UPDATE: Inter Europol Competition has lost its LMP3 victory, due to a drive time infraction.
The bulletin reads that Martin Hippe “Didn’t respect the driving time for the Bronze driver.” The team has been handed a time penalty of 1 minute 43 seconds. That means, by dint of when the overall winner crossed the line, that the #13 car is now classified second
Because of this penalty, Eurointernational’s #11 Ligier, which lost the class win initially due to ignoring a black and orange flag, has now (unofficially) been handed back the victory.
A challenging and incident-packed race that saw frequent changes of lead and which rarely settled down saw IDEC Sport score a victory in the European Le Mans Series for the first time. Memo Rojas, Paul Loup Chatin and Paul Lafargue stuck it out and kept their heads in the #28 ORECA 07 Gibson as weather and safety car conditions shifted fortunes in a thrilling four-hour event.
With a wet track being declared by Race Control just before the green flag, James Allen led away a slick shod field from pole for DragonSpeed, Philip Hanson’s #22 new United Autosports machine holding the front row grid order. And it was the early rain which caused many teams to change strategy on the fly.
Will Stevens stole third off the line, the start of a solid performance for Panis Barthez Competition, but Paul Lafargue pushed back hard for the deposed #28 IDEC Sport car as the rain came and the field had no choice but to pit for wet weather tyres. Allen stayed out for DragonSpeed, braving the conditions but lost out in the gamble as his ORECA lost grip under braking, forcing a spin at Copse.
Conditions clearly favoured wets but some toughed it out on slicks, the wet period not expected to last. The championship leading G-Drive crew was particularly thrown by conditions, Roman Rusinov taking an extra stop for Intermediates, which pitched the car back early on. A stellar quadruple stint by Job Van Uitert was to bring the #26 Aurus back into contention.
Vaxiviere for RLR MSport clawed his way towards the DragonSpeed ORECA, which despite its spin had held onto the lead. Losing ground, however, Allen had no option but to accept the conditions and pit for wets, dropping down the order. This situation wasn’t to last long though, the churn of the race and its dogged pace shuffling the DragonSpeed car’s fortunes throughout.
Matthieu Vaxiviere, who was a late substitute for Bruno Senna (on WEC duty here this weekend) found himself leading for RLR MSport as the rain abated and cars that had persevered on slicks began to creep back into contention. This recovery was short-lived though: Phil Hanson lost electrical power and was off the road through power steering failure at Luffield in the #22 United Autosports ORECA, which brought out the first FCY that enabled the remaining field to get back on to slicks and for the race to recalibrate.
Panis Barthez Competition came out of this turnaround particularly well, Konstantin Tereschenko’s #24 ORECA, having hung clung to its slicks earlier, gaining track position.
Vaxiviere handed the leading RLR MSport car to teammate John Farano, the Canadian Bronze driver soon into the clutches of the chasing pack despite his best efforts: James Allen was back in the groove for Dragonspeed, trailed by the #24 Tereschenko car in third and the #39 Graff Oreca, fourth.
Allen made the pass for the lead as the halfway mark approached, the RLR MSport car then tumbling down the order after pitting with suspension damage following an incident into the Vale chicane. Its contact with the off-line and recovering #14 InterEuropol LMP3 car into the tight left-hander had been followed by the unfortunate LMP3 machine being clouted hard by the following #30 Duqueine Engineering car, Nicolas Jamin at the wheel. The #30 car was handed a stop-go penalty for an ambitious move that resulted in unnecessary contact.
The race neutralised again by safety car conditions for the United Autosport LMP3’s accident (caused by contact with the passing #24 Panis Barthez car that drew the stewards’ attention but drew no further action), the #30 car was then in more serious trouble. At a frantic restart, Jamin made a heavy impact with the Cool Racing ORECA of Alex Coigny which was stationary mid-track after contact with the M Racing LMP3 machine at Brooklands. (Coigny is highly unlikely to take the start in tomorrow’s WEC race as a result of the incident) A further safety car period shook things up again as teams grappled with their options.
