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  • Writer's pictureANDREA TASSELLI & DAVIDE PERSIANI

Tatiana Calderòn returns to ELMS with P9 in LMP2 Pro-Am

"It was a difficult race, but we took a lot of learnings for the next rounds." - Despite a challenging first round of the ELMS season for Team Virage - including a crash on Friday that left its bronze driver injured - Tatiana Calderon and her teammates completed the 4H of Barcelona with a P9 in the LMP2 ProAm class.


Photo by: European Le Mans Series / FocusPackMedia - Jan Patrick Wagner

The four-hour race that kicked off the 2023 ELMS season has just ended in Barcelona. It is only the first race but we can already tell that the European Le Mans Series is going to be a great championship.


Among the several new drivers we see on the grid this season, there are some who have returned to the championship after some time. Among them, Tatiana Calderòn has made her return to the European Le Mans Series after competing in the 2020 season with the Richard Mille Racing Team in a mainly female line-up alongside Beitske Visser and Sophia Flörsch, who was substituted by André Negrão for the first two rounds.


Tatiana comes from an exciting yet challenging 2022, which saw her competing in some of the top racing series in the world like Indycar and FIA F2 - albeit in part time campaigns.


Just ahead of the season opener at Barcelona, The Colombian driver signed a deal with Virage Team in a LMP2 ProAm entry, with support from Colombian singer KarolG. Tatiana is excited to come back to endurance racing with the #19 Virage Oreca:

"I am very excited to finally start the season starting with the Prologue and followed by the Barcelona race. It will be my first race with the team, and with the new track layout, so it could be a big challenge in terms of tyre management. I hope we can get good information about it during the Prologue and have a positive first weekend."


The two free practice sessions, held between Friday and Saturday morning, were not very indicative of which teams would be fighting for Pole Position in Saturday afternoon's qualifying. In FP1 the #19 Virage team set the fourth fastest lap of the session.


In FP2, the team’s bronze-rated driver Rob Hodes suffered an accident and fractured two ribs. The team didn’t give up and the mechanics put the car back together, with Dennis Andersen joining the team as a replacement driver at the last minute.


The qualifying session saw completely different protagonists from those seen in the free practice sessions. In Sunday's race, the #47 Cool Racing, #34 Racing Team Turkey, #17 Cool Racing and the #66 JMW Motorsport will start from pole position in the LMP2, LMP2 Pro/Am, LMP3 and GTE categories respectively. Tatiana's team would start from ninth position in the LMP2 Pro/Am category.


Dennis Andersen took the start aboard the #19 Oreca and completed the first stint for team Virage.


After the traditional formation lap that began shortly before 11:30 am local time, the drivers step their foot on the accelerator to start the Four Hours of Barcelona 2023.


The first Safety Car of the season didn’t take long to show up: an LMP3 lost its back end in Turn 3 and got stuck in the middle of the racing line, the drivers did everything they could to avoid it but unfortunately several cars suffered damage. The #72 Aston Martin and the #77 Porsche were stuck in the gravel, while the #44 Aston Martin hit the LMP3 directly, damaging its front right wheel. All four cars unfortunately started the season with a DNF.


After 20 minutes the Safety Car returned to the pits and the race could resume. The restart was a clean one and the drivers could actually start the race.


The first half of the race went on without incidents. The Virage #19 team had a steady race in ninth position. Andersen would hand over to Ian Rodriguez for the second stint.


In the second half, however, the race started to get interesting.


While trying to unlap itself, the #28 IDEC SPORT LMP2 made contact with the #25 Algarve Pro Racing LMP2 - at the time the overall leader - sending it into the gravel. The race director called a Full Course Yellow - a safety procedure whereby all cars must proceed at pit-limit speed, usually 80 kilometers per hour - in order to pull the prototype out of the gravel. The #25 lost several positions and found itself in eighth when the race resumed.


In the GTE class, the #57 Kessel Racing and the #95 TF Sport exchanged the seventh position for several laps, with the #57 emerging victorious from the duel.


Tatiana Calderon got behind the wheel of the #19 Virage Oreca for the final part of the race.


With just over an hour to go, the #93 Porsche of Proton Competition found itself in the gravel after a small contact with the #35 LMP3. It was Full Course Yellow again: the procedure resulted in the battle for the overall race lead to resume at the restart between the #34 Racing Team Turkey LMP2 Pro/Am and the #47 Cool Racing LMP2. The #34 emerged victorious from the battle, but in the duel, the left rear diffuser was slightly damaged. This small problem will become more significant as the laps went by.


In fact, half an hour from the end the black and orange flag was waved at the #34, which was then forced to return to the pits to replace the component. The team lost 30 seconds in the process, between pit lane and rear diffuser replacement, which resulted in the Duqueine team moving into first place with its #30 car, which gained a few seconds of advantage. Louis Deletraz, driving the #34, started to chase the Duqueine Team car.


After a few laps the two time-ELMS champion found himself on the tailpipes of the #30, driven by Neel Jani, and in turn 7 he surprisingly overtook his rival. A truly spectacular overtaking move in a corner where one would certainly not expect it.


The #34 Racing Team Turkey went on to win the race by 2.3 seconds, with the #30 Duqueine team in second place and the #83 AF Corse in third.


Photo credits: Team Virage

After spending much of the second half of the race in seventh position, the #19 Virage team eventually finished in ninth, thus securing its first top ten in class. As Tatiana declared at the end of the race, it was a weekend focused on gathering data and gaining confidence with the car:

"It was a difficult race, but we took a lot of learnings for the next rounds. We can aim for the top-10 in the next race."


“Despite the challenges, we were able to show promising speed and potential, which gives us a lot of hope for the future. It’s exciting to see what we can achieve when we work together and push ourselves to the limit. The strategy did not play in our favor but we will come back stronger!”


Tatiana’s 1:32.424 set during free practice 1 remained the team’s fastest lap throughout the weekend.


The winner of the LMP3 category was uncertain until the last corner, an incredible battle between the #31 Race Spirit of Le Man and the #17 Cool Racing remained uncertain until the last second. The #31 won the duel and the race, preceding the #17 of Cool Racing and the #13 of Inter Europol in third.


In the GTE category, the race was mainly dominated by the #16 Proton Competition, which took home the win. Second was the #50 Formula Racing and the #66 JMW Motorsport crossed the line in third.


A race with several battles thus launched this 2023 season of the ELMS; the next race is scheduled for July 16th at Le Castellet, France - such a long wait is due to the paddock extension works at the Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari of Imola, which make the circuit unusable for the race that was planned for the 7th of May.



ELMS coverage in collaboration with DG | www.dgtp.it

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