COOL Racing scored its first Road To Le Mans victory and third Michelin Le Mans Cup win of the season at Circuit de la Sarthe on Saturday. Nicolas Maulini and Édouard Cauhaupé’s #37 Ligier JS P320 dominated race two from pole position after finishing second in the first race of the weekend. Maurice Smith and Matt Bell’s #69 machine made it two double podium finishes with a pair of third places.
With both cars still in contention for the Michelin Le Mans Cup championship, COOL Racing returned to one of the world’s most iconic venues where the drivers quickly adapted to the unique challenge of the Circuit de la Sarthe. Both crews showed great potential in free practice before putting in strong performances in qualifying, with Maulini securing pole position in Q2.
In race one, both Maulini and Smith gained places on the opening laps and managed the slow zones effectively during the first stint, losing as little time as possible. Following the driver change, Cauhaupé brought the #37 home in second while Bell produced a lap record in the closing stages to move the #69 up to third before the chequered flag fell.
Starting race two from pole, Maulini quickly built an advantage over the field, expertly handling the damp conditions, which Cauhaupé extended to secure the team’s third win of the season and its first at the Road to Le Mans. The #69 car gained two positions in the pit stop window, with a stunning pass from Bell at the famous Indianapolis corner putting them on the podium.
COOL Racing leaves La Sarthe second and third in the Michelin Le Mans Cup standings ahead of the penultimate round of the season from Monza on October 10.
Nicolas Maulini, #37 Ligier JS P320: “The objective for the weekend was to be on the podium once, so to do it twice is a super result. We’re really happy to have won on Saturday and it compensates for the small disappointment we had in race one. We were close to achieving the perfect weekend by winning both races, but we can’t be too greedy and it’s a great result for the team to have two cars on the podium in both races. I must thank them as the set-up was perfect, they didn’t make any mistakes during the pit stops and they nailed the strategy. My team-mate Édouard did a great job too, especially when you consider that this is his first season, and he managed to keep more experienced drivers behind him to win on Saturday. It’s a fantastic result for him and it will boost his confidence hugely. Things are looking good for the final two races of the season, and we’ll keep fighting.”
Édouard Cauhaupé, #37 Ligier JS P320: “I’m very happy with the victory. The team have done a fantastic job after our second place on Friday and we tried everything we could to return to the top step of the podium. I was fighting with Laurents Hörr in both races and I’m really happy that I was consistently quicker in race two. On Friday, I led when I came out the pits, but I lost more than four seconds in a slow zone. Managing the traffic was a challenge and as a result the DKR car got through on the last lap, but I think we learnt from this and improved. COOL Racing is now second and third in the Michelin Le Mans Cup standings and we scored four podiums out of a potential four this weekend, so we can be proud of this achievement. Hopefully we’ll keep fighting for wins in Monza and Portimao.”
Maurice Smith, #69 Ligier JS P320: “What a great weekend. To secure back-to-back double podiums is a fantastic result for the team, and I’m very proud of everyone. Édouard and Nicolas drove two great races and the win was very well-deserved for the #37 car. We had some good fortune with the timing of one of the slow zones and Matt was able to capitalise on it, but overall, we had two great results. The engineering, strategy and teamwork were all phenomenal and I’m so proud of everyone involved.”
Matt Bell, #69 Ligier JS P320: “Overall, this was a fantastic weekend for the team, with two double podiums at the most famous circuit in sportscar racing. Maurice did great in both of his stints, competing well with professional drivers on Friday and then managing the tough conditions on Saturday. On both occasions, he handed me the car in a good position, and I was able to go out and push to put us on the podium, as well as securing the lap record on Friday. I’m really happy for COOL Racing and I think this will give us a lot of confidence for the next round at Monza.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “We’ve had a super weekend with four podiums, which is a fantastic result. Of course, we could’ve had another win on Friday, but luck was not our side. Unfortunately, we lost the advantage that we had earned due to a slow zone, and Édouard’s inexperience perhaps showed. However, he learnt from it and when the same situation occurred in race two, he was able to maintain a gap of two seconds during the entire stint. Édouard has learnt a lot this weekend and he was able to show that, which is really promising. The cars performed well, the drivers were quick and mistake-free, and the technical crew was faultless. We’re now second and third in the championship, so we’re very happy.”
Source. Pole/Photo. Jules Beaumont/AF300