ELMS: Impressive double podium for Haytham Qarajouli on his Ligier European Series debut at Circuit Paul Ricard

ELMS: Impressive double podium for Haytham Qarajouli on his Ligier European Series debut at Circuit Paul Ricard

Apr 20th 2022

Kuwait’s young driver Haytham Qarajouli – the first Arab driver to contest the Ligier European Series – was imperious during the opening round of the 2022 season in Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet in France.

The 22 car grid comprised of two classes, both the Ligier JS2 R, a GT car designed exclusively for endurance racing and the Ligier JS P4 sports prototype.

Taking possession of his brand new Ligier JS2 R car direct from the factory only a few days before, no testing of the car was possible until the race weekend. However, that did not prevent the young driver from Kuwait quickly establishing a fast pace in free practice and qualifying on the Thursday with a superior Pole position for race 1 and qualifying in second position on the grid for race two, later that day.

On Saturday at the start of race one Haytham pulled a significant advantage over the rest of the JS2 R field, closely following the JSP4 prototypes into turn one.

However, the teenager lost a track position during the pitstop, as he and other silver drivers had to serve a mandatory reference 125-second pit stop for being solitary drivers with a FIA Silver grading, their pitstops had an extra 20 seconds more than all other Bronze graded drivers.

Unperturbed, he set fastest sectors to retake the lead initiative and re-establish his unassailable advantage by the chequered flag, securing a dominant victory on his and Team RLR MSport’s debut in the Ligier European Series with a 52sec gap ahead of the second placed driver and fastest lap of the race.

In race two, starting from second place on the grid, Haytham got the better of COOL Racing’s polesitter Cedric Oltramare into turn one, just before the Safety Car intervened which halted any overtaking.

 

The neutralization of the race at 60kph by the safety car, for a full 10 mins, hampered any progress and prevented Haytham from making a clean break, and, while he enjoyed a clear track by boxing late in the pitstop window, the Kuwait youngster exited pit lane in third place and some ten seconds adrift of the top two cars after the pitstops.

In a hard charge, punctuated by another Full Course Yellow (FCY), Qarajouli threaded the #75 RLR MSport JS2 R past Laurent Millara, but despite lighting up the timing screens and clawing valuable seconds back, couldn’t quite bridge the gap to eventual race victor, Nicolas Beraud.

Another FCY flag with only 1 lap to go offered no respite as the Kuwait driver saw his lead being eroded away and could only try in vain to regain the now 6 sec gap to the leading car. Haytham did however also achieve the fastest lap of the race once again.

“Free practice was good, giving us a lot of useful information and ensuring I went into qualifying with confidence in the Ligier JS2 R,” said Qarajouli. “I was very happy to secure pole position in my first ever Ligier European Series outing, but to then convert pole into a maiden race win on mine and RLR MSport’s debut felt incredible. It was a relatively straightforward and controlled race and it was really awesome to get the fastest lap, too.”

“I hoped to produce a repeat performance in race two. I got the jump away from the rolling start, but the Full Course Yellows and safety Car intervals prevented me from compensating for the 20-second pit stop penalty for Silver-graded drivers. Nevertheless, I’m happy to have recovered to P2 and to be leading the championship at this early stage, and I’m incredibly thankful to my sponsors and family for their support and to RLR MSport who did a great job supporting me in my first endurance race,” commented Haytham post race.

With six rounds, the series races on some of the best European circuits including the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe as a support race for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The second round is Imola, in Italy on May 13th, with the premier event at Le Mans on June 11th, Monza July 1st, Spa-Francorchamps in 23rd Sept and finishing off at Portimao in Portugal on October 15th. Although the series allows two drivers to share the car as a two-driver entry, Haytham will contest all the rounds as a single FIA graded Silver driver racing the complete 1 hour race by himself.

About the Ligier European Series

The Ligier European series, recently launched in 2020, and boasts a weekend format of 2 x 40-minute free practice, 2 x 15-minute qualifying sessions and 2 x 1-hour races. Three hours and fifty minutes of driving per weekend condensed into two days.

The series is operated under the flagship direction of the ELMS organization and all races are live streamed on Facebook, YouTube, and specialized motorsport websites.

The Ligier European Series, is a single-make series launched with the European Le Mans Series. The series is organised by the ELMS during its meetings and dedicated to both the Ligier JS2 R, a GT car designed exclusively for endurance racing and the Ligier JS P4, a sports prototype. The Ligier JS2 R has a tubular chassis powered by a Ford V6 3.7L mid-engine with 350HP, and weight of 1040KG.

The series’ objective is to open the endurance world to drivers, allowing them to climb the different levels of endurance racing and potentially reach the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Ligier European Series is the perfect field for drivers wishing to enjoy themselves on the best tracks in Europe but also for young talents, notably coming from karting, who wish to improve and to be in view of the best teams and car constructors in endurance racing.

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