Tristan Gommendy was installed in the now leading #39 GRAFF car, pitting on schedule with 40 minutes to go. But the French entry was at risk of investigation having backed up the pack at the green flag to the point of danger, cars behind very compressed and narrowly avoiding further incident.
The #21 DragonSpeed car had pitted earlier, Ben Hanley now back aboard. A stop 7 seconds quicker than that of the G-Drive Aurus gave Hanley back the lead, who set about building a gap knowing the car would need a further splash of fuel. At that point, the lead shifted back to Jean-Eric Vergne’s Aurus, while Memo Rojas’s was looking set for a second-place finish with IDEC.
The battle for third was well joined as Hanley – who had pulled a fabulous move for fourth in taking Tereschenko’s Panis Barthez car around the outside at Stowe – was right on the tail of the now third-placed #39 GRAFF ORECA.
A late pit stop for G-Drive surprised everyone though, the championship-leading #26 car having a tear in its left front tyre and the risk to the end of the race too great. This gave Rojas the lead in the #28 IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson, which had clearly called strategy perfectly throughout the conditions. Vergne retained G-Drive’s hard-earned second place, with Gommendy third for GRAFF.
Ben Hanley’s gritty drive for DragonSpeed brought the car home fourth, but with the GRAFF car potentially under a post-race enquiry, this could be elevated.
The #24, a surprise package in the race, would go on to finish fifth after running second for much of the event, aided by the team not pitting for tyres after the brief rain shower at the start. The #25 Algarve Pro ORECA took sixth.
Speaking after the race, winner Rojas said: Yes [I was surprised by JEV pitting]. We were playing a different strategy than them, changing only the left tyres. At that point, honestly, I thought that was not the right call because I didn’t feel there was an advantage on grip, but obviously there proved to be an advantage on reliability.
“They had come in, and we were fortunate that our decision was the right one because the left-side tyres in Paul Loup’s stint were a bit damaged. So, I’m happy that the team stuck to the plan, and obviously, the decision paid off.”
Inter Europol inherits P3 victory and takes championship lead – STOP PREAA – #13 Loses WIn To Penalty – #11 Wins
In LMP3, Eurointernational’s points-leading Ligier of Mikkel Jensen and Jens Petersen crossed the line first but was pushed down to second in class after a post-race penalty
The team took a big lead early by staying on slicks in the rain shower but was pinged by the stewards for not coming in to repair rear-end bodywork despite receiving a black-and-orange flag.
The win was therefore inherited by the #11 EuroInternational Ligier after Nigel Moore’s stunning effort late in the race to reel in Petersen. Moore and Martin Hippe have therefore won two races in a row now.
“We decided to go for the safer option to go to rain tyres because of where we are in the championship,” said Hippe. “The car was good and very reliable again, the team did a good job. To win again is great for the championship points. And now we lead with 21 points.”
Behind, the #2 United Autosports Ligier of Wayne Boyd, Garret Grist and Thomas Erdos took third, after a quiet race that’ll give United something to celebrate after a tough outing for its other cars in the race.
The worst luck for United concerned the #3 Ligier JS P3, which ran high up the order and in the top three throughout. It was punted off the circuit by the #24 Panis-Barthez car, causing the first safety car period. It was a huge impact for Mike Guasch, destroying the front-end of the JS P3. Thankfully, he was ok.
“Mike has been assessed by the team at the medical centre and they suspect he has a broken rib, but there aren’t signs of any other injuries. He will be going to hospital for further checks and we will update if there is any further news,” United Autosports said in a statement.
The #6 360 Racing Ligier finished fourth, ahead of the #7 Nielsen Racing Norma, which fell down the order from second in the final hour during Tony Wells’ run to the flag.
Proton takes GTE win in a thriller
The pole-sitting #88 Proton Competition Porsche of Ricardo Sanchez, Gianluca Giraudi and Thomas Preening took GTE class victory, although the way in which the race was won was anything but lights-to-flag.
