For the last four years, the ELMS team, Jota Sport appear at the Belgium round of the WEC in preparation for Le Mans. The round at Spa-Francorchamps allows the #38 crew to eye up their competitors ahead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Once again, the team appeared at the event again last weekend.
The Jota Sport team are currently on a good run. After victory at Le Mans in LMP2 last year, the team were also runners up in the ELMS last year. Well rested and prepared after the long winter, the British team came out fighting at Silverstone last months ELMS season opener, coming second by a mere 0.370. Filled with confidence after their strong result, they entered their annual WEC race last weekend.
In qualifying, the #38 car was fifth fastest in class. However the penalty for the KCMG team meant that Jota were moved up to fourth on the grid come Saturday. After taking an early lead, they were penalised for jumping the start, which saw their early lead disappear. Despite the 15 second stop and go penalty the Jota team pushed back to the front of the class to retake the lead. The straregy was perfect from that point. After a tight battle with both of the G-Drive cars the Jota car prevailed to come out on top to win their second in two WEC races in LMP2.
In a similarly positive result, the new SARD-Morand team had a strong debut weekend. The Japanese-Swiss team have had a tough time over the last few months, but have managed to pull though to make the start of the six hours of Spa-Francorchamps. With only one car and a mixed driver line up from the two planned cars, expectations of the team were not high. The qualifying was a head turner straight away when the #43 car placed third fastest in LMP2. After the KCMG penalty, SARD-Morand started second on the grid in class, but couldn’t quite manage to hold onto the strong starting position and dropped behind one of the G-Drive cars. Despite the strong category, the young team didn’t fall down the order. The team was finally rewarded with some long overdue luck in the final hour when the ’26 G-Drive car failed to finish, pushing the team onto the podium on their debut on the world stage.
The Russian team left Belgium with mixed feelings. Although they managed to claim pole position in the #26 car, the premature retirement with reliability issues will definatly be playing on the team’s mind going into Le Mans next month. Fortunately for G-Drive, the #28 car inherited the lost position from the sister car and clamed their second second place finish of the season, as well as claiming the race winning points. As the #38 Jota was only a special entry, the race winning points went to the highest class finisher with a full season entry.
Next month the 24 Hours of Le Mans will start and the Jota will once again take on the two G-Drive Ligiers. At the moment it seems both teams are on equal terms going into the endurance classic, which raises the question, will the Russian team manage to knock the British ELMS team of the top step in LMP2, or will the #38 come out on top again.
Images: WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff)