Last weekend in Portugal, the 4 Hours of Portimao brought the 2018 European Le Mans Series to an end. ORECA’s delegation managed to tick all boxes throughout the season, even achieving an ORECA-only overall podium! G-Drive Racing clinched the title for the second year back to back, Racing Engineering finished runner-up and IDEC Sport Racing took the third place.
Let’s look back at a thrilling season everywhere across Europe…
G-Drive Racing, early winner
Just like last year, the Russian team entered the European Le Mans Series but this time with two cars, the No. 26 managed by TDS Racing and the No. 40 operated by Graff Racing.
G-Drive Racing leader and driver (No. 26 car) Roman Rusinov’s ambition was clear right from the start of the season: to clinch the title. They managed to secure it even before the final round had taken place, thanks to a flawless and consistent season made of great performances. The No. 40 car performed well too but because of different incidents, it was never enough to realise the full potential.
Racing Engineering, a revelation coming from Spain
Racing Engineering was new among ORECA’s delegation this season. With ambitious crew Pla/Petit/Nato, the Spanish team wanted to discover the championship and the ORECA 07 this year, yet not disregarding performances. During first race at Paul Ricard circuit, Racing Engineering demonstrated serious competitiveness by claiming the first place. Though it was not achieved again at the following rounds, the trio of French drivers showed excellent consistency and continuously scored as many points as possible, which paid off as it granted them a runner-up finish.
IDEC Sport Racing, have already got it all
Among new arrivals inside ORECA’s delegation this season was also French team IDEC Sport Racing. Quickly, trio Lafargue/Chatin/Rojas showed great speed, having posted several fastest laps, one of which allowed to clinch the pole position at the opening round. At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nicolas Minassian’s team definitely stood out – Paul-Loup Chatin was at his best level. Great performances were delivered throughout the rest of the European season. The team clearly had the right potential to aim for the title but was unfortunate at times. This bronze medal bodes well for the future and is very promising given that the team only discovered the ORECA 07 this year.
DragonSpeed, bronze drivers crew
For their new campaign in the European Le Mans Series, DragonSpeed, the most French of American teams, got back onto the track with the same crew: Hedman/Lapierre/Hanley. Right from the start of the season, Elton Julian’s men knew that it would be a tough mission, six bronze drivers only competing in the LM P2 class. In order to increase performance levels, Henrik Hedman relied on the experience of professional drivers Nicolas Lapierre and Ben Hanley. In qualifying sessions, the team showed great potential with highly efficient Michelin tyres. During races, this potential was realised with a podium and some other great performances achieved.
Duqueine Engineering, 100% French team
As for Duqueine Engineering, 2018 was also about discovering the ORECA 07 as well as the LM P2 class.
The 4 Hours of Portimao perfectly reflected this 100% French crew. Great potential with quality drivers Ragues/Jamin/Panciatici as demonstrated by the best lap time they posted during free practice sessions and the pole position in Portimao. In motorsport, some things are also down to luck sometimes, which combined with great performances allows to climb on the highest step of the podium. There is no doubt that in 2019, the team of Gilles Duqueine – man of the year in the European Le Mans Series – will rise to the top.
Algarve Pro Racing, discovering the ORECA 07
For Algarve Pro Racing too, this year was an opportunity to discover the ORECA 07. With a team comprising two silver drivers and one gold, they were in the best conditions to clinch great results. Despite races sometimes full of obstacles, and several podiums that they could have achieved, the trio managed to stay on course and finished in the middle of the championships overall ranking.
Graff Racing, there was potential
In 2017, Graff Racing took part in their first LM P2 season with the ORECA 07. They performed well, as shown by the win they clinched at the final round in Portimao. In 2018, the team returned motivated more than ever and determined to show their potential, aiming for an honourable result. At the end of the season, after several hectic races, the team finished just off the overall Top 10. There was potential but it was not always realised.
“Against tough competition, we really wanted to defend the title clinched by G-Drive Racing by DragonSpeed in 2017; winning a second time back to back is never easy. With G-Drive Racing’s success, it’s mission accomplished. Congratulations to Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Eric Vergne. TDS Racing, which entered that car, had aimed for this title for several seasons now, so it’s well-deserved.
Four wins out of six is a very positive outcome obviously. But beyond the results themselves, we’re particularly pleased to see that all of the teams were able to shine with the ORECA 07, including those who were making their first steps with that car or in the LM P2 class. The level is excellent, the races are spectacular, with young talents emerging and gentlemen drivers fighting hard. It’s a key championship and so this title is not only an achievement in itself but also a source of motivation to do even better in the future.” Anthony Megevand, LM P2 Customer Competition Manager
ORECA’s delegation ticked all kinds of boxes in this 2018 European Le Mans Series season: 4 wins, 5 poles, one title, and one ORECA 07-only podium. We are looking forward to seeing what will happen next season, also with new teams such as Cool Racing and RLR Motorsport (LM P3 championship winner) joining the competition. Meanwhile, the focus is on FIA WEC Superseason, with the 6 Hours of Shanghai coming up!