COOL Racing scored podium finishes in both races at Road to Le Mans, the fourth round of the 2021 Michelin Le Mans Cup season. Matt Bell and Maurice Smith finished third in the first race on Thursday evening, before Niklas Krütten and Mathieu de Barbuat crossed the line in second on Saturday.
The team entered a third car for the feature event of the Michelin Le Mans Cup season, with regular European Le Mans Series LMP3 driver Krütten joined by de Barbuat in the #19 Ligier JS P320. Also competing were the usual pairings of Matt Bell and Maurice Smith in the #69, with Antoine Doquin and Josh Skelton in the #37.
In Race 1, all three cars took advantage of Safety Car and Full Course Yellow periods, perfectly timing their pit stops. In the closing stages, the trio were all running in the top six. Bell came home to finish third, claiming his and Smith’s third podium at Road to Le Mans in two years, following their two top three finishes in 2020. The result also completed a trio of trips to the Michelin Le Mans Cup rostrum in 2021 adding to podiums in Barcelona and Le Castellet. The #19 car came home fifth despite nursing a slow puncture in the closing stages. Meanwhile, Josh Skelton suffered an unfortunate late spin in the #37 while battling another car for a place on the podium and ended the race 12th.
On Saturday, the #19 of de Barbuat got away cleanly, but both the #69 and #37 were caught up in early incidents, dropping them down the field and eventually finishing 19th and 25th respectively. Following a well-executed driver change, Niklas Krütten reeled in the car ahead for second place, making the move into the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight. From there, the 18-year-old German drove smoothly to the flag, securing the runner-up spot for the #19.
The Michelin Le Mans Cup season continues at Spa-Francorchamps on 18 September.
#19 Ligier JS P320
“I’m so happy to be on the podium at Le Mans, it’s a historic race track and we had a really good weekend. It was a pleasure to work with Mathieu, we made a good pairing and he raced well on his debut with COOL Racing. I was very happy with my overtake for second place, but unfortunately the leader was too far down the road for me to catch up. Thanks to the team for giving me this opportunity to race this weekend, it’s been an incredible experience.”
MATHIEU DE BARBUAT
“Firstly, I want to say a big thanks to the team for having me this weekend, they were great to work with and gave myself and Niklas a great car. We had a strong Race 1, finishing fifth and then an even better Race 2. I’m so happy to be leaving with a trophy, a lot of credit has to go to the team for the amazing strategy. Good luck to COOL Racing for the rest of the season!”
#69 Ligier JS P320
“It’s a pleasure to race on this amazing circuit once again with COOL Racing. Driving on the Circuit de la Sarthe is always an emotional experience and it’s a great honour for me to be back here. I’m very proud that Matt and I were able to finish third in Race 1 and make another trip to the Road to Le Mans podium following our two top three finishes last year. Unfortunately, the second race was tough, we recovered well but didn’t get the result we wanted in the end. Thanks to the team for their incredible work this weekend and I’m looking forward to being back on track at Spa next month.”
“It felt great to race on the Circuit de la Sarthe with COOL Racing again and I’m delighted with the podium finish in Race 1. Mo and I were in the top three in both races last year as well so it was amazing to make it three in a row. Race 2 was more difficult, I tried my best in my stint but we couldn’t repeat our success from the first race. Up next is another famous track in Spa-Francorchamps, so I’m very excited for that.”
#37 Ligier JS P320
“Both Josh and I drove well in Race 1 and worked our way into the podium positions, but unfortunately Josh tangled with another car late on and could only finish 12th. We were in a great position for Race 2 and I made a solid start, but unfortunately I was hit early on, giving us a puncture and damaging the car. We were a long way back after that, but there was still pace in the car and Josh drove well to pick up some places. It’s another frustrating weekend for us, as we once again had the pace to be on the podium. Thanks to the team for giving us such a quick car and hopefully we will have better luck at Spa.”
“I’m really happy to have had the opportunity to drive on this historic circuit, but our results didn’t match our potential. We looked set for a podium in Race 1 but unfortunately, I spun after contact while battling for position. It was such a shame as both myself and Antoine had a really strong race up until that point. In Race 2 we were in a great position at the start, but Antoine was hit on the opening lap and got a puncture. By the time he got back to the pits we were a long way behind, but the pace was decent and we managed to recover some positions. Hopefully our luck will change this season, we’ve shown a lot of promise but not had the results we deserve. Thanks to the team as always and we go again at Spa in September.”
NICOLAS LAPIERRE, MANAGING DIRECTOR
“We’re very happy to have a car on the podium in both races this weekend. Mo and Matt both drove very well in Race 1 and deservedly took another podium at Road to Le Mans. Niklas and Mathieu had two strong races, capped off with an excellent result in Race 2. It was a pleasure to welcome Mathieu and he drove very maturely on his debut with the team. It was a difficult weekend for Antoine and Josh however, they had really strong pace but were unable to score a good result. They’ve shown huge potential all year and been very unlucky. I’m sure their fortune will change soon and hopefully they can get the result they deserve at Spa.”
Source. SAS CLX MOTORSPORT/Photo. Jules Beaumont