Image credit: Adrenal Media/ELMS.
The weather forecast looks favourable and the team at SportsCarGlobal are preparing to arrive at southern France’s famous ‘Circuit Paul Ricard’ tomorrow. While we are packing our bags and filling up our various modes of transport, let’s take a look at what the weekend has in store for us and everyone else this weekend.
The European Le Mans Series (ELMS) returns from the summer hiatus for the fourth round of the series but for many of the teams it will be their second visit to Paul Ricard this year, having been onsite for the season’s test days in March.
The 29 car entry list continues to look healthy boasting 12 cars in the LMP2 category; four in the new and exciting LMP3 class, eight in LMGTE and five cars on the grid in GTC. Of the 80 drivers entered this weekend, almost a quarter (14) are French and can boast Le Castellet as their ‘home’ race; the majority of them in the LMP2 category.
Series leaders JOTA Sport head to the penultimate round aiming to better 2014’s 4th place finish and consolidate their narrow championship lead. Simon Dolan, Filipe Albuquerque and Harry Tincknell have so far achieved a win (Red Bull Ring), plus second (Silverstone) and third (Imola) placings in their Gibson 015S-Nissan.
“Paul Ricard has been a bit of a difficult track for us over the years and is one of the few places that JOTA hasn’t won at!” mused team leader Simon Dolan. “The circuit doesn’t ideally suit the Gibson very well because of the long straights. The TDS Oreca will certainly be hard to beat but there are a host of other cars that will be quick.
“We will be pushing flat out for our second ELMS win of the season to tighten our grip on the championship.”
The French Thiriet by TDS Racing team, which is currently second in the championship and just two points behind championship leaders JOTA Sport, will be entering the only ORECA 05 on the grid for its three French drivers, Pierre Thiriet, Tristan Gommendy and Ludovic Badey.
Murphy Prototypes have achieved some of its best performances during its four-seasons of competition in the ELMS at the track in the Var region of France. In 2014, Nathanaël Berthon, who, with a time of 1:47.837, set the fastest ever recorded lap at Paul Ricard by an ELMS car, has also always done well at Ricard and he and the team will be aiming to repeat the excellent form they showed at the official test session earlier this year.
“History shows that Paul Ricard is a track that suits us and we see no reason why we cannot continue the success we’ve achieved there in the past”, commented Team Principal Greg Murphy. “We have the car, the team, the data, the set up and the drivers to deliver a top result and we will keep pushing for the title as hard as we can, for as long as we can, so we’re really looking forward to next weekend.”
Joining Nathanaël Berthon in the team’s Oreca 03R will be Mark Patterson from New York and Anglo-Irish driver Michael Lyons.
Local star Nicolas Minassian (he was born in Marseille), will also be doing all he can to get a podium finish at his home race for the #20 AF Racing BR 01.
American challengers Krohn Racing have confirmed that Frenchman Olivier Pla will take the wheel of the team’s Ligier JS P2 alongside series regulars Ozz Negri and team owner Tracy Krohn. Pla replaces Nic Jonsson who is expected take on a new role as the team seeks its first podium finish in ELMS competition. The distinctively coloured Ligier is is the only non-Nissan powered car on the LMP2 grid instead utilising a Judd engine.
One to watch in the LMGTE class is the MarcVDS team; boasting the world’s only GTE-spec BMW Z4 the team and drivers Andy Priaulx (GB), Henry Hassid (F), and Jesse Krohn (Fin) have been making steady progress with the car this year and could be a serious challenger for a podium having tested extensively at the southern French circuit.
In addition to the racing, the ELMS team have prepared a free relaxation zone with reclining chairs and tables where you can spend some time having a drink under the umbrellas. While some will be resting, or taking advantage of the massage area, others will have the opportunity to test Tattoos in the specially organised “Tattoo Station” and should the ladies tire of the track action they will even be able to get their nails painted in the “Nail Bar”.
If you have a paddock pass the area will also offer “pétanque”, a Segway driving experience, merchandising, food and beverages in the two bars inside the paddock and thanks to the DJ in place, visitors will also find Deep House playing in the afternoon (perhaps for some, an opportunity to enjoy the sounds of the track instead!) .
Outside the paddock, accessible to all the visitors, the new Xtrem Park of the Paul Ricard circuit offers various adrenaline full experiences, including Zip lines and quad bikes.
General entry is free all weekend and paddock passes are just 10€, with a great weather forecast, the promise of great racing and entertainment what is stopping you? Grab a cheap flight to Marseille and enjoy a weekend at the ELMS.