Endurance racers on track in France to kick off big race week with Kapadia at Le Mans

By Colin and James Beckett

By Zoe Ashton
Monday, 6th June 2022, 5:25 pm
Andrew Howard and his Beechdean Aston Martin Racing team were in action at Paul Ricard on Saturday Picture SRO
Andrew Howard and his Beechdean Aston Martin Racing team were in action at Paul Ricard on Saturday Picture SRO

Competitors from the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup were in action in France on Saturday evening, contesting the 1000km of Paul Ricard write Colin and James Beckett.

The six hour race is a feature event of the GT World Challenge season, and allows racers of GT3 cars to enjoy competing in the dark prior to the Total Energies Spa 24 Hours that will take place at Spa-Francorchamps next month. Over fifty GT3 cars started at Paul Ricard, home to the French Grand Prix, with Vale-based Andrew Howard in action with his Beechdean Aston Martin Racing squad.

Howard's team was led by the number 95 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Maxime Martin, Marco Sorensen and Nicki Thiim, while Howard took to the track in the number 97 Aston with French duo, Valentin Hasse Clot and Theo Nouet. Starting in daylight, the race ran through into darkness, with battles raging up and down the action-packed field and after six hours of track action, the number 95 Aston Martin was placed thirteenth overall.

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Alex Kapadia will race an LMP3 car at Le Mans this weekend (Photo James Beckett/Lord)

Howard and his crew placed thirty-first at the end, with Howard saying, "This is always a long and hard race. Paul Ricard offers all cars a tough challenge and we battled hard throughout to reach the finish. For us, we can now look ahead to Spa. We have a two day test later this month, before the 24 Hours at the end of July."

Valentin Hasse Clot said afterwards, "This was the start of a busy weekend for many. Having driven at Paul Ricard, many drivers now head to Le Mans and I will be driving an Aston Martin with Stephen Pattrick in the Le Mans Cup races. I am looking forward to that opportunity very much."

At the head of the field, the race saw a 1-2 finish for Ferrari and the Italian Iron Lynx team. Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon and Antonio Fuoco dominated the race to finish eight seconds ahead of team-mates, Nicklas Nielsen, James Colado and Miguel Molina. The AMG AKKODIS Mercedes AMG of Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon completed the podium.

* Alex Kapadia's 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans weekend starts today (Wednesday), when the local racer lines-up to participate in practice sessions for the Michelin Le Mans Cup 'Road to Le Mans' races that will form part of an exciting weekend of endurance motorsport.

Kapadia will drive a Ligier JSP3-Nissan with Horst Felbermayr Jnr. for the RLR MSport team in two races that support the annual running of the famous Grand Prix d'Endurance, and the Michelin Le Cup Mans will boast a capacity grid of fifty LMP3 and GT3 specification cars. Free practice sessions for Michelin Le Mans Cup racers will take place today, ahead of official qualifying sessions tomorrow. The first 'Road to Le Mans' race will start at 6.30pm tomorrow, with a second race scheduled for 11.20am on Saturday morning.

The daunting 8.467-mile Circuit de la Sarthe offers competitors a unique test, with the track's layout made up of purpose built race track and closed sections of the French highway located to the the south of the city of Le Mans. Kapadia has good experience of Le Mans, having previously contested 'Road to Le Mans' races in a variety of LMP3 cars, and also the main 24 Hours of Le Mans in both GT and prototype cars.

Speaking this week, Kapadia said, "Le Mans is one of the world's biggest race events. The race is legendary and to be part of the event and racing in two Michelin Le Mans Cup races is very special."

Adding, "The plan is to find speed during free practice sessions, and then qualify the car well ahead of the opening race on Thursday. The atmosphere will be building nicely at that time, and when we race on Saturday for our second event, the crowds will be huge as the start of the actual 24 Hours of Le Mans will only be a few hours away."

* Ross Gunn finished second in the latest IMSA race at Detroit in the United States last weekend, driving an Aston Martin Vantage GTD (GT3) with Roman de Angelis. The duo finished the 67-lap race just behind the Vasser Sullivan Lexus GT3 of Kyle Kirkwood and Ben Barnicoat after having led early on. Gunn will not be racing at Le Mans this weekend, but said of his US weekend, "This was very close. We had a tough fight and narrowly lost out on winning. We will try and win the next one!"