In the 4 Hours of Le Castellet, COOL Racing got its 2020 European Le Mans Series campaign underway with a fourth-place finish, bringing home a strong haul of points. After French driver Nicolas Lapierre put the #37 Oreca 07 sixth on the grid, he and team-mates Antonin Borga and Alexandre Coigny ran a smooth and error-free race to secure its third top-five finish since making its debut in the LMP2 class last year. Coigny also picked up a trophy for the top bronze-graded driver. The Swiss team will now look ahead to Spa-Francorchamps on 9 August.
Nicolas Lapierre: “A satisfying weekend with a great fourth place in the first race, and it’s especially pleasing when you consider the level of competition in this series. We were also first of the bronze entries, so this is good. The team had a very good strategy and we did great pit stops. Our race pace should be a bit quicker, but we know why. We played it safe with the car set-up and we know how to improve for the next race. Happy with the delayed start to the season, which was not easy as there was a long break. Delighted with this fourth place and we will try to continue from there.”
Antonin Borga: “It was a great weekend, we are there in terms of performance compared to the other bronze crews. We were quite lucky with the safety car but I am happy with the Oreca 07, mechanics, and all the staff. We have done a lot of running over the last couple of weeks, testing non-stop and we did not have any mechanical issues, apart from the slow puncture during the last 10 laps. I am very happy with the work achieved by everybody, it is enjoyable to start the season like this, and we are looking good for the future.”
Alexandre Coigny: “Overall I think we had a great weekend and I am very happy with the performance of the team. We have progressed well and there’s still room to improve even further. Everybody did a great job and it is encouraging for the rest of the season. We will ensure we are ready to continue to fight.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “When you look at how strong the other crews on the grid are, this is an excellent result. The whole team worked hard throughout the build-up and across the weekend, which was seen with great pit stops and strategy by our engineers. This fourth place overall and first of the teams fielding a bronze driver is highly rewarding for the drivers and everyone at COOL Racing after a long and difficult period. We will do everything we can to be up there again at Spa.”
COOL Racing was denied a maiden Michelin Le Mans Cup victory at Circuit Paul Ricard, after the #69 Ligier JS P320, shared by Ben Barnicoat and Maurice Smith, picked up a puncture while leading the race in the dying moments, dropping to fifth at the finish. After qualifying on the front row, the #37 Ligier, driven by Edouard Cauhaupé and Nicolas Maulini, was forced to start from the pit lane due to an engine issue. Maulini was climbing through the field, but was taken out of the race when an LMP3 competitor unsafely rejoined the track and made contact.
Ben Barnicoat, #69 COOL Racing driver: “Maurice did a great job in qualifying to put the car fifth on the grid. He then had a great start in the race, and moved up to third with impressive pace before the driver change. The pit stop went very well and we managed to jump up to second. Our engineer Max did a phenomenal job with the set-up, I was able to post the fastest lap and take the lead, moving 15 seconds clear before the puncture. Maurice was the fastest bronze driver and we were clearly the ones to beat. I am sure COOL Racing will achieve great things this season and I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to race again, it was great to be a part of such a professional outfit.”
Maurice Smith, #69 COOL Racing driver: “I think we can be very happy with our pace this weekend. We were on for a certain victory before Ben had the unfortunate puncture. The team did a great job with the set-up and race strategy, particularly during the pit stop phase where we managed to jump one of our competitors. It’s a very promising start to the season and now we know that we have the speed to challenge for victories in the future.”
Edouard Cauhaupé, #37 COOL Racing driver: “What a disappointment! After an engine problem ahead of the race, we had to start from the pit lane. Then my team-mate was making a promising comeback, but after 10 minutes of racing another driver came back on the track and hit him. Nicolas and I had the pace to win, which makes the end result quite frustrating. Thanks to COOL Racing for giving me an awesome car.”
Nicolas Maulini, #37 COOL Racing driver: “I am sad, but we can take some positive points from the weekend. We had a fantastic car that gives us confidence, which is easy to drive and at the same time fast. There’s also a great atmosphere within the team, everybody pushes in the same direction, all is well organised and professional. The relationship with Edouard is great, he is very competitive and I think we can make a strong crew. We are up there in terms of performance so it looks like we can challenge for wins. Mechanical issues and accidents are part of the sport, but what we experienced yesterday with the engine issues and the accident are difficult to accept. We now need to rebound and look towards Spa.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “We are obviously disappointed but the team has shown that it had the potential to compete at the front in the Michelin Le Mans Cup. I am sad because both crews had the pace to be on the podium. Maurice was exceptional and delivered a strong stint, handing the car to Ben in third place. Ben did a great job to hold the lead until the penultimate lap. There was also frustration for Nicolas Maulini, who can at least leave Le Castellet happy with his great qualifying performance.”
In the first-ever Ligier European Series race at the Circuit Pau Ricard, COOL Racing’s #74 driver Sébastien Baud dominated the weekend with two victories among the Ligier JS2 R runners. Having qualified third for the Le Castellet Heat opener, the French youngster fought back in the second half of the race to win by 20 seconds. Going from pole position in race two, Baud emerged victorious from a race-long battle for the lead to wrap up a perfect weekend in his home event.
Sébastien Baud: “Overall it was a very successful weekend for us. In race one, I moved from third to second at the start, holding this position until the mandatory pitstop. We then increased our pace to catch the leader, which we managed to do and we won. In the second race I had a long battle for the lead, lasting more than 30 minutes, but after the pit stop I caught and overtook them. I was then able to hold on to take another victory. Two races and two wins, I am very happy with this weekend. The Ligier JS2 R is a very enjoyable car to drive, as you need to manage the tyres to reach the finish without any issues. I took a lot of pleasure racing in this new championship, especially here at Circuit Paul Ricard.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “It was a great start to our Ligier European Series campaign. Sébastien was very much at ease at Circuit Paul Ricard and showed fantastic composure in both races. In the first race we remained patient in the opening stint, but Sébastien managed the pace well to eventually take victory. It was a different challenge starting from pole in the second race and he handled the pressure well. A great way to start the delayed championship and we look forward to more strong results throughout the 2020 season.”
Source. RACING SPIRIT OF LÉMAN