European Le Mans Series Round 3. Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria. July 2018. Image: John Stevens for JellyBaby.Media

The European Le Mans Series returns to Austria’s Red Bull Ring this weekend for the third race of the 2018 season. Nestled into the stunning Styrian Alps the Red Bull Ring’s ‘money no object’ philosophy makes it  one of the team’s – and media’s – favourite tracks on the calendar.

42 cars have made the journey to Austria for Sunday’s 4 hour race; 18 in both the LMP2 and LMP3 category and six in LMGTE.

G-Drive’s Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola arrive in Spielberg as championship leaders with a total of 37 points, and are once again joined by newly crowned Formula E Champion Jean-Eric Vergne. The TDS trio of François Perrodo, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Loïc Duval are just 1 point behind with 36 points. It’s still unclear though if they will complete in all the remaining rounds of the championship as the team initially only intended to do the opening three races of the season. Le Castellet winners Norman Nato, Olivier Pla and Paul Petit are currently third with 35 points. All is still to play for between those three teams, so we might well see the series go undecided until the chequered flag falls at Portimao in October.

In LMP3 it’s the #11 Eurointernational drivers Giorgio Mondini and Kay Van Berlo who are leading the series with a 10 point gap (40 vs 30) over Ross Kaiser and Terrence Woodward in the #6 360 Racing Ligier. Currently in third position with 25,5 points are Rob Garofall, John Farano and Job Van Uitert in the #15 RLR Msport. Watch out for the #9 AT Racing Ligier this weekend, as it’s the home race for the Talkanitsa father and son pairing who are joined by Mikkel Jensen.

Moving onto LMGTE, JMW Motorsport leads with 37 points after their last lap victory at Le Castellet and a fourth place in Monza. ELMS debutants Ebimotors had a strong start to the season collecting two podium finishes in the blue Porsche 911 RSR and are trailing JMW with 31 points. Last year’s winners at the Red Bull Ring Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott won Round 2 at Monza in May and will be eager to repeat that again here in Austria on Sunday.

Free Practice 1

Oreca dominated Friday’s free practice session, taking up the first eight positions in the LMP2 class. All but one Oreca (the #31 APR Rebellion) finished ahead of the Dallaras and Ligiers in the field.

Paul-Loup Chatin in the #28 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 was quickest around the Austrian track. His lap time of 1.20.067 was just 3 thousands of a second faster than fellow Frenchman Norman Nato in the #24 Racing Engineering Oreca. Matthieu Vaxiviere in the #33 TDS Racing Oreca went third fastest, only 21 thousands behind Nato locking out the top three positions for the French drivers!

The first non-Oreca chassis was the #35 SMP Racing Dallara of Matevos Isaakyan who lapped the Styrian track in 1.20.836, just under 0.8 seconds slower than Chatin. Ulsterman Wayne Boyd was the quickest of the Ligier drivers in 10th position overall with a lap time of 1.21.053.

In LMP3 it was Ultimate who’s Nissan powered Norma M30 took top spot; Matthieu Lahaye setting a 1.26.927, just 0.018 seconds ahead of Matthew Bell in the #3 United Autosports Ligier. Another Norma rounded out the top three positions, the #19 M.Racing-YMR of Swiss driver Lucas Legeret, finishing just under 0.4 seconds behind Lahaye. Sean Rayhall in the #2 United Autosports and Timur Boguslavkiy in the #5 NEFIS by Speed Factory Ligiers rounded out the top 5.

European Le Mans Series Round 3. Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria. July 2018. Image: JellyBaby.Media

JMW Motorsport set Friday’s pace in the LMGTE category with Miguel Molina at the wheel of their Ferrari F488 GTE, sporting it’s usual distinctive yellow and black livery post Le Mans; the Spaniard clocking in a 1.28.829. Matteo Cairoli put the #88 Proton Competition Porsche on second place, just over half a second behind behind the Ferrari. Despite the green #83 Krohn Racing Ferrari having a few off-track excursions, Andrea Bertolini set the third fastest time this afternoon with a 1:29.487.

European Le Mans Series Round 3. Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria. July 2018. Image: JellyBaby.Media for Sportscarglobal.

Words: Kristof Vermeulen/John Stevens. Photos: Bob Ten Kley/John Stevens/JellyBaby.Media