Great result from SPA
The no39 Graff Norma-Nissan and the no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari crossed the line first in the LMP3 and GT3 classes respectively in a thrilling two hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, round 5 of the 2019 Michelin Le Mans Cup.
Nicolas Schatz brought the Graff Norma home at the front of the large field after the no3 DKR Engineering Norma of championship leader Laurents Horr had to pit to serve a stop and go penalty after leading the race for the first 90-minutes of the race. Horr rejoined in third place and fought with the no2 Nielsen Racing Norma of Colin Noble right up to the chequered flag.
Reigning GT3 champion Giacomo Piccini took the chequered flag to win the GT3 class just 1.2 seconds ahead of the no99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin of Ross Gunn, the British team starting from the back of the grid following an earlier engine change.
However in post race scrutineering the no39 Graff Norma, the no2 Nielsen Racing Norma and the no3 DKR Engineering Norma it was found that the crashbox fixations screws were not in compliance with the homologation form (Article 1.2 2019 Technical Regulations for LMP3). The three cars were disqualified from the race results (Stewards Decisions no10, no11 and no12). This promoted the no25 Lanan Racing Norma into first place. The GT3 results were not affected.
Round 5 – Spa-Francorchamps
The race started in glorious sunshine and warm temperatures. The 28 car grid was led by the no3 DKR Engineering Norma with François Kirmann at the wheel.
While the leading cars got through turn 1 safely there was trouble in the mid pack when the no22 United Autosports Ligier of Jim McGuire clipped another car causing several other cars to spin around in avoidance. McGuire was given a drive through penalty later in the race as a consequence.
One of the cars caught up in the chaos was the no71 Luzich Racing Ferrari of championship leader Fabien Lavergne. The Ferrari picked up a puncture, forcing the French driver to limp the 7km back to the pits. This allowed Sergio Pianezzola in the no8 Kessel Racing Ferrari to take the GT3 lead.
The no99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin, with former ELMS LMGTE Champion Andrew Howard at wheel, started at the back of the field following the engine change, but the British driver was soon on the move up the field, gaining seven places on the opening lap. By lap 6 Howard was battling with the no7 Scuderia Villorba Corse Mercedes of Roberto Pampanini, passing the Italian for 4th in GT3.
The no3 DKR Norma was leading with the no39 Graff Norma of Adrien Chila in second, followed by the no2 Nielsen Racing Norma of Tony Wells and the no9 Graff Norma of Eric Trouillet. Trouillet got the better of Wells into the final corner to take 3rd place on lap 8.
Andrew Howard made up another place after 40 minutes of racing, passing the no54 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes of Dirk Muller for 3rd just before the Safety Car was deployed as the bodywork on the no74 Cool Racing Ligier exploded, spreading carbon fibre debris across the track at the top of the Kemmel Straight.
After 10 minutes the Safety Car was withdrawn as almost the entire field dived in the pits as the pit window opened.
After the pitstops the no3 DKR Engineering Norma was still leading, with Laurents Hörr holding a 2.6 second gap to the no39 Graff of Nicolas Schatz and the no2 Nielsen Racing Norma of Colin Noble.
The GT3 class was led by the no8 Kessel Ferrari with Giacomo Piccini at the wheel, 7.8 seconds ahead of Ross Gunn in the no99 Aston Martin. Gunn started to close the gap to the Italian and was 4 seconds behind when a Full Course Yellow was declared to recover the no43 Keo Racing Ligier, which had stopped at T9.
At the restart Piccini and Gunn were split by just 1.2 seconds but the British driver could not find a way past the very wide Ferrari as the highly experienced Italian defended his lead.
Back at the front, with 30 minutes left on the clock, Hörr was five seconds ahead when he was handed a stop and go penalty for spinning the wheels of the no3 Norma during the pitstop. This dropped the German down to third place and gifted the lead to Nicolas Schatz in the no39 Graff Norma. Hörr rejoined just behind Colin Noble’s Norma and a great battle ensued for the minor overall podium positions.
With 12 minutes on the clock Laurents Hörr ran wide at Pouhon onto the dusty run off area, losing some hard earned track position, but within two laps he was back on the rear wing of the Nielsen Racing Norma. However, this is how the positions remained as the chequered flag was brought out.
Nicolas Schatz took the chequered flag just as the clock counted down to zero, 4.8 seconds ahead of the battling duo of Noble and Hörr. Duncan Tappy, in the championship contending no25 Lanan Racing Norma finished 4th, with Tappy setting a new MLMC lap record at Spa with a 2m14.636 lap.
However, following the post race scrutineering checks the no25 Lanan Racing Norma was declared the winner when the top three LMP3 cars were disqualified (Stewards Decisions 10,11 and 12). The no98 Motorsport98 Ligier was reclassified as second with the no55 Spirit of Race Ligier in third.
1 Lanan Racing 25 Norma M30 - Nissan LMP3
2 Motorsport98 98 Ligier JS P3 - Nissan LMP3
3 Spirit of Race 55 Ligier JS P3 - Nissan LMP3
Photo credit: Daily Sportscar