What can we say about my Paul Ricard wimbling? Well it’ll be short, but satisfying (as the racing driver said to the grid girl). The fourth round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series at Paul Ricard was fated to good from the outset. Blessed with beautiful weather, the merry band of eight GTEs all present and correct, it was time to throw on the shades and enjoy.
Qualifying was entertaining – that is, unless you were the No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche which had to sit out the session with mechanical gremlins. For the rest, it was over in the blink of an eye (as the grid girl said to the racing driver), with everyone bunched up behind the overjoyed No. 99 Beechdean Aston Martin crew on pole, the fourth different polesitter in as many races. Also, what I joy that I just got the Beechdean ice-cream and number ninety-nine pun. Really.
To the race and Andrew Howard in the Aston Martin couldn’t make inroads from pole as the stud of Ferraris came to the fore, with Rory Butcher in the JMW Motorsport 458 leading Aaron Scott and Alexander Talkanitsa Jr. Behind them, there were more dramas for the #88 Proton Competition Porsche – Christian Ried probably wishing he’d stayed in his deckchair after being punted by Piergiuseppe Perazzini’s AF Corse Ferrari – while the aforementioned Perazzini was sent to the naughty step. Then after taking over from Scott, Duncan Cameron in the No. 55 AF Corse Ferrari got a surprise prod up the bum on his way into the pits, which put paid to their attack.
But after that, it was just… nice. The racing was nice. The weather was nice. Some people did some overtaking and that was nice. Prototypes and GTs didn’t trip over each other, which was nice. The commentators talked about how nice everyone was and the teams tweeted in how nice the commentators were, so the fans tweeted how nice the commentators and the teams were, which was nice. All the pitstops went nicely and even when there was the odd full course yellow, they didn’t drag on, was nice.
The niceness lasted for over three hours and with little over ten minutes left, it looked as though Butcher, Rob Smith and Andrea Bertolini were set to give JMW Motorsport their second consecutive victory, which lots of people agreed would be very nice. But it wasn’t over yet – Butcher peeled into the pits for a splash and dash and suddenly the lead was lost.
The mood changed – had JMW grasped defeat from the jaws of victory? Defending ELMS champion Mikkel Mac was now at the head of the field, although amid the excitement, his name became Macklemore in my mind and I struggled to shake off the mental image of Rory Butcher chasing down a ginger man in a thrift shop fur coat (though this probably happens all the time in Scotland).
However the drama was over as quickly as it began, with Mac’s Formula Racing Ferrari also necessitating a quick top-up. A relieved JMW crew therefore took the win (and with it, the championship lead) ahead of Formula Racing, with the Beechdean Aston Martin completing the podium, a welcome indent to the Ferrari dominance.
With most people happy having had a nice weekend and even those who were disappointed content to top up their tans if nothing else, the ELMS village disbanded for another month. When the series reconvenes for the penultimate round of the season in Belgium, one thing is for sure – the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps will be long and hard (as the Greek driver said to the marshal scribbling down his surname.)
To catch up on Beki’s Red Bull Ring Wimblings, click here.