Jensen/Van Berlo and Perazzini/Cioci take first blood on the Road to Le Mans

by Jean-Paul Hackett

While the focus was on the main 24 hours of Le Mans last weekend, the two Road to Le Mans support series races began in spectacular style, with both pole-sitters claiming class victories by the end of the first race.

Mikkel Jensen and Kay Van Berlo took the chequered flag in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JSP3-Nissan, and Pierguiseppe Perazzini and Marco Cioci scored their first win of the 2018 Michelin Le Mans Cup season in the #71 AF Corse Ferrari F488 GT3.

The race began under cloudy skies, but on a dry track as the 50 car grid headed into turn one as the lights went out to start the race. Mikkel Jensen in the LMP3 class #11 Eurointernational Ligier got away cleanly followed by Scott Andrews in the #9 Cool Racing Norma. Behind them, the #2 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Ligier of James Littlejohn dropped down the field after spinning from third at the Forza Chicane and slowly returned to the pits with a flat tyre.

The GT3 category saw Perazzini lead the class from pole position with the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Louis Soenen in 2nd. Sergio Pianezzola in the #8 Kessel Racing F488 started to close on the leaders and by the third lap had moved into second place and began to close down the leading AF Corse Ferrari. By lap five Pianezzola had passed to take the lead from the #71 car as the pit stops approached.

Credit: ELMS – Le Mans Cup

Out in front, Jensen was under immense pressure from Australian Scott Andrews, but the Dane kept his cool and headed in for the compulsory pitstops to hand over to Kay Van Berlo in the lead. After the pitstops were complete, Van Berlo held a substantial lead over the #1 DKR Engineering Norma of Dan Polley as the #9 CD-Sport Norma of Gerald Kraut moved into fourth place. Sean Rayhall, at the wheel of the #33 United Autosports Ligier passed three cars on lap eight to move into third place before chasing down Polley to take second place two laps later.

The #8 Kessel Ferrari, now with Giacomo Piccini at the wheel, was out in front in GT3 well ahead of Marco Cioci in the #71 AF Corse F488. However, Piccini’s race was dealt a blow when the stewards gave the lead car a 30 second stop & go penalty for a slow-zone speed violation just before the pitstops. Cioci then moved into the lead of the race, with Piccini getting back out on track in second place but 46 seconds behind the #71 Ferrari.

At the chequered flag, it was the #11 Eurointernational Ligier out in front by 19 seconds from the hard-charging Sean Rayhall in the #33 United Autosports Ligier, with the #3 DKR Engineering Norma of Leonard Hoogenboom taking the final podium position.

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