Entering the second half of the season, the European Le Mans Series competitors travel to France to do battle at the Paul Ricard circuit for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet, the fourth round of the championship.
The title battles in each category are becoming more intense and, with a number of home interests on the grid – a plethora of teams, drivers and chassis constructors hail from France – Paul Ricard promises to deliver a thrilling round of the championship.
Leading the LMP2 category, the #22 G-Drive Racing Oreca continues with the same trio of drivers who were behind the wheel at Austria; Nicolas Minassian once again deputises for the absent Ryo Hirakawa, who will participate in the clashing Suzuka 1000km Super GT race.
Just four points behind the G-Drive team is the #32 United Autosports squad, which is looking to win its third race of the season, having already clinched victories at Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring. The #32 Ligier currently boasts a 24 point advantage over the #49 High Class Racing squad, the best-placed team of the current Dallara runners.
SMP Racing is looking to build on its solid return to the ELMS, and Matevos Isaakyan and Egor Orudzhev remain in the #27 Dallara P217 having finished a respectable sixth in Austria.
Perhaps the strangest news from within the LMP2 contingent is Tockwith Motorsport’s withdrawal from the ELMS, after losing driver Phil Hanson and his family’s financial support. Tockwith allowed the filming of a music video which featured one of Hanson’s cars without his authorisation, leading to a breakdown between the two parties.
At the top of the LMP3 championship, the #2 United Autosports and the #17 Ultimate teams are both tied on 45 points. The #2 pairing of John Falb and Sean Rayhall will be looking to secure their second win of the season, while the all-French lineup of Francois Heriau, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and Mathieu Lahaye will attempt to take their first at their home venue.
The #18 M.Racing-YMR – another all-French squad – occupies third in the standings, two points behind the leading duo. The #11 Eurointernational team – winners of the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring last time out – sits a further eight points behind.
Eurointernational’s second team – the #12 – welcomes back Max Hanratty, after the American was replaced by James Dayson at the previous round.
Having replaced one of its Ligier JS P3 chassis with a new Norma M30 at the previous round, Duqueine Engineering took delivery of a second Norma in time for Paul Ricard. The #7 took the LMP3 pole last weekend, and will hope the new chassis for the #8 squad will pay dividends – along with a new driver – as Nicolas Melin joins the team in place of Douglas Lundberg.
The battle at the top of the LMGTE standings is tight, with just six points separating the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage and the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE. Both teams occupied the podium at the last round, finishing behind the #55 Spirit of Race, also running the same specification Ferrari.
The #55 is tied with both the #77 Proton Competition Porsche and the #99 Beechdean AMR teams, and all three will be chasing a class victory in order to close the 21-point deficit to TF Sport.
There are no driver changes in the GTE class, and no new additions to the field ensures that the overall number of competitors in the 4 Hours of Le Castellet drops to 35.