The Prancing Horse claimed its first victory of the season in the European Le Mans Series in Spain, triumphing in the LMGTE class with the 488 GTE of Kessel Racing. Official driver Davide Rigon drove it to the chequered flag, celebrating his 37th birthday with a win in the night race. At the same venue, the Maranello manufacturer also climbed the top step of the podium in the production-derived class of the Le Mans Cup with a victory for AF Corse’s Ferrari 296 GT3.
ELMS. The 4 Hours of Aragon was the scene of the third round of the continental series, which ran on the 3.321-kilometre, 18-turn circuit. The Maranello manufacturer’s cars proved competitive from qualifying. JMW Motorsport’s 488 GTE number 66 secured pole position ahead of Formula Racing’s 488 GTE number 50. The Kessel Racing Ferrari, driven by Takeshi Kimura, Gregory Huffaker II and Rigon, set off from fifth on the starting grid, while the number 8 car of Spirit of Race and 51 of AF Corse started eighth and eleventh, respectively.
The Spanish event featured two Full Course Yellows and a Safety Car. A collision with a prototype in the early stages prematurely ended the race for the number 50 Ferrari of the Danish crew of Johnny and Conrad Laursen and official driver Nicklas Nielsen. However, the yellow-livered Ferrari 488 of Kimura-Huffaker II-Rigon featured prominently throughout the event in a close fight for the top positions with the Proton Competition crews. In the closing stages, the Italian driver, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday, 26 August, took the steering wheel. Rigon optimised the team’s work and consolidated the lead, crossing the line – after 113 laps – with a 10-second margin over Porsche number 16. The Ferraris of JMW Motorsport, Spirit of Race, and AF Corse finished in the top 10, in fifth, sixth and tenth respectively.
Rigon party. “A wonderful race,” said the 37-year-old from Veneto. The victory is an extraordinary birthday present on a track where I had taken part in many tests but had never raced. A lot of the work was done after free practice, where I used my experience to find the best set-up, and we were delighted with the 488 GTE’s performance.” The result was due to outstanding teamwork. “Our Bronze driver, Kimura, did very well to hand over the car in third position to Huffaker, who did even better by finishing first,” Rigon continued. “I managed the tyres as best I could by extending my stint as long as possible, also to preserve the petrol. The trickiest thing? Traffic management was essential to avoid any accidents.”
After Barcelona, Le Castellet and Aragon, Team Kessel Racing sits second in the team standings, two points behind the leader; Kimura and Huffaker II hold the same position, two points behind the leaders, in the drivers’ standings. The European Le Mans Series will return to the stage on 24 September with the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
Le Mans Cup. The Italian flag flew over the skies of Aragon in round four of the Le Mans Cup, where AF Corse’s Ferrari 296 GT3 number 51 sealed a win after 48 laps of a race featuring three Safety Cars and a Full Course Yellow. Hiroshi Koizumi and Kei Cozzolino prevailed over the number 86 Porsche that had crossed the finish line first but was penalised and lost one position. The second 296 GT3, the number 83 of the same Italian team crewed by Emmanuel Collard and Charles-Henri Samani, was seventh.
This was the 296 GT3’s first Le Mans Cup win in its debut season. Team AF Corse are third in the team standings, 10 points behind the leaders. In the drivers’ standings, Koizumi-Cozzolino sit third with a 10-length disadvantage, while Collard-Samani are ninth. The fourth round of the Le Mans Cup will run on 23 September at Spa-Francorchamps.