2017 European Le Mans Series: Preview – 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps


Credit: ELMS/Jakob Ebrey Photography

Almost a month since the European Le Mans Series competitors did battle at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the field leaves the south of France to roar through the Ardennes in Belgium for the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

Known for its challenging uphill Eau Rouge-Raidillon section, Spa-Francorchamps is a favourite among fans and drivers, and should offer a fantastic spectacle as the series meanders into its final third of the season.

LMP2

After the #32 United Autosports Ligier squad lost its third place after full-course yellow infraction, the #22 G-Drive Oreca has a healthy 12 point lead at the top of the LMP2 standings. Returning for the latter team is Ryo Hirakawa, who was replaced by Nicolas Minassian in the previous two rounds following the Japanese driver’s duties in Super GT.

Last weekend, the SMP Racing duo of Egor Orudzhev and Matevos Isaakyan secured a first win for the #27 Dallara, and both return from World Series Formula V8 3.5 duties in Austin to try and secure a second successive victory.

The #39 Graff team – which took third in the last round following United Autosports’ penalty – welcomes a new incumbent into its Oreca 07 for this weekend. Eric Trouillet makes way for Jonathan Hirschi, who competed in the first four round of the World Endurance Championship for CEFC Manor TRS Racing.

There’s a further change in the LMP2 category, as 2013 LMPC winner Paul-Loup Chatin rejoins the ELMS field to replace Olivier Pla in the #28 IDEC Sport Racing Ligier.

LMP3

The #2 United Autosports  tops the LMP3 standings, leading fellow Ligier runner #18 M.Racing-YMR by 12 points in the category. John Falb and Sean Rayhall won the #2’s second race of the year at Paul Ricard having dominated in the opening Silverstone round, and will be looking for a third to extend the American team’s advantage.

The #17 Ultimate Ligier squad is a further five points behind the #18 team, losing ground to the front duo having only managed sixth at Paul Ricard.

M.Racing-YMR’s second car – the #19 Norma – rings the changes once more, as Australian Neale Muston stands in for Erwin Creed alongside Yann Ehrlacher. Tristan Viidas dropped out of the #5 By Speed line-up at the last minute in the previous round, and once again will not return to the Ligier – Jurgen Krebs and Tim Muller will continue their duties as a duo.

LMGTE

Having managed podiums in all four rounds thus far, the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin team leads the way in the GTE standings, nine points ahead of the #66 JMW Motorsport squad.

The #66 Ferrari 488 has a new driver alongside regulars Jody Fannin and Robert Smith, as former Manor F1 driver Will Stevens replaces Jonny Cocker at Spa. Fellow Ferrari runner Spirit of Race has won the last two races, and the trio of Duncan Cameron, Aaron Scott and Matt Griffin will be looking to make it a hat-trick of victories.

The remaining full-time teams – the #99 Beechdeen AMR, the #77 Proton Competition Porsche and the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari – are all separated in the standings by just three points.