The no25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca-Gibson won the 4 Hours of Le Castellet, Round 2 of the 2023 European Le Mans Series. James Allen overtook the no34 Racing Team Turkey Oreca of Louis Delétraz in the final 10 minutes of the four-hour race to finish on the top step of the podium ahead of the no30 Duqueine Team Oreca of Neel Jani. Delétraz brought the no34 Oreca home in third overall to take the victory in the LMP2 Pro/Am category.
The LMP3 win was secured by the no31 Racing Spirit of Leman Ligier, which started 10th out of the 12 LMP3 entries. In the final hour Antoine Doquin moved up from 6th to 1st to finish 10 seconds ahead of the no12 WTM by Rinaldi Racing Duqueine.
Reigning champions Proton Competition took the maximum points in Le Castellet with the no77 Porsche 911 RSR-19 winning from pole position in a hard fought race. Julien Andlauer took the chequered flag 11.4 seconds ahead of the no60 Iron Lynx 911 of Matteo Cairoli to make it a Porsche 1-2 in France.
Sunshine and Blue Skies for Round 2 in France
With the sunshining and the temperature at 31 degrees Celsius, the 42 cars headed to the start line behind the safety car. The no47 COOL Racing Oreca with Vladislav Lomko at the wheel led the cars into Turn 1, with the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca of Paul Lafargue and the no65 Panis Racing Oreca of Manuel Maldonado in second and third. The no25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca of Kyffin Simpson moved up to 4th getting ahead of the no43 Inter Europol Competition Oreca of Rui Andrade on the opening lap.
In the LPM2 Pro/Am class the no99 Proton Competition Oreca of Giorgio Roda got ahead of the no34 Racing Team Turkey Oreca, with the LMP3 and LMGTE pole cars, the no12 WTM By Rinaldi Racing Duqueine and the no77 Proton Competition Porsche also maintaining their positions.
Kyffin Simpson was making progress, moving up to third ahead of Maldonado on lap 2 and then took another position on lap 3, passing Lafargue’s IDEC Sport Oreca.
Racing Team Turkey and Proton Competition battling for lead in LMP2 Pro/Am early in the race
Salih Yoluç was closing on Roda for the LMP2 Pro/Am lead and the Turkish driver got ahead of his Italian rival on lap 6. The no24 Nielsen Racing Oreca of Rodrigo Sales was third until the Mexican-American had to pit with smoke coming from the rear left tyre which was rubbing on the bodywork. The no99 Oreca also dropped back to 4th, with the no37 COOL Racing and no83 AF Corse Orecas moving up to 2nd and 3rd in LMP2 Pro/Am respectively.
The no22 United Autosports Oreca of Oliver Jarvis had started at the very back of the grid after failing to set a time in qualifying due a fuel feed issue. The British driver had moved from 41st to 10th by lap 9 and was up to 7th, just behind Salih Yoluç after 30 minutes of racing.
In LMP3 the no12 WTM by Rinaldi Racing Duqueine was leading with Glenn Van Berlo moving up to second place from 42nd on the grid in the no10 Eurointernational Ligier. The Dutch driver had to start at the very back of the grid following the removal of all qualifying times due to a technical infringement. Van Berlo’s hard work was undone when he had to serve an extra 10 seconds on the next pitstop for not respecting the Race Directors instructions for re-joining at Turn 1.
The no93 Proton Competition Porsche of Michael Fassbender made moved up to second place in the LMGTE category, just behind Christian Ried in the no77 Porsche. Fassbender held this position for the first 70-minutes of the race but came under pressure from the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari of David Perel. Perel moved in to second and then took the lead ahead of Ried at Turn 3. Arnold Robin in the no72 TF Sport Aston Martin then went ahead of Fassbender’s Porsche for third.
The no93 Porsche’s race then went from bad to worse. Fassbender’s car ended up facing the wrong way at T3 when his teammate Ryan Hardwick in the no16 Proton Competition Porsche hit the no93 911. Fassbender rejoined but then had the no50 Formula Racing Ferrari of Johnny Laursen on his rear wing.
