After Nicolas Lapierre qualified the #37 Oreca 07 third on the grid for the 4 Hours of Portimao, COOL Racing was put on the back foot after contact at the start of the race, falling to 23rd overall. But the team immediately came back through the order, with Alexandre Coigny, Antonin Borga and Lapierre putting in clean and fast stints to cross the line ninth.
This secured eighth in the LMP2 drivers’ standings for the Swiss outfit’s trio, its best championship result in the European Le Mans Series, as well as seventh in the teams’.
Alexandre Coigny: “The start of the race was very complicated, I lost a lot of time so I had to overtake a lot of cars in the lower classes, costing us even more time. Then we lost an additional 20 seconds when the door wouldn’t lock during the driver change, so coming back up the order was tough. On a positive note, our performance during the practice session, bronze test and qualifying was strong so we are definitely progressing.”
Antonin Borga: “We started the weekend well and it’s such a shame the race didn’t unfold as planned as we had a lot of potential. We weren’t rewarded for our pace, but we made it to the finish and we have work to do. I’m delighted that we have been able to complete the season, despite the problems linked to COVID-19 and would like to thank for team for this year.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “We didn’t want to end the season this way. A small mistake at the start cost us a lot of time and other factors didn’t help us. Nevertheless, we had good pace and we were competitive in qualifying, so there are some positives to take away into the winter. We are turning the page on this season and starting focus on preparations for 2021.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “The last race of the season was difficult for us and we will need to analyse the details. The start was chaotic and we immediately found ourselves in a challenging position which handicapped us for the entire race. We had the right strategy but there was an issue where the door wouldn’t lock properly which cost us around 20 seconds. When the safety car came in, we boxed Nico as he had a lot of traffic ahead and we thought Antonin would have better pace in clear air but it didn’t change much in terms of the result. A complicated weekend but many thanks to all the staff for their hard work and commitment throughout the year.”
Le Mans Cup
Despite misfortune robbing the #37 COOL Racing Ligier JS P320 of victory at the Algarve International Circuit, Nicolas Maulini and Édouard Cauhaupé secured second in the 2020 Michelin Le Mans Cup LMP3 standings, while the #69 duo of Maurice Smith and Matt Bell ended the season in fourth.
Maulini stormed to a fourth pole position of the season by a mammoth 0.679s, and the Swiss driver pulled clear out front in the two-hour race during the opening stint. Cauhaupé then came on board and extended the gap out front to over 25 seconds, before a poorly timed safety car meant they lost time in the pits for their second mandatory stop, dropping them to eighth before ultimately finishing sixth. The #37 car held onto its position, which was enough to claim runner-up spot in the championship.
Starting on the second row in fourth, Smith held onto the front-runners despite a spin, handing over to team-mate Bell just outside the podium places. The team was able to take its pit stop earlier in the late safety car period and Bell, who took the fastest lap, emerged in second with 20 minutes to go. The British driver got to the front on the restart but a spin ended their chances of victory.
Nicolas Maulini, #37 Ligier JS P320: “The race went very well until the safety car 20 minutes from the finish. We were on our way to victory with an advantage of 25 seconds, all was going well. When the safety car emerged we had just driven past the pit lane before we could stop for fuel, while others behind were able to pit. It meant we lost a number of positions and finished sixth. We are disappointed to end the season like this. Everyone in the team has done a great job this year and overall the results were positive, but it is clear that we would have preferred to end with a win. We deserved a victory and lost because of something that was out of our control. Nevertheless, we’ve enjoyed a great season. A big thank you to the entire team, there was a great atmosphere and team spirit, everybody gave their maximum and worked very hard.”
Édouard Cauhaupé, #37 Ligier JS P320: “It was a real shame to end the weekend the way it did, having had great pace throughout the race. I was able to manage the race well but after most cars behind gained the advantage during the pit stop phase, there was no way we could win. We can be very satisfied with our performance, we are vice-champions which I would never have believed six months ago. Overall, we have enjoyed a great campaign and I would like to thank COOL Racing and Nicolas Lapierre for their confidence in me and allowing me to compete at this level.”
Maurice Smith, #69 Ligier JS P320: “This season has been great. We exceeded everyone’s expectations, the car was phenomenal, the team was outstanding, and everything went really well. We had our ups and downs, we lost races we could have won, but all-in-all I had a lot of fun. In the Portimao race, I made a good start but had my own little spin, it’s so easy to get caught out here. We overcame that but unfortunately couldn’t make it to the finish. That’s racing though and we will come back stronger. We had the pace in every race this season, there aren’t a lot of teams that can say that in the paddock. It’s been a pleasure to drive with COOL Racing this year and I’ve been honoured to represent them.”
Matt Bell, #69 Ligier JS P320: “It was going so well, Maurice had a great stint, his start was especially good. He put us in the position to get a podium and challenge for third in the championship. My stint went well, we got the fastest lap of the race, the third of the year for us. We managed to get the lead at the restart but I just got caught out, lost the rear and ended in the gravel. Really sorry to end the season in that way, it would’ve been great to finish with a win. It’s been a great year, the car’s been brilliant and I’ve enjoyed being with the team.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “It was a great pole position for Nicolas, and Maurice did an excellent job in qualifying also. Both the #37 and #69 were extremely competitive and a big thank you to all of the staff for their work, as well as the drivers who extracted the most out of the cars. Nico made a fantastic started and created a gap, before a first safety car bunched the field back up. He then pulled away again and Édouard continued to extend their advantage before the second safety car. We were forced to do an additional lap because were weren’t in the pit window. It’s not the way this fantastic season should have ended for them, they deserved the victory. Matt benefitted from that safety car and did a great restart to immediately overtake the #26 Graff car for the lead. Unfortunately, he then had a spin and got stuck in the gravel. We think the tyres weren’t up to temperature following the long safety car period, but we will analyse the data. Thank you to everyone at COOL Racing, Nicolas, Édouard, Matt and Maurice for this season and we look forward to 2021.”
Source. RACING SPIRIT OF LÉMAN