Team Virage started the 2023 Ultimate Cup Series with a strong showing in Le Castellet, Circuit Paul Ricard, securing the pole position before going on winning the 4h race on a field of 25 prototypes.
Drivers Manuel Espirito Santo, George King, and Viacheslav Gutak all made their debuts in Ultimate Cup, while Gutak already had experience in LMP3, having competed with success in Asian Le Mans Series. George and Manuel were both making their endurance debut, in preparation for their season in the ACO / LMEM championships.
After a safe start, George remained in 2nd position for the first hour, keeping a 1 to 3 seconds gap with the leader during his whole stint before leaving the car to Viacheslav. The Asian Le Mans Series race winner kept the contact with the lead, before passing through the pitstop strategy.
For the last hour and a half, Viacheslav let the car to young Portuguese Manuel Espirito Santo, who was doing his first ever endurance stint, and night driving. With the instruction of bringing the car home, Manuel still scored the second fastest time of the race, and built a 32 seconds lead in order to take the win.
It is Team Virage’s 7th win in Ultimate Cup Series, making it the most successful team to compete in this prototypes’ category, and the best way to start the 2023 season.
Team Virage will next be in action in Barcelona for the European Le Mans Series, Le Mans Cup and Ligier European Series opening round, before travelling to Navarra on 28-30 April for the second round of the Ultimate Cup Series with the clear ambition to maintain the series leadership.
Free practice 1: P3
Free practice 2: P1
Qualifying : P1
Thoughts of the2023 UCS race 1: Le castellet
Julien Gerbi, Team manager:
“It has been a successful return in Ultimate Cup Series for us after missing out the 2022 season. Manuel, George and Slava did a faultless race, our pitstops all went well and the strategy was spot on. It was not an easy task, but the job has been done on all areas and this result is the award for it. We are excited for the rest of the season.”
Manuel Espirito Santo #14:
“Really good race! Race pace was there from the start. It was a really tough double stint in the night, with keeping focus the whole time and managing everything. Really good job to whole team, George and Slava”
George King #14:
“LMP3 debut win! Stoked with the result and an amazing effort from all the team and drivers for a fault less race. No penalties and super clean driving. What a start of the season!”
Viacheslav Gutak #14:
“Super happy with my boys! Manuel, George, and all the guys in box did amazing stuff. This race was enjoyable to do, clean one, without any surprises. Top week for the Virage family!”