A 100% Ligier weekend at Spa. The Ligier sports-prototypes emerged victorious in this weekend’s three races held in pouring rain. In the European Le Mans Series (ELMS), United Autosports scored a double victory: the #22 Ligier JS P217 driven by Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque won the LM P2 category and the #2 Ligier JS P3 in the hands of John Falb and Scott Andrews triumphed in LM P3. The #79 and #2 Ligier JS P3s entered by Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen clinched a double in the Michelin Le Mans Cup (MLMC).
Victory for the #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 and third place for the #23 Panis Barthez Compétition Ligier JS P217
After Will Stevens clinched pole at Silverstone in the Panis Barthez Compétition Ligier JS P217, Filipe Albuquerque in the #22 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 set the second-quickest time in qualifying at Spa Francorchamps, only 0.177 seconds behind Jean-Eric Vergne in the #26 Oreca entered by G-Drive Racing.
Because of the execrable weather conditions the start of the race was brought forward to 10:45 and took place behind the safety car, which stayed out for 15 minutes. At the wheel of the Ligier JS P217s were Phil Hanson in #22 and Hugo De Sadeleer in #32 both run by United Autosports, Julien Canal in #23 entered by Panis Barthez Compétition, Matt McMurry in #25 the Algarve Pro Racing JS P217 entry, and Aurélien Panis in #27 looked after by Idec Sport.
The drivers of the Ligier JS P217s didn’t make any mistakes and moved up the time sheets as race incidents intervened.
After 30 minutes the safety car was deployed again when the #17 Norma crashed. The United Autosports #22 pitted to refuel and change drivers. When the race restarted Filipe Albuquerque was in 12th place in #22. He gradually worked his way up through the LM P2 field and took the lead after 1h10mn racing. He stayed there until the race was stopped by Race Control because of dangerous weather conditions. It was United Autosports’ second podium finish of the season after the Red Bull Ring. The other United Autosports entry #32 saw the flag in 6th place overall.
Julien Canal in the #23 Ligier JS P217 entered by Panis Barthez Compétition started in 10th place and did a remarkable double stint. When he handed over to Will Stevens after 1h20mn he was second. After the pit stop Stevens rejoined in fourth place. The race was soon neutralised by the safety car and the #23 Ligier JS P217 came home in third place overall.
The #25 Algarve Pro Racing and #27 run by Idec Sport finished 13th and 14th in the category.
In the provisional general classification, #22 operated by United Autosports is seventh, 5 points behind the sixth-placed car, #23 run by Panis Barthez Compétition eighth and #32 the other United Autosports entry, 13th.
A Ligier 100% top 6 in the LM P3 category
In the LM P3 category the #11 Ligier JS P3 driven by Mattia Drudi (Eurointernational) started on the front row alongside the #17 Norma entered by Ultimate only 65/1000th of a second off pole position. The #6 JS P3 Ligier of 360 Racing and #7 run by Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen were on the second row.
The #15 RLR Msport Ligier JS P3 in fifth place quickly sliced past the #11 Eurointernational Ligier and the #17 Ultimate Norma and took the lead. The Norma then went off under pressure from the #11 Ligier JS P3.
The #2 Ligier JS P3 entered by United Autosports that started eighth in the hands of Scott Andrews as Sean Rayhall was absent, gradually fought its way up through the LM P3 field. Andrews on his debut in the ELMS, at Spa and with United Autosports drove a flawless stint. After 90 minutes following a pit stop to refuel and change drivers John Falb rejoined in first place and stayed there until the end of the race.
The Ligier JS P3s monopolised the top 6 in the Spa-Francorchamps 4 Hours relegating the first Norma to more than a lap:
1 – #2 United Autosports
2 – #15 RLR Msport
3 – #6 360 Racing
4 – #3 United Autosports
5 – #18 M Racing – YMR
6 – #4 Cool Racing
In the overall general classification the Ligier JS P3s fill the first seven places:
1 – #15 RLR Msport
2 – #6 360 Racing
3 – #3 United Autosports
4 – #11 Eurointernational
5 – #13 Inter Europol Competition
6 – #7 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen
7 – #2 United Autosports
Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen clinches a double in the Michelin Le Mans Cup
The fifth round of the Michelin Le Mans Cup (MLMC) also took place on a slippery track in pouring rain.
The #79 Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Ligier JS P3 started on the front row in second place with Colin Noble and Alasdair McCaig at the wheel and won a hotly-contested race. It was followed by its sister car #2 driven by Tony Wells and James Littlejohn who started in fourth place.
The #98 Ligier JS P3 entered by Motorsport finished fourth in front of the #23 United Autosports Ligier JS P3.
The sixth and last round of the 2018 ELMS and MLMC will be held in Portimao on 27 – 28 October.
Source. Onroak Automotive/Photo. DPPI images