Picture © JEP/ ELMS
LM P2 - 12/11/2019 - Jeff CARTER
They scored two wins, two second position, a 5th and a 6th place, as well as one pole position in Barcelona, to finish the season on 105 points. Idec Sport breaks the three year strangle hold on the title by G-Drive Racing, the Russian team finishing the 2019 season in second place four points behind their French rivals.
The 2019 season started at Idec Sport’s home event at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. Paul Loup Chatin was denied the pole position by fellow Frenchman Norman Nato in the no26 G-Drive Racing Aurus by just 0.025 seconds. In the opening race of the 2019 season a hard-fought battle saw the no21 DragonSpeed Oreca take the chequered flag, the American team finishing 16 seconds ahead of the no28 Idec Sport Oreca 07.
At Monza, in May, Paul Loup Chatin posted a good time in qualifying to head the second row behind the no37 Cool Racing Oreca on Pole and the no26 G-Drive Racing Aurus in second. But the car was then put to the back of the grid after all of the lap times were cancelled due to a non-functioning external neutral switch. The car was repaired for the race and a fight back ensued that saw the no28 Idec Sport Oreca cross the line in second place, just 2.1 seconds behind the G-Drive Racing Aurus 01.
The 2019 ELMS then took a break while the team headed to Le Mans to compete in the 87th edition of the world’s greatest motorsport event. Idec Sport finished 5th in LMP2 and was the first ELMS competitor across the line.
A month later Round 3 of the European Le Mans Series was held in Barcelona. Idec Sport claimed the pole position thanks to a 1m32.765 lap by Paul Loup Chatin, which was over half a second quicker than the rest of the field. In a race punctuated by Full Course Yellows and Safety Cars, the no28 Idec Sport Oreca finished in 5th place.
At Silverstone, Idec Sport bounced back from the disappointment of not being able to capitalise on their pole position in Spain. The French team started third on the grid and looked to be heading for another second-place finish behind the no26 G-Drive Aurus when Jean-Eric Vergne had to pit for fuel just four minutes before the chequered flag. Memo Rojas took the lead and the chequered flag to take the team’s first win of 2019.
The penultimate round of the 2019 ELMS season saw Idec Sport having to fight back after a dramatic crash in Free Practice. Paul Loup Chatin went off the circuit into the barriers at Raidillon and, while Chatin was cleared to race, the car was too badly damaged to take part in qualifying and had to start at the back of the LMP2 grid for the second time. A strong race saw the Franco-Mexican driver line up finish in 6th overall, just 55 seconds behind eventual winners United Autosports.
At the season finale, Idec Sport were lying in second place in the championship, 13 points behind G-Drive Racing. The French team needed to win the race and hope that G-Drive would finish fourth or lower. Paul Loup Chatin could only manage to put the no28 Oreca on the third row with the 5th fastest time in qualifying but Jean-Eric Vergne posted the 8th fastest time in the no26 Aurus for the final round. It was game on for the race!
There were several Full Course Yellows and Safety Car periods, and this forced the teams to adapt their strategy during the race. Memo Rojas found himself being challenged by Job Van Uitert in the no26 Aurus and a clash at Turn 4 saw the no28 Oreca facing the wrong way on the track. Rojas got going again and G-Drive had to serve a drive through penalty for the incident, dropping the car back to 8th as Paul Loup Chatin was challenging the no22 United Autosports Oreca of Phil Hanson for the lead.
Chatin took the lead and held on for the next 30 minutes to secure the victory they needed, taking the flag just 0.4 seconds from the charging Phil Hanson. The no26 G-Drive Racing Aurus made up two places before the chequered flag to finish 6th, but it wasn’t enough to deny Idec Sport the 2019 ELMS LMP2 Team title and Paul Loup Chatin, Memo Rojas and Paul Lafargue the drivers crown.
The season finished with Idec Sport claiming the championship and the coveted invitation to the 2020 24 Hours of Le Mans, where they will be joined on the grid by G-Drive Racing after the Russian team also secure an automatic invitation, the first time the ELMS LMP2 Vice Champions have been awarded this honour.
For the drivers, this was Paul Loup Chatin’s third ELMS title adding the 2019 crown to the 2013 LMPC and 2014 LMP2 titles. Paul Lafargue celebrated his first ELMS title; this is the second time Memo Rojas has been the ELMS LMP2 Drivers Champion after the Mexican won the 2017 crown with G-Drive Racing.
CLICK HERE for the 2019 ELMS LMP2 Championship Positions
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