Datum: 18.04.2022 · Le Mans Series
A win at the ELMS-Comeback in Le Castellet
Pierre Ehret has scored an opening victory in the season opener of the European Le Mans Series at Le Castellet. The 65-year-old sports car veteran and his two teammates Memo Gidley (USA) and the only 21-year-old Nicolas Varrone (ARG) managed a razor-thin but well-deserved GTE-class-victory with the german Rinaldi Racing Team in the ELMS season opener at the 4h of Le Castellet. Varrone crossed the finish line on degrading tires with the team's Ferrari F488 GTE in 24th overall after 113 completed laps, just 0.12s ahead of the Proton Porsche of works driver Gianmaria Bruni.
"That was a perfect start! Memo had already won the pole position and left the race start to me. I was even able to hold on to the lead for 7 laps before I first had to concede positions to my fast Ferrari colleague Sarah Bovy and then in traffic with the LMP's to some other competitors. But I was able to stay in contact with the leaders with some entertaining fights. Memo then took over the Ferrari after the first pit stop and was able to fight his way back to the top thanks to his base speed and a longer yellow after the driver change. From there, Nicolas then put in a flawless double stint on his ELMS debut and defended the lead spot exactly until the end of the race. In the end, the boy was even able to keep Porsche factory driver Gianmaria Bruni behind, who´s Porsche was clearly in a better shape."
For Ehret, who already contested 34 races in the Le Mans Series between 2005 and 2011 and achieved 7 podium results in the process, as well as for the two series debutants Gidley and Varrone and also for their team Rinaldi Racing, the class win in the GTE class marked the first success in the series. After long GT3 years in the SRO racing scene, Ehret had made his comeback in the GTE class last year with an appearance in the WEC and at Le Mans. With the two Proton Porsches of Christian Ried, Lorenzo Ferrari and Gianmaria Bruni as well as Michael Fassbender, Zach Robichon and Richard Lietz, 3 cars from German teams finished on the class podium at the season opener.
Whether Ehret and his teammates will be able to repeat the opening success is uncertain. "Fortunately the race wasn´t 500m longer! Otherwise we would only have finished in second place. The Porsches were clearly better on track than our Ferrari at the end. Obviously they have worked successfully on their setup over the winter. We will have to be prepared that they will be our toughest opponents in the season. But our Rinaldi team and especially my two teammates proved today that you need more than just a perfect car to succeed against us."
The next race of the ELMS will take place on May 15 in Imola. In addition, Ehret and Rinaldi Racing are planning to compete again in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.