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The Road to the Championship: DKR Engineering

LM P3 - 14/11/2019 - Jeff CARTER

Since the LMP3 class was fully integrated into the Michelin Le Mans Cup in 2017 only one team has won the coveted title and that is Luxembourg flagged team DKR Engineering.

In 2017 Belgian driver Jean Glorieux and his Spanish teammate Alex Toril were the first to secure the championship titles for the team and in 2018 it was Germany’s Jens Petersen and Dutch driver Léonard Hoogenboom who took the top honours. 

In 2019 it was the turn of Frenchman François Kirmann and his German partner Laurents Hörr to secure the title after a season long battle with all British team Lanan Racing, with the final race in Portimão deciding the destination of the 2019 Michelin Le Mans Cup Team and Driver titles. 

Kirmann and Hörr amassed 100 points in the seven races they competed in the no3 Norma M30-Nissan with two wins in Barcelona and race 2 at the Road to Le Mans, three further podiums and three pole positions. They finished 8.5 points ahead of Duncan Tappy and Michael Benham in the no25 Lanan Racing Norma M30-Nissan.

The season got off to a solid start at Le Castellet with Francois Kirmann securing the first pole position of 2019 to lead the 31-car grid into the first corner. In a two hour race peppered by safety cars and full course yellows the no3 DKR Engineering Norma fought a close battle with the no25 Lanan Racing Norma, with Laurents Hörr passing Duncan Tappy beyond track limits in the second part of the race and incurring a drive through penalty as a result.  Hörr fought back to finish third on the road, which became second when the no9 Graff Norma was penalised for not slowing down under a full course yellow and the no3 DKR Norma was promoted to second place behind Lanan Racing.

In Monza another podium finish followed but it was the weather that played a significant part in deciding the race. A thunderstorm late in the race had all car scrambling for the pits to fit Michelin wets, with Duncan Tappy getting past the Nielsen Racing Norma of Colin Noble at the pitstop. Noble was then passed by the no3 DKR Norma in the final laps of the race with Kirmann and Hörr standing on the second step of the podium once again.

Laurents Hörr took the teams second pole position of the season for the opening race of the Road to Le Mans weekend. However, in the 55-minute race the no3 Norma suffered bodywork damage in a collision on the opening lap that say François Kirmann head to the pits for repairs. He rejoined the battle after the repairs were completed and Laurents Hörr brought the car home in 6th place.

A front row start for the feature race on the morning before the 87th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans saw the Franco-German pairing bring the car home at the front of the 49 car field, with the no25 Lanan Racing Norma in second place.

With three two-hour races remaining, the battle was now on between the two rival teams.  DKR Engineering added a second win to their tally in Barcelona with Laurents Hörr finishing 16 seconds ahead of Colin Noble’s Nielsen Racing Norma. The no25 Lanan Racing Norma wasn’t on track for the race in Spain after the Norma was damaged beyond repair when Michael Benham went off in testing on Friday. Benham’s car ended upside down in the barriers and while the British driver was OK, he wouldn’t be able to take any further part in the event.

In the penultimate round at Spa-Francorchamps the no25 Norma returned to try and make up lost ground in the race to the title. In the race, the no39 Graff Norma took the French teams first win of the season after the race leading no3 DKR Norma was given a stop and go penalty for spinning the wheels at the earlier pitstop.  Laurent Hörr fought back to finish third behind Colin Noble’s Nielsen Racing Norma and ahead of Duncan Tappy in the no25 Lanan Norma.

However, there was drama after the race when the top three cars were excluded from the result when the crashbox fixing screws were not in compliance with the homologation form.  This promoted Duncan Tappy and Michael Benham into first place and into the championship lead by 7 points going into the final race of the 2019 season in Portugal.

François Kirmann secured the best possible start for the final race with the third pole position of the season, with the no25 Lanan Racing Norma finishing second fastest and lining up alongside their rivals on the front row.  The scene was now set for a head-to-head showdown.  However, the championship was decided when the no25 Norma and the no3 Norma collided while Duncan Tappy was attempting to overtake Hörr for second place.  The battle continued for the next two corners and the no25 Norma ran into the DKR Engineering M30 at T8 damaging both cars and forcing them both into the pitlane. 

The no3 Norma returned to the track still in third but the damage to the Lanan Racing Norma was more extensive and Tappy rejoined one lap down. The British driver was then served with a 3-minute stop and go penalty for causing the collision. This dropped the team down to 17th place and three laps behind the leaders.

Laurents Hörr brought the no3 DKR Engineering Norma M30-Nissan home in third place behind the no14 RLR M Sport Ligier of Alex Kapadia and Colin Noble in the no2 Nielsen Racing Norma to claim the 2019 Michelin Le Mans Cup Team and Driver titles. This gave DKR Engineering a hat-trick of titles and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2020 Michelin Le Mans Cup which begins in Barcelona in April next year.

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