Alex Cascatău will compete in the opening round of the Endurance Prototype Challenge, part of the Ultimate Cup Series. The Romanian returns to the series as one of his biggest dreams is set to come true on the track that formerly hosted the French Grand Prix.
It’s as if it’s last autumn, only better. Alex Cascatău will return to the Le Castellet region on France to compete at the famous Paul Ricard track in just a few days and, this time around, he’ll finally tick a big item off his bucket list. After over three years and four different private test session together with three outfits, the Romanian will finally make his race debut behind the wheel of an LMP3 class car.
It's no secret that Cascatău has been trying to crack the LMP3 ranks for a while. Last year, he was one step away from competing in the blue riband event of the Michelin Le Mans Cup, namely the `Road To Le Mans` race that takes place during the same weekend as the fabled 24 Hours of Le Mans. The stars didn’t align then, sadly, but they will this weekend as Alex will re-join BHK Motorsport.
This is a team that Alex knows, having tested with BHK all the way back in 2021. That was his second ever go at the wheel of a P3 car and, now, it’s BHK that allows him to make his debut in what will certainly be a very competitive +20 car field.
Unfinished business at Paul Ricard
Alex first raced at Paul Ricard last year, in the final round of the 2022 season. However, his previous experience revolves around the Nova Proto NP02, a car that’s balanced to be slower than the LMP3 Ligier JS P320 that he’ll be driving on March 24-26. In any case, the Romanian can’t forget that he should’ve won his class in last year’s four-hour race and he hopes to do just that in the anniversary race that’s coming up on Saturday.
This year, the Ultimate Cup Series celebrates its fifth anniversary at Paul Ricard and the prototypes are a big part of this ongoing party as Saturday evening will see a field of LMP3s, Nova Proto NP02s, and CN machines do battle for no less than four hours under the (very few) lights of Paul Ricard.
Cascatău will drive the No. 35 Ligier alongside Bronze-rated Joel Roussel and Elia Sperandio. There will be 12 LMP3 cars at the start if the provisional entry list is to be believed, and a few of them feature some well-known heavyweights, including some Gold-rated drivers. In all, we’ve also got 10 NP02s, and four CN prototypes to make things interesting in traffic.
Action kicks off on Friday with a pair of private free-practice sessions (15:15 – 16:45, and 20:40 – 22:10 French Local Time). Then, on Saturday, the Qualifying session is scheduled to commence at 12:15 local time and it will end at 13:10. As always, the session is divided into three 15-minute sections, one for each driver in the line-up. The race will start at 19:50 that same evening and will end close to midnight, at 23:50, for hours later.
Cascatău to face off against Le Mans veterans, IMSA podium finishers, and GT World Challenge champions
Alex is set to do battle against some well-known names come this weekend. At a glance, the entry list provides some familiar names including no less than four Gold-rated drivers that will drive in either the LMP3 class, or the NP02 category. It’s worth mentioning the names of Matthew Bell, Mathias Beche, Stephane Ortelli, Yann Ehrlacher, and Marc Basseng.
Bell is a Briton who’s just finished on the podium in the LMP3 class in the famous Sebring 12 Hours. He competes full-time with the AWA outfit in IMSA, while also driving for Nielsen Racing in the Le Mans Cup and the Asian Le Mans Series. He will also drive a Nielsen Racing-entered Duqueine LMP3 on the weekend.
Stephane Ortelli, meanwhile, is the veteran of veterans: 1998 Le Mans winner for Porsche (with the glorious 911 GT1-98) and king of upsets in FIA GT in 2003 when he won the 24 Hours of Spa outright in a lesser Porsche, Ortelli keeps going and has also won the FIA GT championship (2013), the Blancpain GT Sprint Series (same year), as well as the Endurance title the year before. He’ll drive the Nerguti Competition #99 Nova Proto NP 02.
Mathias Beche, meanwhile, is a Le mans 24 Hours class winner with the well-known and much-missed Rebellion Racing team, and has also grabbed the ELMS title 11 years ago. Ehrlacher, on the other hand, is a star in touring cars as he’s a two-time World Touring Car Cup (World TCR) champion for Lynk&Co (2020 and 2021) at just 26 years of age. There’s also Marc Basseng, 2012 FIA GT1 World Champion on the grid, as well as other familiar faces. As a fun fact, Basseng is Silver-rated nowadays, just like Cascatău.
You can expect Alex to offer plenty of updates throughout the weekend on his social media channels (on Facebook and Instagram), as well as many behind-the-scenes videos in the days and weeks after the race!
The race cand be followed LIVE on the Ultimate Cup Series YouTube Channel