After a very impressive recovery year for the Series, and a final race that saw final Championship positions change in more than one class, and then change back again – it ended as a very bad day for the defending Champions but a very good day for several newcomers
LMP2 Drivers Champions
Nelson Panciatici and Pierre Ragues took the drivers title, their topsy turvy run at Paul Ricard saw them first grab the advantage from Pierre Thiriet (whose dreadful luck saw his title advantage evaporate very early on), and then a run back up the order saw the Jota team of Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey see their dream scenario disappear before their very eyes.
The Alpine pair finished the season on 85 points to Thiriet’s 77 and Dolan & Turvey’s 71. Those points gaps though rather flatter the reality of a very tightly run ELMS.
Signatech Alpine took this one, the #36 Alpine A450S Nissan looked the part and performed well all season, a mightily relieved Philippe Sinault plans to use the result, and he assured entry for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours that comes with it, to launch two car effort next season, no final decision yet whether that will be his desired mix of a car in each of the WEC and ELMS, with a pair at Le Mans.
Thiriet by TDS Racing take the second Auto entry courtesy of their second place finish in the points standings with Jota a disappointed third.
LM GTE Drivers Champions
Matt Griffin and Johnny Mowlem dominated the points standings and were the class act of the year, Griffin was, by far, the fastest Silver rated driver of the class, that’s no surprise of course, bearing in mind his racing history, but he played the game coming into the year and he, and his team, have reaped the rewards.
Matt takes his first Championship win for a decade (since taking the Cup Class in British GT in 2003 whilst his season long driving partner Johnny Mowlem takes his first Championship win since 1997, oddly enough both men took their last wins in broadly similar Porsche Cup machinery.
Mowlem has been the model of rapid consistency all season, the pair too hot to handle for the opposition with Christian Ried coming home a distant second in the points and his usual co-driver in the Proton Porsche, Nick Tandy, finishing the season third in the points.
RAM Racing brought a pair of well prepped Ferraris to the task and, be lying their newcomer status, always looked the team most likely to take the title here.
Park for moment the throwaway line of a big budget effort and consider for a moment that this team has beaten some of the most established GTE teams in Europe, and beaten them well.
Dan Shufflebottom and his merry men (and women) should be well pleased with Chapter One of the RAM Racing story, does chapter 2 see a move onto the world stage – We’ll see!
Proton Competition come home second in the points, and claim the second auto Le Mans entry for this class, with the ever present AF Corse third.
LMPC Drivers and Team Champions
Gary Hirsch and Paul Loup Chatin took this one comfortably after a real wobble at the final round that saw the #48 Oreca behind the wall after it refused to start after a routine stop.
For Hirsch this means a next step on the ladder, a looming LMP2 test and a potential step up to the premier class next year.
For Loup Chatin, already part of the Alpine set up, it was a very impressive year, he made the established talent of Soheil Ayari look relatively ordinary, and he is surely bound for a full season seat in one of the blue cars should Philippe SInaults plans come to fruition.
Team Endurance Challenge entered three cars for much of the season, and, aside from a brief outing for the Algarve Pro team that all the news there was for a class which is certainly far healthier stateside.
The Oreca in-house arrive and drive effort then earn the auto LMP2 entry, and they deserve it too, this was a great way to support a Series whose success was far from certain at the start of the year.
GTC Driver and Team Champions
Fabio Babini was the ‘name’ driver chosen to steer the late joiners, #69 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 towards the GTC (GT3) title and another auto entry for Le Mans (in GTE).
The Italian was joined by Kirill Ladygin and Viktor Shaitar and, despite missing round one the well prepped Russian flagged (but French based) squad bossed the year out, entering up to three Ferrari 458s and later an LMP2 Oreca Nissan too, their ambitions are obvious, their execution of the plan ahead impressive.
The points tally at the end of the year tells a story of domination, and at times it looked like it on track too with some background chatter of a Ferrari friendly Balance of Performance that might have played a part too.
Second in the points was the AF Corse crew of Stefano Gai, Lorenzo Case and Andrea Rizzoli, with the fast starting, but ultimately very disappointed Ecurie Ecosse squad of Ollie Milroy and Andrew Smith coming in third in their BMW Z4 GT3.