Ferrari enjoyed a dream debut at the 4 Hours of Le Castellet, the opening round of the European Le Mans Series. It came courtesy of an authoritative one-two recorded by the 488 GTE of Luzich Racing and the all-female crew of Kessel Racing. After winning the International GT Open last year with Mikkel Mac and the invaluable support of official Competizioni GT driver Alessandro Pier Guidi, the Swiss team pulled off a perfect series debut. Its drivers Alessandro Pier Guidi, Fabien Lavergne and Nicklas Nielsen dominated from the light to the chequered flag. The three women behind the wheel of the Ferrari no. 83 of Kessel Racing clinched a deserved and much-desired result, after a practically flawless race. There were excellent performances overall from the other Maranello cars in the French race, which finished fourth, fifth and ninth.
First hour. After his amazing start in the Le Mans Cup, Fabien Lavergne repeated the feat in the European Le Mans Series taking the overall lead. Behind him came a trio of Porsches and the three Ferrari 488 GTEs of Wei Lu, Manuela Gostner, Duncan Cameron, all bunched tightly together. Lavergne was the only one who gained ground over his rivals and so could manage the pace right from the start. The Ferraris lapped quickly and moved into the leading positions. The sole exception was the 488 GTE no. 60 of Kessel Racing, which went into a spin after colliding with a rival it was attempting to pass.
Second hour. The start of the second hour saw two Ferraris in the first two places. The no. 51 of Luzich Racing led, followed 31 seconds later by the no. 66 of JMW Motorsport. Then came the 488 GTE no. 55 of Spirit of Race, just one-tenth of a second ahead of the Porsche no. 77. Kessel Racing’s all-female Ferrari crew put in a great performance in sixth with some excellent times, just seven seconds off the podium. The twin car no. 60 was attempting a difficult comeback. With a decidedly aggressive and fast stint, Wei Lu moved past the Porsche into second.
Third hour. At the stroke of the third hour, the 488 GTE of Luzich Racing was still in the lead followed, depending on the pit stops, by the Porsche no. 77 and the Ferrari no. 66 of JMW Motorsport. With the various pit stops over, the Ferraris again held the top three positions, with a particularly good performance from Frey who, however, collided with a prototype while attempting to pass it on one of the turns on the final mixed stretch. Ahead the final hour, the all-female crew was in second, 23.5 seconds off the race leader Nicklas Nielsen, while the trio of Spirit of Race no. 55 was in third, a lap behind the frontrunner.
Fourth hour. The last part of the race began with pit stops, including driver changes and the usual tyre replacement and refuelling operations. Andrea Piccini climbed into the 488 GTE no. 60, still facing a tricky comeback, while the leading car now had Competizioni GT driver Alessandro Pier Guidi at the wheel. Michelle Gatting replaced Frey in car no. 83, while Cressoni ploughed on in car no. 66. Matthew Griffin took the wheel of Ferrari no. 55 of Spirit of Race for the final stint. The chance of a Ferrari one-two-three faded 26 minutes before the chequered flag, when Cressoni yielded to Matteo Cairoli, in the Porsche. However, the Ferrari drivers and teams still celebrated a one-two, rounded off by JMW Motorsport’s fourth place with Segal, Lu, and Cressoni, Spirit of Race’s fifth with Cameron, Griffin and Scott and the ninth of Schiavoni, Pianezzola and Piccini in the second Kessel Racing car.
Next round. The next race of the European Le Mans Series will be held on the weekend of 12 May at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.