In another nail biting 20-minute qualifying session the result was only decided when the chequered flag was shown to end qualifying for Saturday mornings Road to Le Mans race ahead of the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The session was interrupted by a short red flag after nine minutes to recover a car stuck in the gravel at the first chicane and to clear some debris. When qualifying resumed it was a dash to the chequered flag with the fastest times being set late in the session.
As the chequered flag was waved it was the no25 Lanan Racing Norma of Michael Benham who went quickest, the 2018 Road to Le Mans winner posting a 3m54.308 lap to push the no3 DKR Engineering Norma of François Kirman into second place by three tenths of a second. RACE 1 Nielsen Racing took a well-deserved podium finish in the opening race of the 2019 Road to Le Mans, the supporting event for the flagship 24 Hours of Le Mans, thanks to a strong performance from Tony Wells and Colin Noble. The regular European Le Mans and Road to Le Mans pairing drove a faultless race to take the final podium step in a competitive field of over 50 LMP3 and GT3 cars on the famous French Circuit, in the first of two races that will take place this weekend.
'Bronze' driver Wells took the start and after initially dropping back at the start, kept the car well in contention in the opening stint to hand over to Noble at the mid-point during a long safety car period; that saw the entire field pit together for the mandatory driver change.
Slick pit work from the Nielsen crew saw Noble emerge in ninth place and soon head off on a charge through the field to fourth place, which soon turned into third as the Lanan Racing car served a drive-through penalty. Race 1 classification
1 Graff 39 Norma M 30 - Nissan LMP3
2 DKR Engineering 5 Norma M 30 - Nissan LMP3
3 Nielsen Racing 2 Norma M 30 - Nissan LMP3
4 Lanan Racing 25 Norma M30 - Nissan LMP3
5 M Racing 19 Norma M30 - Nissan LMP3
6 DKR Engineering 3 Norma M30 - Nissan LMP3
RACE 2 The no3 DKR Engineering Norma M30-Nissan of François Kirmann and Laurents Horr took the chequered flag to take victory in the second Road to Le Mans race of the weekend on the full 13.6km La Sarthe circuit in front of the full grandstands.
The no3 Norma took the lead with Kirmann holding off a determined challenge from Michael Benham in the no25 Lanan Racing Norma and the no30 CD Sport Norma of Kevin Bole-Besançon. On lap 2 the no30 Norma passed Benham for second and then challenged the no3 Norma for the lead. Kirmann went off track allowing Bole-Besançon into the lead of the race.
At the pitstops the no30 Norma was the last to stop but a six second stop and go penalty was imposed for not respecting the mandatory pitstop time. This dropped the car down the order.
Duncan Tappy was leading after the pitstops in the no25 Lanan Racing Norma but Laurents Horr was rapidly closing the gap in the no3 DKR Engineering Norma, the German making his move at Indianapolis to take the position. With the no30 Norma coming into the pits for the penalty Hörr was now leading the race and he went on to take the chequered flag.
Race 2 classification
1 DKR Engineering 3 Norma M30 - Nissan LMP3
2 Lanan Racing 25 Norma M30 - Nissan LMP3
3 Graff 39 Norma M 30 - Nissan LMP3
4 M Racing 19 Norma M30 - Nissan LMP3
5 Nielsen Racing 2 Norma M 30 - Nissan LMP3
6 United Autosports 22 Ligier JS P3 - Nissan LMP3
Photo credit: Daily Sportscar