The fourth round of the European Le Mans Series was held at Monza this weekend. After a difficult start in practice, the French team scored its first victory since its creation. Often unlucky despite a high level of performance, the drivers, the engineers and the technical staff are finally rewarded for their efforts and the quality of their work over the last six years. By leaving Italy as a race winner, Team Principal Olivier Panis and his partners Sarah and Simon Abadie are approaching the Le Mans 24 Hours with an increased desire to reach once again the top of the podium in LMP2.
On Wednesday, the weather prevented the team from going ahead with its work plan, as a strong storm put an end to the private test. The day after, the sun was back for free practice 1 with 48 degrees on track (P8). After the second morning practice session (P7), Australian James Allen qualified the #65 Oreca in the early afternoon in eighth position for the race.
On Sunday, 42 cars from all categories took the green flag. Julien Canal, from the fourth row of the grid, gained a place at turn 1 (P7), just ahead of Loïc Duval (Realteam Racing) who passed him a few laps later. Back on track after his first pit stop during the first safety car period, the Frenchman moved up to the second place of the race. He brilliantly managed to keep his place, and after 44 laps, he handed the #65 Oreca over to James Allen. Thanks to the excellent job done by the mechanics, James took the lead. Afterwards, the Australian showed a very good pace, managing both the traffic and the pressure from behind him. After more than two hours and half of racing, Will Stevens was in action for the final stint. As usual, the former F1 driver fought hard to keep the lead ahead of Tom Gamble (United Sports #22) unable to catch up with the Briton. The last refueling took place with 30 minutes to go, just before a Full Course Yellow. When the green flag came out again, the gap in favor of Will was up to seven seconds. And at 3 pm precisely, the #65 Oreca 07 crossed the finish line as a race winner.
The other car, Team Ultimate #29, also run by the Tech1 Racing team, put in a very good performance, finishing P11 overall and taking the third place in the Pro-Am category.
Olivier Panis – Team Principal : “Finally! After running out of luck, today our time has come. But above all, the work finally paid off. Our three drivers did an incredible job on track, and I would like to warmly congratulate the whole team as we won the race all together. We were not so competitive at the beginning of the week in terms of balance, but the engineers were able to bounce back perfectly to give the team a very good car on Sunday.
As usual, thanks to great pit stops done by the mechanics, the strategy made a big difference. I would like to thank my partners Sarah and Simon Abadie and Stephane Dilouya, who fought alongside me to achieve this result. Our partners have also always supported us, and we must dedicate this first victory to them. It’s a very emotional moment. I am proud of everyone as we already leave the Italian soil focused on the Le Mans 24 hours.”
Julien Canal : “It was a difficult start as you can expect anything at the first corner here in Monza, especially starting from P8. I was able to avoid a crash in front of me. The car was very strong, with a great pace, 5 tenths of a second close to the pro drivers at the front of me while paying attention to the tyre management. This victory is really a great reward after the bad luck and disappointments of the last two races. The team did a great job in association with the Ultimate sister car by adopting a very good strategy with early pit stops. Thanks to that, I was quickly up to the second place, and I fought hard to hold on to my position and extend the gap to the United car as much as possible. James and Will kept the momentum. Well done to both of them. We reached the top of the podium all together. I am very happy for the team, Olivier (Panis), Sarah and Simon (Abadie). We are one of the teams you can count on. Since four years now, I’m a proud member of this great family!”
James Allen : “I can’t thank the team enough for all their efforts this weekend. We had a rocky start with tough practice results but I was happy with my result in qualification. Ultimately, P8 gave us a good spot to fight from for the race. Our race couldn’t have gone better. A few great calls by the team led to our victory today. Julien handed the car over to me in a great condition, and I came out of the pits in the lead. Will took over later on in the race, and in a terrific effort, he kept our position. I’m extremely grateful that I’ve had the whole team behind me as well as my mum and fiancée this weekend. We couldn’t have done it without all the work the team put in off track. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can bring at the next round: the legendary 24 hours of le Mans.”
Source. MPS Agency