As expected, the Prologue and the two free practice sessions were logically devoted to tyre work and understanding, as Panis-Barthez Competition switched during winter to a new manufacturing partner, Dunlop.
In qualification, Will Stevens and Timothé Buret ranked the # 23 and # 24 respectively P13 and P14.
On Sunday, the duty to start the race was taken by Julien Canal on # 23 and Timothé Buret on # 24. The latter made an excellent start and won 3 places in the first corner. On the # 23, Julien Canal, impeded early in the race, made his way back to his initial place. Austrian Rene Binder took over in 10th place with the young Dutch Leonard Hoogenboom, who took part in his first race in LMP2, just behind in 11th position. Both did their stints with consistency.
In the final part of the race, Will Stevens fought as hard as he could to cross the finish line in 10th place. In the sister car and despite a very good stint, the Russian driver Konstantin Tereschenko on the # 24 had an unfortunate moment just two minutes from the end. He suffered a contact caused by the Algarve # 31. It prevented him to see the chequered flag.
Olivier Panis – Team Principal : We knew the first race of the season was going to be tricky due to our new partnership with Dunlop. Nevertheless, we worked hard and got a lot of information to approach the next round in a better way. I am really impressed by the involvement and the work done by the whole team, mechanics, engineers… Same for our six drivers. I take my hat off to them as they gave their maximum with the package available. They did a very constructive job all week, gritted their teeth and gave nothing away till the end of the race. Except unfortunately for Konstantin [Tereschenko] who was spoiled during the penultimate lap by a competitor who collided with him and drove him out of the race. We still have a lot of work to do. We will meet this challenge and do our best to test very soon in order to be competitive at Monza. ”
#23 Ligier JS P217 Julien Canal : « My start was quite impacted by some hesitations in the row in front of me. I lost a few places I was quickly able to regain when the pace came. The car was quite good at the beginning but then degradation became high. It was not possible to attack anymore. We learned a lot this weekend. I am sure we will fix the problems we are facing and will be back where we hope.”
#23 Ligier JS P217 Rene Binder : « I think I did a good job for my first race with the team. My double stint went well regarding the weak grip we had on track today. The car slides a lot. Starting here with a new tyres supplier on a circuit that didn’t suit us made it harder. It’s obvious we will be stronger in the coming races.”
#23 Ligier JS P217 Will Stevens : « With our new tyre manufacturer, we have to learn everything again. During the tests, we struggled to find the good balance. I think most of our problems were track-related. We know where we start from and we will find out how to make progress. Starting from Monza.”
#24 Ligier JS P217 Timothé Buret : « I had a great start where I gained three places. Unfortunately, the lack of grip arose too quickly. Driving the car was very tricky, as losing control was a constant threat. We knew it would be difficult and despite all the hard work we did during the tests, we haven’t found all the solutions yet. But I am confident for Monza.”
#24 Ligier JS P217 Leonard Hoogenboom : « I felt straight away comfortable in the car. LMP2 is new for me and it’s a different world compare to LMP3. Stints are longer, traffic is heavier and of course the cars are quicker. At the end of the day, I am pleased with my performance. My laptimes were quick and consistent. I can’t wait to carry on with this new adventure.”
#24 Ligier JS P217 Kostantin Tereschenko : “It’s very disappointing not to see the checkered flag because of a mistake from another driver. He hit me hard and forced me to retire. Before that, it was not easy to discover the car cause we have not yet found the right settings with the new tyres. Our potential is far superior to what we have shown. ”
Source. Panis-Barthez Competition