Giraudi started the #88 and would lose the class lead and handfuls of time after having to avoid dramas in the other classes. This handed the early advantage to the #60 Kessel Ferrari of Sergio Pianezzola, but with just six minutes in the books, the heavens opened and pitlane pandemonium began.
Once everyone had switched to wets, the #83 Kessel Ferrari of Michelle Gatting had taken over the lead. She was followed by Christian Reid in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche, but only briefly, as, with 15 minutes in the books, Ried lost control at Maggotts, and dropped to fourth.
This bumped Pianezzola from fifth after the stops back up to second in the #60 Kessel Ferrari. Elsewhere in GTE, a spin for Wei Lu while the rain fell effectively lost a lap for the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, dropping it to the back of the order and causing a full-course yellow.
Within 20 minutes, the weather had turned again, resulting in another pitlane visit for a majority of the field. Once the order had reset, the Kessel 1-2 was still intact in what was becoming a rather spread-out GTE order.
However, the order had changed, with Pianezzola back to the head in the #60, with an advantage of roughly a dozen seconds over Gatting in the #83.
Times between the two were roughly equal, and the two Kessel entries had a cushion of over 40 seconds to the third-place runner, Gianluca Giraudi in the #88 Proton Porsche, who was followed by Fabien Lavergne in the #51 Luzich Racing Ferrari as the race entered its second hour.
Ried’s race in the #77 Porsche went from bad to worse, with the car withdrawing to the garage; the team was studying the 911’s underside with the front bodywork removed due to steering issues. Ried rejoined the race just before the 90-minute mark, some 10 laps off the rest of the class.
With an hour and 40 minutes in the books, the leading #60 Kessel Ferrari made its way into the pits for a driver change. Nicola Cadei took over the car, and after that, the #83 was also pitted to hand over to Manuela Gostner. The latter car’s stop was a little slower, resulting in a gap of over 25 seconds between the two 488s once the race had reset.
The #88 Proton Porsche was now down to fourth, with Ricardo Sanchez at the wheel, while the #51 Luzich Racing car was up to third, and closing in on Gostner with Nicklas Nielsen at the wheel.
With two hours and nine minutes in the books, Gostner lost second at Village. Nielsen capitalised as an LMP2 car spooked Gostner off-line, getting off the corner quicker and taking the place into the Loop. The gap between Nielsen and the leader Cadei was 46 seconds, and while the Dane was lapping quicker in the #51, it was by less than a second a lap.
The Safety Car triggered with an hour and 45 minutes to go invalidated this, however and would be near-constant for the next 35 minutes.
Just before racing resumed minutes before the start of the final hour, Pier Guidi took over the #51 Luzich Ferrari, and Giacomo Piccini took the helm of the #60 Kessel entry. As they had pitted just before the Safety Car came in, they did not catch the train and were roughly 40 seconds back from the lead battle.
The personnel in that lead battle had also changed, with Rahel Frey in the #83 Kessel Ferrari ahead of Thomas Preining in the #88 Proton Porsche.
Frey’s gap over Preining was a little over 10 seconds once racing was back underway, and would gradually shrink over the course of the next half-hour. Meanwhile, with just over 40 minutes to go, Piccini was dispatched for third by Pier Guidi, though the Kessel driver would hold on to the back of Pier Guidi thereafter.
With 32 minutes to go, Preining had caught up to Frey in the battle for the GTE lead. Preining passed at Stowe and began building a gap. Both would have to pit in the final minutes, though both would retain their positions, with Frey holding on by the skin of her teeth.
Preining would ultimately take the win for Proton by 28 seconds, ahead of Frey, Piccini and Pier Guidi, with the latter two swapping positions several times in the closing 15 minutes. The top five in class would be rounded out by the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari, the last of the runners not disrupted by dramas in the race.
Images courtesy of ELMS