Maurice Smith and Matt Bell made it back-to-back victories in the Michelin Le Mans Cup for COOL Racing in the #69 Ligier JS P320. The sister #37 car of Nicolas Maulini and Édouard Cauhaupé took a penalty for not respecting the minimum driving time which put it fifth.
As rain began to fall in the opening hour of the Le Castellet 120, both Maulini and Smith kept cool in the treacherous conditions and ran inside the top three, but emerged 1-2 after the pit stops. With Bell onboard the #69 he chased down Cauhaupé and, after several laps of thrilling nose-to-tail action, made his move for the lead.
Maurice Smith, #69 Ligier JS P320: “This was a great day for the team, and a wonderful one for me personally because I can finally thank the guys for all their hard work with this sensational result. You can say it after a race, but it doesn’t mean as much as when you perform and show them what kind of car they have worked so hard on to develop. So this was very meaningful for me. Matt and I were given fantastic equipment and it’s a pleasure to be with so many hardworking young individuals at COOL Racing.”
Matt Bell, #69 Ligier JS P320: “Obviously I’m very happy with the win. I had my stint in very tricky conditions, but Mo gave me the car in a great position and we were second behind the #37 after the pit stop. I caught up to Édouard, he made a small mistake so I got through and just had to keep it clean until the end.”
Nicolas Maulini, #37 Ligier JS P320: “We had some disappointment in qualifying where we just missed pole again. At the start I was caught out by the leader as he was not maintaining speed as he should have been and I crossed the line before him so we received a drive-through penalty. We tried pitting early to use the full course yellow but then we had another penalty for the driving time which destroyed our result. It’s not great for the championship as we are now 20 points behind so we have to take the following races one by one and maximise our results and keep fighting to the end.”
Édouard Cauhaupé, #37 Ligier JS P320: “We’re quite disappointed with the final result. We started the day just missing out on pole position and an additional point by a tenth, then we were given a drive-through for Nicolas’ jump start. The team did a perfect job switching us from slicks to wet tyres and the rain made it so hard to follow other cars because of the spray. There were times when I didn’t even know if I was on the track. We crossed the line second which was a great result, but the post-race penalty cost us. Everybody makes mistakes but we will learn from this and make sure it never happens again. Congratulations to Matt and Mo on a fully deserved win.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “A mixed feeling for us. We’re delighted for Mo and Matt to take their first win, but we have to admit we made a very costly error. We had a fantastic 1-2 after a great performance from all four drivers, particularly Édouard as he had never driven the car in the wet before. Now we will focus on having a strong week at the Road to Le Mans.”
European Le Mans Series
COOL Racing makes final preparations for Le Mans at Le Castellet 240
COOL Racing was met with difficult conditions at the start of the Le Castellet 240, which began under safety car conditions. From eighth, Antonin Borga took the first stint as the track dried before Nicolas Lapierre took the wheel of the #37 Oreca 07 but was compromised by an extended safety car period. Alexandre Coigny then experienced night driving with changing conditions and fog around the track, providing valuable experience ahead of the team’s maiden 24 Hours of Le Mans. Borga eventually brought the car home in 12th, as the Swiss team prepares for the world’s biggest race.
Alexandre Coigny: “This was a very difficult race with changing track conditions which were hard to manage, like we saw at Spa. It was extremely complicated adapting to a drying track and to find my marks, especially in the night with the fog. All of it was new to me but it was very informative. I’ve learnt a lot which will be very useful for Le Mans as we could have similar conditions there. We’re a bit disappointed by the overall result but we have taken many lessons from this weekend.”
Nicolas Lapierre: “Not our best result but it was a very difficult race, especially with a bronze driver in the car. Taking place at night on a drying track, they were very tough conditions. On our side, we made no mistakes and the strategy was good. The first safety car hurt us a lot and the conditions were pretty extreme from a bronze driver to handle. Now we are focusing on Le Mans and making sure we are fully prepared.”
Antonin Borga: “We hoped for a bit more than 12th today. We started in quite a big deluge and we were running well in the wet but things got a bit complicated once the track started to dry and the mid-race safety car did not help our strategy, which was just a bit unlucky. The team didn’t make any mistakes and we almost bagged the fastest lap of the race. We can take a lot away from this weekend which will help us at Le Mans.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “Some positives and negatives today. We had a competitive car but the conditions were complicated, even more so than the Michelin Le Mans Cup as it was night. It was great experience for Alex, it showed us there are still improvements he and the team can make but a rewarding performance nonetheless as we could see similar conditions at Le Mans. It’s a learning curve for him, driving on a wet, dark, foggy track which he’s never done before. So the result was not ideal but we have learnt a lot.”
Ligier European Series
Baud takes double victory to extend championship lead
Sébastien Baud further extended his Ligier European Series championship lead in the Ligier JS2 R class with another two victories, making it four out of six for the season. Starting fourth in race one, the Frenchman immediately charged into the lead on the opening lap where he remained until the chequered flag.
Baud began race two from pole and in soaking conditions dominated until the race was red flagged, extending his points advantage to 53 with two rounds remaining.
Sébastien Baud, #74 Ligier JS2 R: “Our objective was to be at the front all weekend and we achieved that. Coming back to Le Castellet from Spa, where we were running a very different set-up, we compromised ourselves a bit so we were only fourth in Q1. But once the team made some adjustments we got pole in Q2. I’m very happy with the results, keeping the lead in race one despite some very aggressive drivers behind me. Then I had to deal with the conditions in race two, it was the first time I drove the car in the wet or anything in the rain for two years. I was glad I had rallying experience to lean on when it started sliding. It’s a shame we finished under a red flag but given the weather it was understandable.”
Patrick Barbier, Team Principal: “A great job by Seb today. He really delivered coming back to a circuit he knows, compared to Spa which he had not driven before. We tried to keep the set-up from the previous race to try to understand the behaviour of the car a bit better, so we compromised our Q1 performance but after that it was a perfect weekend. Seb had two great races to increase his championship lead.”