The ELMS’ final round at the Algarve International Circuit of Portimão is upon us, with 39 entries set to take the track. And while the LMP2 championship was decided at Spa, the LMP3 and LMGTE title races are headed to a conclusion on Sunday.
Here’s a look at what’s to come in each class this weekend:
LMP2: Battle for the Championship’s second and third Positions
Since G-Drive Racing won the title the last time at Spa, the pressure’s off for drivers Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Eric Vergne. The Russian team dominated this season with one pole position at Spa and three consecutive wins at Monza, Red Bull Ring and Silverstone. They are the favourites for a fourth victory in Portimao this season.
Three teams will be competing for second and third positions in class: Racing Engineering (56 points), IDEC (56 points) and Dragonspeed (50 points).
Racing Engineering’s ELMS season was off to an excellent start with a victory at their inaugural race. The Spanish team has since come close to realising another win and even finished second in the Red Bull Ring, but they scored very few points in the last two races at Silverstone and Spa (three in total).
The #28 IDEC Oreca 07 took the chequered flag at every race and clocked two pole positions in 2018. Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas will team up again with Gabriel Aubry while Paul Lafargue recovers from a serious back injury. This line-up cannot count on the support of the #27 IDEC sister car, which, despite being a full season entry, is surprisingly absent from the EMLS finale.
Dragonspeed has not won any races in 2018, but the second half of their season was very strong, with two consecutive second places at Silverstone and Spa. Their car, driven by Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley and Nicolas Lapierre, will be one to watch in Portugal.
LMP3: Five Contenders for One Title
In LMP3, there are still five cars with a mathematical chance of taking the 2018 LMP3 Championship title.
The #15 RLR MSport Ligier JSP3 driven by John Farano, Rob Garofall and Job Van Uitert leads the championship, 14 points ahead of the #6 360 Racing Ligier JSP3 shared by Terrence Woodward and Ross Kaiser and 15 points ahead of the #2 United Autosport driven by John Falb and Scott Andrews (subbing for Sean Rayhall since Spa).
RLR had an amazing 2018 season, with two victories (Paul Ricard and Red Bull Ring) and a second place in Spa. The car, led by Dutch revelation Job Van Uitert, is the favorite for the title.
360 Racing has taken the chequered flag at every race this season and finished twice on the podium but has never been victorious. Terrence Woodward and Ross Kaiser are serious candidates for a surprise victory in this championship.
United Autosport – the 2017 LMP3 Team Champion – is ending their season on a strong note, with two consecutive wins at Silverstone for the #3 Ligier JSP3 driven by Anthony Wells, Garett Grist and Matthew Bell and one at Spa for the #2 Ligier JSP3 shared by John Flab and Scott Andrews. They are undoubtedly serious contenders for the LMP3 team’s title.
Lower in the Championship rankings are the #11 Eurointernational Ligier (46.5 points) driven by Giorgio Mondini and Kay Van Berlo and the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier JSP3 shared by Jakub Smiechowski and Matin Hippe (45.25 points). Only an incredible sequence of events for either cars could help them win the championship. But, as we know from past years, anything can happen, and it usually does in the ELMS title deciders.
Thirteen other cars will compete in this season’s finale. A few driver line-ups have changed since Spa, notably the following:
– Iradj Alexander will be returning in in the #4 Cool Racing Ligier JSP3 after missing the 4 Hours of Spa;
– Michelin Le Mans Cup drivers Nicolas Maulini and Michael Benham will be joining the #8 DKR Engineering Norma M30 and the #19 YMR Norma M30 respectively;
– BMW works driver Mikkel Jensen will be returning in the #9 AT Racing Ligier JSP3 after being replaced by Yann Clairay at Spa and Silverstone; and
– Bronze driver Vadim Meschcherlakov will compete in his inaugural ELMS race in the #12 EuroInternational Ligier JSP3.
LMGTE: Porsche and Ferrari Battle for the Title
Father-and-son duo Gianluca and Giorgio Roda could make history. If the current LMGTE championship leaders secure enough points to become the 2018 ELMS LMGTE champions, they will be the first father-and-son team to win an ELMS title together. The Italians will be racing the #88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 alongside Matteo Cairoli.
Their closest rival for the championship is the 2017 championship winning car, the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Liam Griffin, Alex MacDowall and Miguel Molina with 69 points (10.5 points behind the championship leaders). They have had a great season so far, with two wins and one pole position.
The #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE with Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott behind the wheel is just two points behind the # 66 Ferrari, which has 67 points.
The 4 Hours of Portimão will take place on Sunday, 28 October.