ELMS Six Hours of Le Castellet an Exciting Season Opener

April 14, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
The Theriet-TDS Racing Oreca 03-Nissan ran well and did an excellent job in the pits to win the race. (europeanlemansseries.com)
The Theriet-TDS Racing Oreca 03-Nissan ran well and did an excellent job in the pits to win the race. (europeanlemansseries.com)

The European Le Mans series held its first race of the season, the Six Hours of Castellet, and against all predictions the race was a tremendous success.

After the World Endurance Championship siphoned off the best teams and the P1 prototypes, not many people gave ELMS a chance to survive. However, 21 competitive cars showed up at the Paul Ricard circuit, and put on an entertaining race with a surprisingly tight finish.

The Thiriet TDS Oreca-Nissan won the P2 class by a lap, and the Loeb Racing Oreca-Nissan, in its first race, captured second handily. The fight for third came down to the wire as the Status GP Lola-Judd fought worn tires to finish just nine seconds ahead of the Greaves Zytek-Nissan. Had the race been a few minutes longer, the result might have reversed.

The Thiriet TDS Oreca Nissan did almost everything right. The team saved 1:30 over the first six pit stops compared to its rivals; this added up to almost a lap- advantage just through precision pit work. The car pitted for a final splash of fuel on lap 176; then race control called it back on lap 182 to repair its front bodywork—apparently some essential louvers were broken. Despite the extra stop the #46 Thiriet TDS Racing Oreca Nissan won the race by a lap.  

The Sebastien Loeb Racing Oreca-Nissan which finished second was a brand new car run by a brand new team—they hadn’t had the car long enough to do proper testing and still beat the rest of the P2 field.

[etssp 560]The battle for third provided extra entertainment at the end of the race. The Greaves Motorsports Zytek-Nissan was solidly in second when a two-minute penalty for a pit lane violation—refueling crew not wearing proper safety gear, a repeated offense, apparently—dropped the car to fourth on lap 146.

Alex Brundle, at the wheel of the Greaves Zytek, spent the rest of the race chasing Alexander Simms on the Status GP Lola-Judd. Brundle had fresher tires; Simms had a lap’s advantage with less than an hour to run.

Brundle pushed hard, cutting the lead in half in the next ten laps, cutting it to 21 seconds by lap 183, and finally to nine scant seconds by lap 189.

In GT-Pro the JMW Ferrari took the lead in the final minutes when the JMB Ferrari pitted for a splash of fuel. Jonny Cocker, in his first race in a year, managed to hold off Jaime Melo and still save enough fuel to finish a few car-lengths ahead.

This was an even closer fight than the battle for third in P2. Jaime Melo in the #83 JMB Racing Ferrari pitted for a splash of fuel with 9:15 to go. The JMB car was running for pure speed while its rival, the #66 JMW Motorsports Ferrari, was trying to stretch its fuel to the end, avoiding a last stop.

Johnny Cocker, who hadn’t had a steady ride since the American Le Mans Series team of Lord Drayson had folded at the end of 2011, was behind the wheel of the JMW Ferrari, facing a Ferrari factory driver. Despite the pressure, Cocker prevailed, holding off the charging JMB Ferrari through the final laps to win by fractions of a second.

European Le Mans Series Six Hours of Castellet

 

#

Cat.

Team

Car

Laps

1

46

LMP2

Oreca 03-Nissan

Thiriet by TDS Racing

189

2

19

LMP2

Oreca 03-Nissan

Sebastien Loeb Racing

188

3

17

LMP2

Lola B12/80 Coupe-Judd HK

Status GP

188

4

1

LMP2

Zytek Z11SN-Nissan

Greaves Motorsport

188

5

11

LMP2

Oreca 03-Judd

Race Performance

185

6

24

LMP2

Morgan-Judd

Oak Racing

185

7

10

LMP2

Oreca 03-Nissan

Pecom Racing

183

8

42

LM PC

Formula Le Mans-Oreca-09

Curtis Racing Technologies

176

9

66

LMGTE PRO

Ferrari 458 Italia

JMW Motorsport

176

10

83

LMGTE PRO

Ferrari 458 Italia

JMB Racing

176

11

75

LMGTE AM

Porsche 911 RSR (997)

Prospeed Competition

175

12

44

LMP2

Norma M200P-Judd

Extreme Limite ARIC

174

13

38

LMP2

Zytek Z11SN-Nissan

JOTA

174

14

67

LMGTE AM

Porsche 911 RSR (997)

IMSA Performance Matmut

174

15

61

LMGTE PRO

Ferrari 458 Italia

Kessel Racing

173

16

99

LMGTE AM

Ferrari 458 Italia

JMB Racing

172

17

69

LMGTE AM

Aston Martin Vantage

Gulf Racing

160

18

60

LMGTE AM

Ferrari 458 Italia

AF Corse

144

19

40

LM PC

Formula Le Mans-Oreca-09

Boutsen Ginion Racing

111

20

18

LMP2

Oreca 03-Nissan

Murphy Prototypes

64

21

45

LMP2

Oreca 03-Nissan

Boutsen Ginion Racing

27