DKR Engineering Take Second LMP3 Title / Kessel Racing Victorious in GT3
The third season of the Michelin Le Mans Cup saw bigger grids and plenty of on track action at each of the six venues on the 2018 calendar. All four titles were decided at Spa-Francorchamps ahead of the final race of the season in Portugal with DKR Engineering retaining the team title they won in 2017. Kessel Racing took the GT3 title in the debut season for the Swiss team and securing the automatic invitation to the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans.
DKR Engineering got the defence of their 2017 title off to a great start after Leonard Hoogenboom and Jens Petersen took the chequered flag in a hard fought victory in race one of the 2018 season at the Circuit Paul Ricard. There was drama on the last lap when Petersen lost control at T1 and the car hit the barriers. The German, who held a 30 second lead, got going and brought the Norma home to take the chequered flag just 2.1 seconds ahead of the no79 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Ligier of Colin Noble. It was a lights-to-flag victory for the no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari after Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini took maximum points in the GT3 category.
It was a sense of déjà vu at Monza in May when the no3 DKR Engineering Norma and no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari made it two wins from two starts at the ‘Temple of Speed’.
The two one-hour races for Road to Le Mans in June saw a change in fortunes for the championship leaders. In race one held on Thursday afternoon, the pole position holders in both the LMP3 and GT3 classes took victory with ELMS race winners Mikkel Jensen and Kay Van Berlo took the chequered flag in the no11 Eurointernational Ligier JSP3-Nissan and Pierguiseppe Perazzini and Marco Cioci scored their first win of the 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup season in the no71 AF Corse Ferrari F488 GT3.
Michael Benham and Duncan Tappy, in the no25 Lanan Racing Norma, stood on the top step of the podium at the end of an exciting Road to Le Mans encounter just ahead of the 86th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The GT3 category was won by the no51 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Christoph Ulrich and Maurizio Mediani after the no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari retired following a collision early in the race.
The 2 hours race at the Red Bull Ring saw a return to the top step for the no3 DKR Engineering Norma and the no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari in a drama filled encounter in Austria.
The penultimate race of the 2018 season took place in Belgium and the weather played its part in deciding the winners. Ecurie Ecosse/ Nielsen took their first Michelin Le Mans Cup victory with Colin Noble in front of his teammate James Littlejohn for a 1-2 finish at Spa in the torrential rain. A third-place finish for no3 DKR Engineering Norma secured the LMP3 Michelin Le Mans Cup title for the team from Luxembourg and drivers Jens Petersen and Leonard Hoogenboom. A fourth victory of the 2018 season for the no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari secured the GT3 title for the Swiss team and for Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini.
With the titles decided the teams headed to Portimão for the final round of the season. The no79 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Ligier of Colin Noble and Alasdair McCaig took their second win in a row in a nail biting finish that saw the top four LMP3 cars split by less than two seconds at the chequered flag after two hours of racing. In the GT3 class it was win number five for the 2018 champions Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini as they stormed from pole position to the chequered flag in the no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari F488 to finish their season off in style.