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The French Rule at Le Mans

LMC - 13/06/2019 - Jeff CARTER

Three of the four winning drivers in the first of the two Road to Le Mans races were racing under the French Tricolor and celebrated a home win by standing on the top step of the most famous podium in endurance racing.

The 55-minute race was interrupted by a 21-minute Safety Car period after the no9 Graff Norma went off into the barriers at the Corvette Curve.  The race resumed with a 20-minute sprint to the chequered flag.

In the LMP3 category it was the all French no39 Graff Norma M30-Nissan of Adrien Chila and Nicolas Schatz which was victorious, taking the overall victory at the head of the 49 car strong field.  

The GT3 victory went to French driver Fabien Lavergne and his Danish teammate Mikkel Mac in the no71 Luzich Racing Ferrari. The Franco-Danish duo recorded their second win of the season to move into the lead in the Michelin Le Mans Series drivers championship after three races.

Sprinting to the Chequered Flag
The early running was made by the no19 M Racing Norma of Yann Ehrlacher, the young French driver battling hard with the no3 DKR Engineering Norma of François Kirmann, which had started the race on pole.  At the end of the first lap the no3 Norma came into the pits with front end damage from an unseen incident, dropping Kirmann out of contention.

The no99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage of Ross Gunn made the most of its pole position and was well ahead of the following GT3 pack at the start of the race. The no71 Luzich Racing Ferrari of Fabien Lavergne and the no40 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes of Tom Onslow-Cole were battling hard for the minor podium places early in the race.

Michael Benham in the no25 Lanan Racing Norma was second behind the no19 M Racing M30 and just ahead of the no 18 Nielsen Racing Norma of James Littlejohn.  The no22 United Autosports Ligier of Matt Bell moved up the order on the third lap, jumping up to second and ten seconds behind Ehrlacher’s Norma.  

The race was neutralised when the no9 Norma went off, bringing out the safety car.  The safety car stayed out for over 20 minutes, which meant the mandatory pitstop was taken with the race neutralised.

When racing resumed the no19 Norma was driven by Laurent Millara was leading but was soon caught and passed by Duncan Tappy in the no25 Lanan Racing Norma, with James McGuire in the no22 United Autosport Ligier in third.  Nicolas Schatz was fourth but soon moved up past McGuire and Millara.

Andrew Howard was now at the wheel of the no99 Aston Martin, with Valentin Pierburg in the no40 Mercedes and catching the leading car.  Mikkel Mac was at the wheel of the no71 Ferrari and soon caught and passed both cars to take the lead.  Pierburg also passed the Aston Martin after a few attempts that were successfully blocked by Howard.

The no25 Lanan Racing Norma of Duncan Tappy was still leading the race with ten minutes remaining when the British driver had to pit for a drive through penalty for an unsafe release from the pit box. Nicolas Schatz took the lead and took the chequered flag over four seconds ahead of the no5 DKR Engineering Norma of Marco Cencetti, with Colin Noble in the no2 Nielsen Racing Norma in third place.

Mikkel Mac took the chequered flag to secure the GT3 victory in the no71 Luzich Racing Ferrari, the Dane 15 seconds ahead of the no40 Mercedes, Valentin Pierburg getting past the no99 Aston Martin.  Andrew Howard was looking at taking the final podium spot but on the last lap there was contact with another car and the no99 Beechdean AMR Vantage was damaged and failed to finish the race.  The final podium place went to the no51 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Christoph Ulrich and Maurizio Mediani.

The second race of the weekend will take place on Saturday 15 June at 11h30.

CLICK HERE to see the results from Race 1 of the Road to Le Mans

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