It has been an extraordinary weekend, albeit only for its first half, for Oregon Team. The opening round of the six-event European Le Mans Series could have provided the team with an even better result than fourth place. Gustas Grinbergas, Lorenzo Bontempelli and Damiano Fioravanti, who cruised to the LMP3 pole on Saturday, remained among the frontrunners at the beginning of Oregon Team’s third season in the series.
With all three drivers making their championship debut aboard the team’s Norma M30 at Circuit Paul Ricard, the package led by Jerry Canevisio and Giorgio Testa immediately highlighted their excellent potential. From testing and free practice, Fioravanti was constantly at the top in his class, with Bontempelli and 16-year-old Grinbergas among Bronze drivers. Then the 22-year-old Roman also secured the best qualifying lap.
And it was Fioravanti who started the race. It was a chaotic start, due to a P2 car stuck on the grid that slowed down the Italian who, dropped back to fifth place during the opening laps. From there on, he pulled a phenomenal comeback with Fioravanti getting closer and closer to the leader. Just 15 minutes before the conclusion of his double driving stint, a P2 car that had just passed and was going to the pits suddenly veered to the left to stay stay on the track. The dangerous maneuver (later punished with a drive through), saw Fioravanti spin to avoid contact.
Te incident caused the Roman to lose 26 seconds, dropping him to seventh and also forcing him to anticipate the pit-stop due to the tires worn out ahead of time. At this point, Bontempelli climbed into the car, pushed for 50 minutes and managed to climb back up to fourth. It was then Grinbergas’ turn, and he was able to gain a further position by taking third. But the young Lithuanian, during the last lap, got slightly wide at Signes and finally settled for P4.
“Our gap towards the cars in front was 1.4s and 2.8s respectively. Without all the unexpected issues we would have been second – commented Testa – The top-3 finishers did not even have a problem and there was not only one Full Course Yellow, something that has never happened in the three years in which we entered the championship. With three drivers who still had no experience, we dominated qualifying and ended up just 36s away from the winner. We are still happy, and we are looking forward to the next round at Monza, which is Bontempelli’s home track. In addition, our Norma has always been very strong there”.
The Monza circuit will host the second round of the 2019 ELMS. The race is scheduled for the 11th and 12th of May.
Source. Oregon Team