Zytek Engineering hung on to take the win in the Le Mans Endurance Series 1000 km season opener at Spa-Francorchamps. John Nielsen, Hayanari Shimoda and Casper Elgaard took the victory for the works Zytek 04S, fighting back from an early deficit...
Zytek Engineering hung on to take the win in the Le Mans Endurance Series 1000 km season opener at Spa-Francorchamps. John Nielsen, Hayanari Shimoda and Casper Elgaard took the victory for the works Zytek 04S, fighting back from an early deficit and holding off a late threat from the Playstation Team Oreca Audi R8.
Starting from third on the grid, Nielsen fell back in the foggy conditions early in the race. The Zytek ended up the better part of a minute behind in the span of the first ten laps, the team's intermediate tires being no match for Michelin rains that Team Pescorolo (Pescarolo C60) and Team Oreca (Audi R8) had chosen.
"I knew I couldn't match their times," Nielsen explained "But then the track dried quite a lot and I could match their times, so I knew I made the right choice. Later we changed to slicks and we got some heat into them, and the race came back to us."
By the one-hour mark, Shimoda had taken over the reins of the Zytek, and the team had made its way up to second, some 20 seconds off the Pescarolo, but also a comfortable 25 seconds ahead of Team Jota's Zytek 04S and Oreca Audi -- positions that were to hold steady for some time.
Then racing luck struck Team Jota: Antoine Gosse spun the JMB Ferrari 575 Maranello into a guardrail at Les Combes, and bounced off the barrier into Jota's Zytek, being piloted by Hiroki Kurosawa at the time. And then, to keep the rain of Ferrari bits up, Robert Pergl arrived, shredding his Menx Racing 550 Maranello as he bounced from guardrail to guardrail.
It took fourty-five minutes of circulating behind a safety car to get the debris cleaned up.
The safety car played a role later on, too, as a late caution period around the five-hour mark allowed the cars' tires to cool down again. This caught out Jean-Marc Gounon in the Oreca Audi, at the time on the tail of the Zytek.
"My tyres were cold after the pace car, and I had no grip" said the embarrassed Gounon, after spinning into the guardrails at the Bus Stop. "I tried a bit of power and just lost it."
The late Audi crash allowed Pescarolo (Jean-Claude Bouillon, Emmanuel Collard and Erik Comas) to claim second overall, though a lap behind, while Rollcentre Racing took third, five laps off the pace. Chamberlain Synergy Motorsport took the LMP2 honors and fifth place overall.
With the self-destructive Ferraris thinning out the field, GT1 was a bit of a cakewalk for the BMS Scuderia Italia team Ferrari 550 Maranello (Fabrizio Gollin, Miguel Ramos and Matteo Cressoni), sixth overall. The trio finished three laps ahead of Convers' Team's 550 Maranello.
GT2 was a different matter, though, with victory no certain thing until the checkered flag fell. In the end, it was Team LNT taking the class honors, the team coming back strongly with an eighth place overall after a disappointing performance at Sebring.
With Warren Hughes, Jonny Kane and Lawrence Tomlinson sharing the driving duties in the TVR Tuscan T400R, the team had both the speed and the endurance to hold off both the team's sister car and the gaggle of Porsches and Ferraris vying for the class victory.
Marc Hynes, Patrick Pearce and Jason Temtleman took second in class in the second Team LNT TVR, just half a second ahead of Autorlando Sport's Porsche 996 GT3 RS.
The series now takes a lengthy break to allow the the teams to focus on this year's Lea Mans 24 Hours, returning on July 9-10 for the 1000 km of Monza.