NewBlood by Morand Racing takes its first win at 4 hours of Paul Ricard

NewBlood by Morand Racing won the 4 Hours of Paul Ricard and gave the European Le Mans Series its fourth winner from four races!  Signatech Alpine climbed onto the second step of the podium ahead of the ORECA 03R of Murphy Prototypes! 

In the last two hours of the 2014 4 Hours of Paul Ricard all the main competitors from LMP2 were involved in the action offering thrills, spills and high emotion and giving spectators and competitors alike a spectacle worthy of the greatest European endurances racing series.

Almost all on new tyres for the start of the second half of the race, there was a tough battle among the prototypes for each of the three steps of the overall podium.

At the end of the second hour, Gary Hirsch (No.43 NewBlood by Morand Racing Morgan Judd) definitely had no intention of ceding his first place to another prototype, but Nelson Panciatici at the wheel of the Signatech Alpine A450b was able to put him under pressure, thanks to the team’s strategy and the power and balance of his car. The No 48 ORECA 03 of Murphy Prototypes was also lying in wait and used the advantage of traffic to get into the mix and steal second place from the French team, thanks to the superb driving of Rodolfo Gonzalez. With gaps between the cars of just a few seconds, everyone present was on tenterhooks.   

Some 43 minutes from the end of the race, the final round of pit stops took place with the driver-change-dance allowing names at the top of the time sheets to once again waltz their way towards victory.  In the end it was a drive- through penalty for refuelling with the engine running which held back Nathanael Berthon, who had been in second place and only a few seconds from Christian Klien in the lead, to the benefit of Signatech Alpine.

Starting from the front row of the grid (2nd), the No.38 JOTA Sport Zytek Nissan Z11SN driven by Harry Tincknell put on a great show in the battle for the lead during the first two hours of the race, although it dropped back a little in the third hour. Simon Dolan and Filipe Albuquerque did their best to get back into the fight in the final hour but couldn’t manage better than 4th in the final standings.

There was great disappointment for the Thiriet by TDS Racing team who came to Paul Ricard with the aim of winning again but the Ligier JS P2 of Ludovic Badey, Pierre Thiriet and Tristan Gommendy was forced to retire after technical problems encountered on the 91st lap of the race (broken gearbox housing).  Also disappointed was Pegasus Racing who retired with a transmission problem in the second hour.

Matt McMurry (No.41) fell prey to a mishap in the first few metres of the race, losing control of the No.41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN which resulted in the car being forced to retire before having a chance to shine on the Varois track. The team’s second car finished in 5th place in LMP2 following a great performance from Luciano Bacheta who even managed to lead the race on the 50th lap. Mark Shulzhitskiy was holding 4th on the final lap but slowed as he was running out of fuel which gave the place to JOTA Sport.  

On its return to the European Le Mans Series, Sebastien Loeb Racing fielded a new trio of drivers with two youngsters alongside Vincent Capillaire who has been with the team since the beginning of the season in the No.24 ORECA 03R. Arthur Pic and Andrea Roda thus took their first steps in the world of endurance racing at the 4 Hours of Paul Ricard and it was a rewarding and interesting debut in LMP2 which ended with a 6th place finish. The No.34 Race Performance ORECA 03 Judd started the fourth round of the season well but suffered technical problems and was forced into the pits several times. Franck Mailleux and Michel Frey were also penalized for having been the cause of an accident with the No.57 Ferrari GTC of SMP Racing.  The Swiss team finished 7th in class.

Paul Ricard Race classification HERE 

The next round of the European Le Mans Series will take place in a month’s time, the 4 Hours of Estoril bring a fabulous 2014 season to a close.  There is still all to play for in LMP2, just as in GTE and GTC, and the Championship winners will only be known at the end of the final round.

Adam Sinclair