ELMS - 19/01/2018 - Jeff CARTER
In 2008 and 2009 the Le Mans Series held the official pre-season test at the track in early March, the warm Mediterranean climate making it an ideal location for testing while Northern European tracks were still in the final grip of winter weather.
In 2010 the Le Mans Series once again returned to Paul Ricard for the pre-season test in March and then held the first race of the season a month later on the 9-11 April. The 8 Heures du Castellet was won by Allan McNish and Dindo Capello in the LMP1 class Audi R15.
In 2011 and 2012 the opening race of the season was also held in Le Castellet.
The 2011 season was the last time the LMP1 class was included in the grid line up, with the Judd powered Pescarolo Team winning the P1 class.
In 2012 LMP2 was the leading class, with the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca of Pierre Thiriet and Mathias Beche taking the chequered flag at the end of the 6 Heures du Castellet. ELMS regulars JMW Motorsport and Prospeed Competition taking victory in the LMGTE Pro and LMGTE Am classes.
The 2012 race at Le Castellet was also the first time where the series ran with ‘European’ added in front of ‘Le Mans Series’ in the title.
After an absence of two years, the official pre-season test returned to Le Castellet in 2013 and it remained at the French circuit until Monza took over in 2017.
The 2013 race was moved to September to become the season finale. 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans and World Endurance Champion Brendon Hartley scored his only ELMS victory for Murphy Prototypes alongside Switzerland’s Jonathan Hirschi in the three hour race.
The 2014 race was still held in September but Estoril took over the role of providing the venue for the season finale. The races in 2014 were extended to the now familiar four hours, with French team Newblood by Morand Racing taking the chequered flag on home soil.
In 2015 the 4 Hours of Le Castellet saw the first LMP3 Champions crowned as Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson took the win to secure the inaugural title for this now highly successful class. Greaves Motorsport won the LMP2 category on their way to the overall title which they secured at the next and final race in Portugal.
In 2016 the ELMS season was extended to six races, with Le Castellet moving back a few weeks to the end of August to host round 4 of the series, followed by the newly added race at Spa-Francorchamps in September and Estoril in October. The race was won for the second time in five years by Pierre Thiriet and Mathias Beche in the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca, aided by Toyota works driver Mike Conway.
In 2017 the official test moved to Monza, with the 4 Hours of Le Castellet providing another fantastic action packed race in August that saw the Russian pairing of Matevos Isaakyan and Igor Orudzhev secure their debut ELMS win for SMP Racing in the LMP2 category. John Falb and Sean Rayhall secured the LMP3 victory with the Americans finishing the season as LMP3 Champions with the United Autosports team. The n° 55 Ferrari F488 of Spirit of Race claimed the victory in LMGTE.
In 2018 the ELMS-Le Castellet story will continue with the Official ELMS Test returning to the Circuit Paul Ricard on the 9th and 10th of April but in a new move will be immediately followed by Round 1 of the 2018 season at the same venue.
The action packed races at the Circuit Paul Ricard have always provided a good indication of who is going to be the eventual champions at the end of the season. Who will be at the front of the grid at the 4 Hours of Le Castellet? We will see on Sunday 15th April when the 2018 European Le Mans Series gets underway.
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