of course delighted to be in the title fight with the #13 after a fantastic job for all of the guys/ With the LMP2 #43 we improved the performance again but then we had the mechanical issue with the new car. The #14 stopped in the gravel and lost time but the performance was good – the average pace of all three drivers – was great, so overall we are making gains as a team on a weekly basis and we will be pushing even harder when we get to Spa.”