The 2021 racing season kicked off on the Daytona circuit in the United States where the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship started with the ROAR, the official practice sessions for the iconic Daytona 24-Hour race, which will take place this coming weekend on 30-31 January 2021. Six Ligiers, five JS P320s and a JS P217, took part in the four practice sessions and the qualifying race that would decide the grid lineup for the Daytona 24-Hour race. The teams’ objective was clear: to familiarise themselves with the Ligier JS P320 and allow the drivers to get to grips with the new car that was making its debut in the American championship. In the final two sessions the Ligier JS P320s set the three fastest times. When the moment arrived for the qualifying race it was raining and the majority of the Ligier teams erred on the side of caution and did not take part or shortened their participation in the session. Yet there was still enough time for the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports and the #33 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320s to give a glimpse of their performance by waltzing away at the head of the field for more than one-third of the race. The #54 CORE Autosport Ligier JS P320 also put on a stunning performance to clinch a third-place finish. The #51 Ligier JS P217 entered by Rick Ware Racing and Eurasia Motorsport saw the flag in eighth spot in the category.
Another event was held the same weekend, the first race of the IMSA Prototype Challenge in which the #54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 scored a great second place while the #60 Ligier JS P3 run by Wulver Racing won the P3-2 category.
ROAR: Good performances by the Ligier JS P320s
On the ROAR programme were four free practice sessions, and for the first time, a qualifying race to decide the starting grid for the Daytona 24 Hours that will take place this coming weekend.
In LMP3, five Ligier JS P320s entered by four different teams were making their debut in the championship as 2021 is the first year in which the LMP3s are accepted in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. All four squads were on an equal footing as it was the first time they raced the Ligier JS P320. Two teams, though, Performance Tech Motorsports and Sean Creech Motorsport, already knew the LMP3 category having raced in the IMSA Prototype Challenge. CORE Autosport and Riley Motorsports were having their maiden outing in LMP3. They were up against a redoubtable team and driver lineup, Moritz Kranz and Laurents Hörr in the Duqueine 08 entered by Mülhner Motorsports, which had already taken part in a full European season with the latest-generation LMP3.
While the Ligier teams made a low-key start they gradually upped the pace as the practice sessions unfolded and set the fastest three times in the last two free sessions with the #54 CORE Autosport JS P320 driven by Jon Bennett-George Kurtz-Colin Braun-Matt McMurry topping the time sheets in no. 3 and the Riley Motorsports #74 in the hands of Gar Robinson and Spencer Pigot taking first place in no. 4.
The 1h 40m qualifying race on Sunday 24th January started on a soaking wet track that only began to dry out around half distance. Some teams decided not to take part in the event or to do just a few laps to finish their preparation for the 24-Hour event. Both Riley Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports were among the latter. In the Riley Motorsports camp, only the #91 Ligier JS P320 of Jim Cox and Dylan Murry took part in the early stages of the race before pitting and practising brake changes.
Young 19-year-old Rasmus Lindh started in second place at the wheel of the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry, took the lead and showed the rest of the field what he could do before being called in by his team.
“It was an absolute wreck fest out there,” Team Principal Brent O’Neill said. “People were driving like this was the last hour of a 24-hour race, not the qualifying event. Rasmus was being really smart and had worked his way up to first when I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. We need to be at the top of our game for next weekend, any damage would be a big setback. A few of our competitors followed suit and I think we all will be much better off next weekend when we go for the watch.”
Lance Wilsey in the #33 Ligier JS P320 run by Sean Creech Motorsport set off in fifth place and lost time in the traffic. After a good stint he handed over to João Barbosa who quickly slotted into the lead of the race. He opened up a big gap over his rivals and it looked like victory was his for the taking until a fuel pump problem forced him to pit.
Gentleman driver Jon Bennet made a great start at the wheel of the #54 CORE Autosport Ligier JS P320. He led the category for a few laps before handing over to George Kurtz who finished the race and qualified in third place for the Daytona 24 Hours.
In LMP2, Eurasia Motorsport and Rick Ware Racing put on an exciting show in the #51 Ligier JS P217. The team set the fifth-quickest time in qualifying on Saturday 23rd January. They confirmed their excellent performance in the race in which Cody Ware and Salih Yoluç mixed it with the top five before finishing eighth in the category.
All these promising performances bode well for the Daytona 24 Hours that will be held on this coming 30-31 January.
IMSA Prototype Challenge: Second place for the #54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320 and victory for the #60 Ligier JS P3 entered by Wulver Racing
The first round of the IMSA Prototype Challenge Championship (IPC) also took place this weekend with the new-generation and older generation LMP3s going at it hammer and tongs out on the track. It attracted a big field of 19 cars with seven Ligier JS P320s in the P3-1 category and two Ligier JS P3s in P3-2.
The Ligier teams were having their first taste of the Ligier JS P320. Among the competitors was the Mülhner Motorsports lineup with Moritz Krantz and Laurents Hörr who were hedging their bets by also entering a car in IPC, the #21 Duqueine 08. The Ligier teams had to quickly get to grips with their new mount and fettle themselves in the Ligier JS P320 to beat this battle-hardened outfit!
After two free sessions and qualifying it was time for the 1h45m race on Saturday. A five-car accident in only the second corner immediately sowed havoc among the competitors.
The #54 Ligier JS P320 run by MLT Motorsports started sixth and after an impressive race saw the flag in second place. It was a remarkable performance by the team that had taken delivery of their car only a week before the race. Josh Sarchet, making his debut in the championship, impressed the field alongside Dakota Dickerson who filled the runner-up position in the 2020 championship with the #54 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P3.
Dan Goldburg in the #6 Ligier JS P320 entered by Performance Tech Motorsports also caused a sensation. Only four minutes after the start of the race he was already second and continued to push before being stopped by an accelerator problem. #6’s race ended in the tyre wall luckily without injuries to the driver. It was a body blow for the team that could have won right from the word go at Daytona.
Andretti Autosport making its debut in the category in the #18 Ligier JS P320 came home fourth. A very promising first race for the American squad that was caught up in the first lap incident.
In the P3-2 category, Bruce Hamilton-Tonis Kasemets at the wheel of the #60 Ligier JS P3 scored a dominant victory and drove a remarkable race that saw them finish seventh overall. “We were racing inside of the race,” Kasemets said. “We only had to beat our group people, but we still want to do the best we can, and we were pushing our limits.”
Source. Ligier Automotive