Austria didn’t hold an ELMS race for three years. Thus, the French team led by Olivier Panis and Sarah and Simon Abadie was back racing around the 4.318 km Red Bull Ring circuit. Unfortunately, the Austrian round turned out to be quite tough for many reasons such as hard rainfall through the race. Despite everyone’s efforts and determination, the #65 Oreca finished its run in P14.
On Thursday, for a private testing session, Will Stevens and Julien Canal got reunited with teammate James Allen after his positive test for Covid-19 ahead of the 2021 opening race. After two free practice sessions devoted to working on different strategies due to changing weather conditions, the #65 Oreca trio qualified P10 on Saturday on a slightly damp track with the time set by former F1 driver Will Stevens. The result was disappointing due to performance problems in his second run.
On Sunday, at 11:00 am after a 10-minute warm-up, Julien Canal started from the 5th row of the grid, on a dry track. Collisions in the first lap forced the safety car to enter the track. At the restart, the driver from Le Mans fought against François Hériau at the wheel of the #29 Ultimate car, also technically managed by Tech1 Racing. After an hour and a half of racing after which we climbed back to P5, James Allen made his debut in the #65 Oreca. Unfortunately, after a few laps, he went off the track and dropped back to P10. A heavy downpour came after 2 hours and 15 minutes of racing, and the Australian found himself stuck in the gravel trap for 8 minutes – several cars suffered the same fate -, and the safety car was back on track. After being extracted, James returned to the pits to give the car over to Will Stevens who started from 15th place and 4 laps behind the leader. Throughout his stint, the Briton made all his efforts as usual and finally crossed the chequered flag in P14. A race to forget. Let’s focus now on the forthcoming 4 Hours of Le Castellet next month.
Sarah Abadie – Team Manager : “It’s obviously a very disappointing race, especially with the fact that we were P5 when Julien handed over the car to James. The car was already on wet tires at the beginning of the rainfall, and we didn’t have to go back to the pits. Unfortunately, during James’ stint, two off-track incidents cost us dearly, and afterwards, Will could not save the situation, despite very good lap times. We probably missed a podium opportunity, but we know that we are one of the major teams this year, and we will focus on getting back to the top in the next Le Castellet race. We will do our best to sort our straight line performance problems out! A nice consolation though for our Tech1 Racing team in charge of technical support for the Ultimate car, on the podium of the pro-am and in P5 overall after a truly great race.
Source. Panis Racing