Team Endurance Challenge continues its tour of the Old Continent with three ORECA-FLM 09 cars entered in the European Le Mans Series LM PC class. After England and Italy, the French team heads to Austria and the Red Bull Ring, for a 3-hour race alongside the World Series by Renault. On a legendary circuit, host to an F1 Grand Prix from 1970 to 1987 and again from 1997 to 2003 under the name A1-Ring, the current championship leaders Gary Hirsch and Paul-Loup Chatin will again share driving duties on the No.49, while their teammates, Soheil Ayari and Anthony Pons, will drive the No.48. Behind the wheel of the No.47, Alex Loan will be joined by the quick Nico Verdonck.
#47 – Alex Loan/Nico Verdonck
Coming from single-seaters, Andorran Alex Loan, the youngest driver on the team, continues his constant progression. With a good performance at Imola, he finished third with Matthieu Lecuyer. In Austria, he will be joined by Nico Verdonck, winner of the Formula Le Mans in 2009. The Belgian driver will be bringing his knowledge of the car and the pair will no doubt play a role on the front of the pack. « I’m very motivated thinking about seeing the whole team again after my positive experiences from the Rookie Test at Le Mans, and above all the podium finish at Imola. I think I’ve learned a lot in terms of driving and traffic management. Next to a fast driver, the experience will be even more enriching for me, with the highlight being that we should be able to fight for the win in our class. Last year, I raced on this track in Formula Renault 2.0. Even though most of that was under the rain, I enjoyed the circuit with its technical succession of corners going up and down. The other main challenge will be the run-off areas : there are few and you have to be very careful. »
#48 – Soheil Ayari/Anthony Pons
Winners of the opening round, Soheil Ayari and Anthony Pons then took second place on the podium at Imola. Their path so far has been identical to that of teammates Chatin/Hirsch, except in qualifying. That’s actually the only thing that separates the two driving squads in the championship standings : two little points. With that, the two Frenchmen are far from giving up. « On paper, the No.49 is certainly fasters » admits Anthony Pons, who prepared for this race with Xavier Feuillée and 3-2-1 Perform at Font-Romeu. « With Soheil, we still have ambitions. We have a great desire to do well and consequently we’ve prepared for that. We went to the Red Bull Ring to get a lay of the land and we have a few tricks up our sleeves. After Imola, an exceptional circuit, the Red Bull Ring seems more conventional but the setting is no less magnificent. For me, I’m continuing to discover life in a Le Mans Prototype. I’ve already learned a lot and progressed…and it will continue with this new step. »
#49 – Paul-Loup Chatin/Gary Hirsch
Since making their debut in the discipline, youngsters Paul-Loup Chatin and Gary Hirsch have proven their quickness and, already, their maturity. The two men have signed two pole positions in as many qualifying sessions. And following a second place at Silverstone, took an impressive first win at Imola, taking the LM PC championship lead in the process. The duo will be looking to continue in this same dynamic. « We took the championship lead in Italy and, with Gary, we want to confirm our status as leaders.» explains Paul-Loup Chatin. « The Red Bull Ring is a nice track, with heavy braking points and a few quick corners that are quite fun. On the other hand, it’s quick tight. So it’s going to be complicated with the traffic, which will be an important factor. The objective is to not only get the pole again, but win again as well. I’m still gaining experience in this discipline. With a new car in the category, it will be another interesting element of comparison. » Unlike many other competitors, who will be discovering the Austrian circuit for the first time, Paul-Loup Chatin knows it already : he signed the pole position in Formula Renault 2.0 and earlier in the season he won in Italian Porsche Carrera Cup.
At Spielberg, two practice sessions are scheduled for Friday, July 19 (10:30am and 3:40pm). Following the qualification session on Saturday, July 20, at 10:20am, the start of the race, lasting three hours, will be given at 4:36pm.
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