LeSports by Eurasia Motorsport had high hopes of securing back-to-back podiums in the European Le Mans Series this weekend (26-28 August, 2016) at Circuit Paul Ricard, but despite coming desperately close, are content with a fourth-placed finish after thrilling conclusion to the fourth round of the championship.
The weekend started off on the wrong foot after ‘Kevin’ Pu Jun Jin crashed the #33 Oreca Nissan heavily on Friday, forcing the team into extensive overnight repairs and handing driving responsibilities to Tristan Gommendy and Nick de Bruijn.
Eighth position on the grid for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet proved however not to be a major handicap as it turned into a hard-fought race for the final podium position. The team claimed third with just eight-minutes remaining, but was ultimately disappointing to lose out to the #21 DragonSpeed on the penultimate tour.
“It’s a good result after a tough weekend for us,” said LeSports by Eurasia Motorsport Team Principal, Mark Goddard. “Of course we were third almost at the chequered flag and I think I need to cross someone off my Christmas Card list!
“We wanted to get that second podium after the Red Bull Ring and we were very-very close. It’s a good result – we’ll take it – and it proves how far we have come that we’re not thrilled to be fourth.
“The team also deserved credit as the car ran flawlessly all day after the problems on Friday. There’s two rounds still to go and we know we will be fighting for the podium at both Spa and Estoril. This one really just got away today.”
De Bruijn took the first stint under sunny skies and made best of the opening to quickly move up from eighth to fourth position. With the temperature hovering just under 30 degrees Celsius, the race quickly settled in to a rhythm with de Bruijn playing the long-game, lapping in the 1:53s range routinely but able to pick up the pace when needed to maintain the gap to those ahead and behind.
The first round of fuel stops cycled through with 50 minutes complete and de Bruijn continued and regained one position, having briefly lost ground in traffic to the #32 BR 01, and was just six seconds behind third position with three hours remaining.
After a double stint behind the wheel, Gommendy took over and ran in sixth position with just over two hours remaining. Lapping in the 1:51s, two seconds quicker than those ahead, he soon closed the gap, dispatching the #25 Ligier and the #41 Ligier shortly after. As the race played out, Gommendy was on a charge in fourth place with 30-minutes remaining and the final laps were frenetic with the Frenchman chasing down and passing the #38 Gibson, only to be denied the podium right at the end by the #21 car.
The next and penultimate round of the European Le Mans Series takes place at the sweeping Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium on 23-25 September 2016.