Laursen got past the Porsche but had to give the position back after the Dane was judged to have overtaken beyond track limits. This put the Ferrari right behind the Porsche and at the last corner Laursen lunged down the inside of the Porsche, there was contact and the 911 was facing the wrong way again, with debris from both cars littering the track. This forced a Safety Car period to clear the track. Both cars rejoined but with body damage that needed to be repaired. The no50 Ferrari was given a drive through penalty for causing the collision.
Back at the front of the field, Alex Lynn was leading in the no25 APR Oreca, five seconds ahead of the no47 COOL Racing Oreca of Reshad De Gerus and the no30 Duqueine Team Oreca of René Binder, who had taken over from Nico Pino. Charlie Eastwood was holding the lead in the LMP2 Pro/Am in the no34 Racing Team Turkey Oreca in 7th overall, ahead of the no83 AF Corse and no99 Proton Competition Orecas.
The no72 TF Sport Aston Martin’s race was ruined when the car was hit by the no99 Oreca, tipping Robin into the tyre wall at T13, with the no99 given a drive through penalty as a result.
The no10 Eurointernational Ligier of Mathias Luethen was up into the lead of LMP3 but being challenged by the no12 WTM by Rinaldi Racing Duqueine of Leo Weiss. The no31 Racing Spirit of Leman Ligier was up to 4th with Antoine Doquin at the wheel, closing with the no17 COOL Racing Ligier of Alejandro Garcia in 3rd. Weiss took the lead after 2 hours and 20 minutes of racing. The no10 Eurointernational Ligier lost some rear bodywork after a collision with the no5 RLR MSport Ligier, leaving debris on the track that brought out a Full Course Yellow period.
When the racing went green the Race Director ordered the no10 Ligier to come into the pits to repair the car.
With an hour of the race remaining, the leader was the no30 Duqueine Team Oreca of Neel Jani, who was being caught by the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca of Paul Loup Chatin. Jose Maria Lopez was third in the no47 COOL Racing Oreca, ahead of Louis Delétraz in the no34 Racing Team Turkey Oreca, which was the leading Pro/Am car, with James Allen in the no25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca two second behind. Delétraz passed Lopez on the run into Signes at the end of the long Mistral Straight for third overall and the Swiss driver set off after Chatin in the IDEC Sport Oreca.
Meanwhile Antoine Doquin had moved up the LMP3 order and was at the head of the class with the no12 Duqueine in second place, four second behind the French driver in the no31 Ligier.
The no77 Porsche was still leading the LMGTE class, with Julien Andlauer holding a comfortable 20 second lead of the no60 Iron Lynx Porsche of Matteo Cairoli and the no16 Proton Competition Porsche of Alessio Picariello. The no16 was looking good for a third-place finish despite a strong challenge from the no57 Kessel Racing Ferrari. However, two off road excursions, the second caused by a collision with the no57 Ferrari, dropped Picariello out of contention and a penalty for the Ferrari was awarded.
Paul Loup Chatin was leading the race from Louis Delétraz, but then a puncture to the front left tyre saw the IDEC Sport dive into the pitlane for a new tyre and all hope of victory vanished. Delétraz was also struggling with tyres on the no34 Racing Team Turkey Oreca as he took the lead, with James Allen in the no25 APR Oreca closing the gap rapidly.
With 8 minutes left on the clock the two cars were side by side into the final corner. They then headed down the start -finish straight still side by side, with Allen taking the lead on the exit of Turn 1 in a great display of race craft by both drivers. Neel Jani saw that Delétraz was struggling for grip, and he made a bid for the second place. Again, Delétraz tried every trick in the book to keep his fellow Swiss behind, but Jani took the place into Signes with three minutes of the race remaining.
The chequered flag was shown with the no25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca finishing 1.078s ahead of the no30 Duqueine Team Oreca, with the no34 Racing Team Turkey Oreca finishing third overall 5.6 seconds behind the lead car and at the head of the LMP2 Pro/Am class. The second place in LMP2 Pro/Am was claimed by the no37 COOL Racing Oreca, with the no83 AF Corse Oreca in third.
The LMP3 victory went to the no31 Racing Spirit of Leman Ligier, which finished 10.4 seconds ahead of the no12 WTM by Rinaldi Racing Duqueine, which in turn finished just 0.2 seconds ahead of the no17 COOL Racing Ligier