No major surprises to report as yet in the Estoril paddock as the season finale for the 2016 European Le Mans Series gets underway.
Foggy early morning conditions delayed proceedings a little with the Renault RS.01s first track session pushed back by a few minutes, this the final race meeting for the Renault Sport Trophy with Renault Sport announcing the cessation of the Championship after just two of what DSC understands was meant to be an initial four year commitment.
It’s a 36 car grid for the season finale, Murphy Prototypes, Algarve Pro and Tockwith Motorsports missing from the entry we saw last time out, the two latter teams with their cars en route to Zhuhai for the opening round of the 2016/17 Asian Le Mans Series, the Murphy Oreca badly damaged at Spa.
Algarve Pro Racing Team Manager Stewart Cox though is around, based here in Portugal, and taking meetings to nail down next season’s package, it seems that the team are planning to be back in the ELMS again as well as a two car full season effort in Asia.
Graff Racing, Panis Barthez, RLR MSport, IDEC Sport, Tockwith Racing, Villorba Corse, Jota and Dragonspeed are already announced/ definitely known. There is rather more still to come! The ELMS LMP2 entry for 2016 looks set to be well into double figures!
Eurointernational though are back with a two car LMP3 entry after missing Spa. Giorgio Mondini is joined in the #11 car by Ligier JSP3 owner Jay Palmer. The #12 sees Andrea Dromedari joined by Rik Breukers and Nissan GT Academy winner Miguel Faisca.
In LMP2 there’s the expected double change at Eurasia, Pu Jun Jing and Nico Pieter de Bruijn replaced by Michael Lyons and Frédéric Vervisch, the absent drivers names removed not only from the car, but also the truck.
More on this tale as the weekend progresses. This shot may prove to be somewhat ironic!
Tracy Krohn isn’t here (business commitments), the #40 car will race here with Silver ranked Nic Jonsson and Olivier Pla as a 2 driver squad.
Julien Schell meanwhile replaces Remi Streibig in the Pegasus Morgan.
LMP3 Champions United Autosports have decorated their #2 Ligier with an appropriate vinyl after clinching the title at Spa last time out.
Jean Marc Merlin is back aboard the #4 OAK Racing car after missing the last round.
Alisdair McCaig, as planned, is back in the RLR MSport car for a second ELMS outing.
In GTE Ben Barker is drafted in to the #88 Proton Porsche line-up, Christina Nielsen completes the season with the #60 Formula Racing crew after missing Paul Ricard to concentrate on Petit Le Mans which saw her play a full part in clinching the GTD titles in both the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship and, after some post race controversy elsewhere, the North American Endurance Championship both with her season-long IMSA team-mate Alessandro Balzan in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3. Incidentally Petit Le Mans saw the Dane pass 100 hours of racing with her teams in IMSA, ELMS and LM24 competition.
Beechdean’s #99 Aston Martin meanwhile is sporting the final national flag roof of the season here, the Portuguese and British flags collaborating nicely!
The Bronze test this morning saw just three of the LMP2s out on track, Henrik Hedman topping the times in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca (1:36.294).
All bar one of the LMP3 runners were out in the 60 minute session, Thomas Laurent topping the times in the #18 Duquesne Engineering Ligier (1:37.346)
GTE was topped by Johnny Laursen in the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari (1:41.462).