In agreement with ACO, the organisers of the European Le Mans Series have decided to open up the GTC category (consisting of cars from single-make cups like the Ferrari 430 Challenge, Lotus Evora GT4 Enduro and Porsche 911 GT3 Cup 2010 and 2011) and accept FIA GT3 homologated vehicles and cars complying with the 2012 Porsche GT3 Cup and Ginetta G55 Cup regulations.

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Last weekend, the teams entered in the European Le Mans Series put on a top-notch performance in the 80th Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Thiriet by TDS Racing team, winner of the Le Castellet 6 Hours and current leader in the ELMS championship, qualified in fourth place in the LM P2 category at Le Mans. In the race, Beche-Thiriet-Tinseau were in second place at the end of the first hour and Beche led for a few laps.

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Nelson Panciatici

It was this weekend that Nelson Panciatici took part in his first 24 Hours of Le Mans for the 80th edition of the "Mancelle" challenge. For his grand debut, the driver of the G-DRIVE RACING by SIGNATECH NISSAN team finished in 10th place in the general ranking and 4th in an LMP2 category of the highest order.

Nelson Panciatici also found himself the recipient of the Jean Rondeau Trophy which rewards the best French hope in endurance. This prize was created in honour of the memory of Jean Rondeau who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1980 in a car he had constructed.

Strongly supported by his co-drivers, Pierre Ragues and Roman Rusinov, Nelson Panciatici entered the mancelle adventure with great calm and was able to avoid the many traps in this race by applying his team’s instructions to the letter.

The practise, where each driver was able to get his bearings, was good. The ORECA 03 NISSAN G-DRIVE RACING by SIGNATECH NISSAN, improved with performance DUNLOP tyres, tagged the 3rd best time in the qualifiers at the hands of Nelson Panciatici and really announced his ambitions for the race!

Starting with a conservative strategy, favouring reliability more than performance, did not stop the ORECA 03 NISSAN from holding lead positions and entering the top 10 by the 4th hour of the race while hovering between 2nd and 3rd place among the LMP2s most of the time. A podium was therefore foreseeable until an unfortunate blow-out on the rear right immobilised the car in the box for the time it took to change part of the damaged rear bodywork and extractor. Hopes for a place on the podium were over but the G-DRIVE RACING by SIGNATECH NISSAN knew how to liven up the race:

"This first experience was an incredible moment for me. The memory will be with me for the rest of my life. I can’t wait to come back," declared an enthusiastic Nelson Panciatici, "our practise was good with a great qualifying session, and even if it wasn’t the team’s priority, they gave me the opportunity to fight for a chance at the podium. It was a shame not to get a clear lap but that’s part of the hazards of this race! With my co-drivers, Pierre and Roman, we gave a solid race and the G-DRIVE RACING by SIGNATECH NISSAN team did a great job. Even if it’s frustrating to land at the foot of the podium, so close to the target, it bodes well for the future. For a first, it was a very positive result!"

For Philippe Sinault, the manager: "Practise went well despite a few small concerns with the gearbox. Getting to know the circuit went very well for Nelson and although it wasn’t the priority, we even gave him a window of opportunity to attempt a good time and try to position himself as high as possible, which he did. With regards to the race we had a fabulous result within reach for this new team, but nothing is ever a certainty at Le Mans and with the flat tyre all our chances of a podium evaporated."

There was a lot of emotion at the finishing line and the whole G-DRIVE RACING by SIGNATECH NISSAN team leave the Le Mans circuit with a feeling of accomplishment because they completed this legendary race which is always an exploit!

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The Le Mans 24 Hours is the highpoint of the international endurance season. The event will take place this weekend (16-17 June) and there will be fifteen teams racing in the European Le Mans Series on the grid. Ten LM P2 teams out of the eleven in the ELMS make up half the field at Le Mans and they will battle for victory in the category with the usual runners in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

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WEC NISSAN Nelson Panciatici

The young Nelson Panciatici will take part in Test Day on the fabulous circuit of Le Mans 24 Hrs after a convincing performance in the 6 Hours of Spa Francorchamps, where success evaded the G-DRIVE by NISSAN team’s ORECA 03 NISSAN and stopped them from reaching the podium.

It’s the first time that the G-DRIVE by SIGNATECH NISSAN driver will travel the mythical route whose evocative names of Tertre Rouge, Mulsanne, Arnage, Dunlop…have largely contributed to the legend of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The G-DRIVE by SIGNATECH NISSAN team has prepared well for these important trials scheduled before the coming Le Mans 24 Hours. They carried out two days of tests on the Magny-Cours circuit, dedicated to night driving and the use of Dunlop tyres on long relays. For Nelson, who has already had the opportunity to drive by night during the two rallies he took part in, this familiarisation took place quite naturally and it’s with confidence that he faces the day,

"I feel comfortable with the team and the understanding is excellent with Pierre Ragues and Roman Rusinov, my co-drivers," comments Nelson Panciatici. "We have a good car, fast and reliable and we’ve prepared well. Personally, I’ve watched lots of videos and worked on all the learning Damian Dias, my engineer, passed on to me. The aim of these tests is to learn the circuit and tune the car for the race. You can be sure that the moment I take to the track I will be thinking of all the history this circuit represents, it will be a very special moment, but once the visor is down I will do my job just as I do on all the other circuits! All the drivers who have taken part in this challenge have said it’s magical, I will soon be able to experience it for myself, I can’t wait to get going!"

