Superb double-win for FF Corse at Le Mans

FF Corse scored an incredible double-victory at the Ferrari Challenge Europe’s showpiece event in support of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Adam Carroll claimed the spoils in the overall contest and the Trofeo Pirelli class while Laurent de Meeus secured victory in the Coppa Shell Am.

Having set the pace in Thursday practice and then qualified third overall in his Ferrari Budapest-entered 488 Challenge, Adam made a strong start to move up to second place at the start of Saturday morning’s 40-minute race.

A multi-car incident at the first Mulsanne chicane allowed the Northern Irishman to form part of a two-car breakaway early on; the lead being swapped three times during the final five laps.

Adam, 36, made the decisive winning move on the penultimate lap, exiting Mulsanne corner well and using his superior momentum to sweep around the outside and into the lead at the right-handed kink before Indianapolis.

It was Adam’s second win in as many races since debuting in the Ferrari Challenge Europe at the Red Bull Ring last month and lifted him to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. It was also the fifth class victory for Silverstone-based FF Corse in the Challenge in 2019.

For HR Owen driver Laurent, Coppa Shell Am victory was the biggest of his career. The Belgian equalled his season’s-best qualifying performance with second in class and made a strong start.

Sticking to the mandatory speed limits during a number of declared ‘slow zones’ at the mid-point of the race, Laurent lost significant time as several rivals did not respect the rules and received penalties, but closed in on the front-runners in the second half of the race.

Setting the fastest Coppa Shell Am lap along the way, he surged into the lead with two laps to go and sped on to his first win of the year; a result that increased his series lead to 32 points with three rounds remaining.

Trofeo Pirelli Am title contender Jack Brown suffered a tough opening day as a technical issue forced him to miss half of opening practice and the entire second session that followed straight afterwards.

The Le Mans rookie was disadvantaged by the lack of track time, but qualified his Graypaul Nottingham car third in class and put on a strong performance in the race to finish there too.

That result maintained the British driver’s record as the only driver in any Ferrari Challenge Europe class to finish on the podium at every race this year. He is just two points off the series lead.

Team-mate Franck Ruimy, who had missed the previous event in Austria, spent Thursday learning the 8.5-mile Le Mans circuit and improved his laptimes by over 10 seconds between practice and qualifying.

The HR Owen-Aerium driver started 14th in Trofeo Pirelli and enjoyed some close racing to finish 12th.

Adam Carroll, Ferrari Budapest, said: “Standing on top of the podium at Le Mans is the best feeling, and it’s even better when you know you’ve had a really tough battle to get there. I came here expecting a dogfight and that’s exactly what I got. The Challenge cars are so fast in a straight line and don’t have the same grip in the corners as a GT3 or GTE car so as the tyres started to go away it became really difficult to drive. I had a fantastic battle with Louis Prette for the win. I passed him on the outside before Indianapolis and he didn’t fight it too hard, but once I was ahead, it became difficult to lead. He passed me mid-race and found the same thing, but when I made the move to win, it was a lot more difficult because we were towards the end and there was a lot more at stake. That’s one of the best battles I’ve ever had for a win. I’m not thinking championship because we only entered at the third round of the season. We’ll all just focus on winning every race we can, picking up points and seeing where we end up.”

Laurent de Meeus, HR Owen, said: “I honestly can’t believe I’ve won at Le Mans. I thought the opportunity was gone because, although I started second and ran there early on, I lost time and positions in the yellow-flag zones early on because I didn’t want to risk a penalty by breaking the speed limit. Some of the drivers that passed me got penalised so I was able to move up, but honestly I had no idea I was leading until after the chequered flag because the team didn’t want to affect my concentration. I could barely walk when I got out of the car; it was such an overwhelming feeling to have won, and the podium was incredible too.
I’ve now won twice in the Ferrari Challenge Europe; at Monza and Le Mans. The only one left that I desperately want to win is Spa, so hopefully it can creep onto the calendar next year.”

Jack Brown, Graypaul Nottingham, said: “It’s been a great experience at a wicked track. There was a lot to take in, but I think we made the best of it. Having a technical issue in practice meant I went into qualifying with only two laps under my belt, but I’d studied the videos of Adam’s car and just tried to copy him as best as I could, and it worked out as I qualified third and knocked 10 seconds off my practice time. On the first lap of the race there was a big crash at the first Mulsanne chicane and I had to go down the escape road to avoid it. I lost lots of places there and by the time I’d passed the Coppa Shell drivers, the two Trofeo Pirelli Am leaders were too far ahead to catch. Third is still good points and standing on the podium at Le Mans was incredibly cool.”

Franck Ruimy, HR Owen – Aerium, said: “The whole experience was incredible; something that you can only imagine doing once in a lifetime. I’ve only done five race events in my life and two of them have been at Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans; a couple of the most iconic tracks on the planet. I really couldn’t hope for a better team than FF Corse, who have really taken me in as part of the family and helped develop my driving skills so much in a very short space of time. Going 310kph down the Mulsanne straight is easily the fastest I’ve been in a racing car and it’s exhilarating. It took me a while to get up to speed in practice, and having less time on-track and fewer laps because the track is three times the length of a normal circuit. The battles were quite fun in the midfield and I had a great time.”

Tim Mullen, Sporting Manager, said: “It feels amazing to come to Le Mans for the most prestigious event in the Ferrari Challenge Europe and have two wins and three drivers on the podium. We wanted to win this one badly, but so did every team, so the FF Corse crew just knuckled down on everything, prepared the cars and the strategy brilliantly, and left the drivers to do what they do. Adam had a fantastic battle for the win and it’s very pleasing to reward Ferrari Budapest with a second win in as many races, and Laurent was particularly overwhelmed with his victory, as the podium scenes showed. He’s extended his Coppa Shell Am lead and we’re in a good position in both Trofeo Pirelli classes. A great team effort.”