It would be a first European Le Mans Series victory for the Spanish Racing Engineering crew. With the top three separated by only eight seconds it was a narrow victory at the 4 Hours of Le Castellet.
Racing Engineering were making their debut at the opening race of the season, but the result will ensure expectations will be higher as the season continues. The team, which was led by Olivier Pla, benefitted from two incidents to the early race leaders.
Pla, joined at the outfit by Paul Pettit and the teams FIA F2 regular Norman Nato, made an immediate impression as they qualified fourth despite two of the three drivers being rookies to the series. They were joined on the overall podium by the #33 TDS Racing and the #39 Duqueine Engineering crew, ensuring an Oreca 07 – Gibson locked out of the podium.
In LMP3, RLR MSport returned to the top step for the first time since 2015 in their Ligier JS P3. While GTE saw a final lap battle between Miguel Molina in the JMW Motorsport car and the #88 Proton Competition driven by Matteo Cairoli. The Porsche had been leading, but a daring move into turn six saw Molina slip through to win, edging Cairoli onto the paint.
“I was a bit stressed at the beginning because it was my first start. The car was fantastic and my teammates did an amazing job.” said debut race winner, Norman Nato.
Racing Engineering benefit from misfortune to the #21 DragonSpeed Oreca car. Having started third, Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 soon found himself up front controlling the pace for the first half, until teammate Henrik Hedman collided with the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari, driven by Duncan Cameron. The pair retired with an extended safety car period implemented for the broken barrier.
The incident did not help polesitters IDEC Sport. Having performed so well in qualifying, the Oreca outfit slowly slipped down the order, finishing seventh in front of the #23 Panis Barthez Competition, the highest placed Ligier.
Meanwhile one outfit who ended the day more content was G-Drive Racing. The team had failed to qualify in the top eight, but remained on the lead lap, getting both cars into the top six by the flag as the #26 led the #40. They could not orchestrate a photo finish though, with the #36 Signatech Alpine splitting the them in fifth place, the best result for a two-driver team.