LeSports by Eurasia Motorsport showed great pace and promise in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) 4 Hours of Silverstone (15-16 April) before being denied a potential podium finish and forced into an early retirement by a freak and improbable incident.
The Great British weather was as unpredictable as ever for the opening round of the 2016 ELMS, as rain lashed Silverstone on Friday (15 April) and blizzard-like conditions struck the circuit just prior to qualifying on Saturday (16 April).
The unseasonably cold ambient temperatures made tyre warming an issue, but LeSports by Eurasia Motorsport’s drivers – Kevin Pu Jun Jin, Nick de Bruijn and Tristan Gommendy – also entered the weekend with little experience of the grooved wet weather Dunlops.
It was therefore crucial to clock up as many miles as possible on a sodden track in FP1, but the session concluded prematurely for the Asian outfit when a traction control problem resulted in a high-speed collision with the barriers at the super-fast Copse Corner.
The majority of laps were subsequently completed on a dry track in second practice; Pu Jun Jin racked up more than 25 tours of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, while de Bruijn and Gommendy notched up a handful of laps in the #33 ORECA 05 Nissan LMP2 prototype.
There was a great deal of excitement among Eurasia Motorsport’s Asian technicians when snow fell at Silverstone during the build-up to qualifying the following morning (Saturday 16 April), but this was tempered by the frustration felt by the drivers.
With little or no experience of the ORECA 05 and Dunlop tyres in such treacherous conditions, Gommendy was ultimately unable to unlock the car’s pace and he qualified 12th at the end of the red flag-affected session.
Nevertheless, there was an air of positivity within the LeSports by Eurasia Motorsport garage during the build-up to the 4 Hours of Silverstone itself, having set super-competitive lap times during an encouraging runout at the Northamptonshire racetrack earlier in the week.
And the team was right to be positive, as Gommendy demonstrated the team’s true potential by successfully negotiated his way through the typical first-lap scrum and rapidly rising from 12th to fourth prior to engaging in a fight for the final podium spot.
It seemed like only a matter of time before the Frenchman disposed of third-placed Bjorn Wirdheim in the #40 Krohn Racing Ligier.
However, his charge ended when, in a freak and completely unprecedented incident, a piece of debris hit the marshal’s emergency ignition switch, bringing the Eurasia Motorsport driver to a halt less than 30 minutes into the race.
Attention now turns to Round 2 of the 2016 European Le Mans Series (ELMS) – the 4 Hours of Imola – at Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Italy on 13-15 May.