Bent Viscaal started his endurance career in the European Le Mans Series in a strong way. Together with teammate Sophia Floersch, the 22-year-old Dutchman finished in second place during the opening race of the ELMS season 2022, which took place at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet.
After five years in single-seater racing, Viscaal decided to broaden his horizons. An unexpected turn in the Formula 2 negotiations led to this. Algarve Pro Racing’s offer to race in the ELMS fitted seamlessly with the challenge that the twenty-something from Twente was looking for. In the highly professional team of racing fanatic Stewart Cox, Viscaal found former Formula 3 competitor Floersch as his new colleague.
Viscaal had exactly one week to adapt to the handling of Algarve Pro Racing’s Oreca 07-LMP2 car. On Monday 11 April, the resident of Albergen drove out for the first time in the blue-black colored bolide, to take part in the four-hour race on the Circuit Paul Ricard six days later.
Bent Viscaal curious on the eve of debut in European Le Mans Series
The two test days preceding the race weekend gave Viscaal and Floersch some headaches. Technically, a few things had to be changed. However, that difficult dress rehearsal turned out to be the harbinger of a crazy competition.
Started from tenth place – somewhat disappointing, in the opinion of Viscaal, who had sent the APR car to fourth in free practice on Saturday morning – Floersch was allowed to take the start. The German lady cut through butter like a hot knife. Within a few laps, Floersch had overtaken four opponents and was in fourth place at the end of her driving time.
It’s up to Viscal to defend the won terrain tooth and nail. No fewer than 42 cars are taking part in the ELMS, seventeen of which will compete in the LMP2 class. The field is very competitive and, due to the high number of participants, it is also sensory-stimulating, as at any moment an opponent will appear in front of, next to or in the rear-view mirror. In addition, Viscaal also had to keep an eye on fuel consumption. The Algarve Pro Racing engineers played a tactical card, arriving early for the first stop and betting on multiple Safety Car phases.
Viscal’s first two stints were impressive. The Formula 2 podium customer and Formula 3 race winner easily held his own among drivers who have been bivouacking in the endurance world for several years. Due to the fuel strategy, Viscaal couldn’t go all the way, but nevertheless the leading trio couldn’t shake him.
More than fifteen minutes before the end, Floersch was allowed to board for her third and last stint, only to hand over the wheel to Viscaal half an hour later. The Dutchman found himself in sixth position. From there, thanks to recording lightning-fast laps, he rode to first place in no time. To the outsider, it looked like an incredible victory was imminent, were it not for the fact that APR’s fuel strategy was just not up to the mark. With more than fifteen minutes on the clock, Viscaal had to send his #19 car to the pitlane for a splash-and-dash.
In the lead, however, the Tukker had built up enough lead to return to second place, behind the car of the Prema team. Countryman Job van Uitert tried to push to take Viscal’s second place, but he proved no match for the defensive qualities of the endurance debutant. Just ten seconds from the unapproachable Prema trio, Viscaal crossed the line in second after four hours of struggle, to immediately crown his first ELMS race with a podium finish.
“I am very happy with our podium finish,” Viscaal said from the south of France. “Honestly, I actually had no idea where I was driving! I had no radio communication during the race, so I had to make do with the pit signals. Fortunately, I knew exactly what the assignment entailed with the words ‘Box’ and ‘Fuel’”, de Tukker chuckles.
“Our race pace was very good, I’m very happy with that. Of course one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but it still holds great promise for the rest of this six-race ELMS season. All in all, the weekend was a great experience and I am happy to experience this with Algarve Pro Racing, I am happy with the team and I think the team is happy with me too.”
“Sophia also drove fantastic”, Viscaal praises his German teammate. “Her start was very strong. The fact that she immediately overtook four competitors in the first rounds certainly saved us a sip of a drink. This beautiful second place leaves you wanting more. I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again, we’re going full on at Imola!”, the Dutchman concludes combatively.
Thanks to the beautiful result of Sunday afternoon, Viscaal and Floersch scored eighteen valuable points on behalf of Algarve Pro Racing. Logically, the two occupy second place in the standings for the ELMS championship.
The next race in the 2022 ELMS season will take place at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy. The 4 Hours of Imola will be held there on Sunday 15 May.