The whole G-DRIVE by SIGNATECH NISSAN team has mobilised for this day of tests and Nelson Panciatici, well supported by his co-drivers, intends to garner as much experience as possible in order to be ready for the coming Le Mans 24 Hours on June 16 and 17. For all the teams and drivers a victory represents an important landmark in the hall of fame, but before that they need to concentrate on the tests!

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Mathias Beche sets the first pole of the season

In today’s qualifying session on the Paul Ricard circuit, the Thiriet by TDS Racing team and its young driver, 25-year-old Mathias Beche, put on a stunning performance by setting pole (a repeat of their 2011 feat in LMP2). During the 20-minute qualifying session for prototypes, the Franco-Swiss set the quickest time on his fifth lap in 1m 48.171s at the wheel of the no. 46 Oreca 03-Nissan LMP2.

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The new endurance season will kick off on the Paul Ricard circuit on 31st March-1st April under the name: the European Le Mans Series. Twenty-three cars have entered for the race, and as expected, LM P2, the new top category, has the most teams with twelve entrants ready to go head-to-head. Topping the bill is Greaves Motorsport whose aim is to clinch a second title on the trot with Alex Brundle-Lucas Ordonez-Tom Kimber-Smith in the Zytek-Nissan.

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Peugeot continues its winning streak at Silverstone!

After winning the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 km and the Imola 6 Hours, Peugeot emerged victorious in front of 40 000 spectators in the Autosport 6 Hours of Silverstone, the fourth of the five rounds of the 2011 Le Mans Series. After a long duel with the no. 1 Audi R18 TDI, the no. 7 908 came first after a well-judged race showing its reliability and speed. Greaves Motorsport won in LM P2, Pegasus Racing in FLM, AF Corse in LM GTE Pro and IMSA Matmut Performance in LM GTE Am.

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Simon Pagenaud takes pole on his first outing at Silverstone!

Simon Pagenaud took pole in his Peugeot 908 for the Autosport 6 Hours of Silverstone on his first outing on the famous English circuit. Despite uncertain weather conditions the Frenchman found the right window to set the fastest time in the session in front of Allan McNish and Stéphane Sarrazin. The other pole setters were: Danny Watts (LMP2), Phil Keen (FLM), Augusto Farfus (LM GTE Pro) and Nicolas Armindo (LM GTE Am).

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Peugeot win the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 kms for the fifth consecutive time

Today Saturday, Peugeot won the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 kms for the fifth time on the trot after its four straight victories between 2007 and 2010.  The 908s got the better of their German rivals early on in the race despite their poor grid positions and were never headed after that. TDS Racing, Hope Racing, AF Corse and IMSA Performance Matmut triumphed in the other categories.

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Battle on all fronts at Spa‐Francorchamps !

After the first round of the Le Mans Series at Le Castellet, the intensity is going to be ratcheted up several notches in the second race, the Spa‐Francorchamps 1000 kms on 5th ‐7th May. Almost sixty cars will be on the starting grid for the Belgian classic, and the duel between Audi and Peugeot, with only six weeks to go to the Le Mans 24 Hours, will be the highlight in the top category!

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Pescarolo wins the Le Castellet 6 Hours on his return to the Le Mans Series

Henri Pescarolo’s team made a triumphant comeback to endurance racing by winning on its first outing in 2011. Emmanuel Collard, Christophe Tinseau and Julien Jousse took first place in the event on the Paul Ricard HTTT circuit. Greaves Motorsport won the LM P2 category and finished on the third step of the overall podium. JMW Motorsport, Felbermayr-Proton and Pegasus Racing carried off the spoils in the other categories.

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Rebellion Racing sets the fastest times

After the first test session yesterday under grey skies in the Var, the weather did not improve today. The ambient temperature did not exceed 10°C, and violent gusts of wind plus intermittent rain did not make things easy for the Le Mans Series drivers and teams. However, they all continued to fettle in their cars during the eight-hour official test session…

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Kick-off of the Le Mans Series!

This Friday saw the kick-off of the Le Mans Series on the first day of official testing, Twenty-seven cars took to the track on the legendary Le Castellet circuit for the first skirmish of the 2011 season. The majority of teams used the day to get to know their cars, and some were already testing at racing speeds.

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