Image credit: Red Firecracker / SportsCarGlobal.
After Harry Tincknell qualified the JOTA Sport Gibson Nissan 015s on pole, JOTA’s potentially risky step of using their silver driver, Simon Dolan to start paid off and the team took the chequered flag to win the 4 Hours of Le Castellet with a 30 second lead over second place Greaves Motorsport, also running a Gibson Nissan 015s. The #21 BR01 of AF Racing took third place to complete a potentially embarrassing podium of three non-eligible LMP2 chassis under the 2017 regulations! The win today consolidates JOTA’s series lead to 18 points going into the final round in Portugal next month.
Although JOTA started from pole position they did not have it all their own way throughout the four hour race; Simon Dolan being swallowed up in the pack on the start with both of the Russian BR01’s making a solid start and perhaps the surprise of the day, the Pegasus racing Morgan Nissan leaping from 5th to take the first corner at the head of the pack.
“I felt like the new boy at school at the start, I just got mugged!” said Dolan at the post-race press conference.
“It’s just perfect, a perfect weekend for us” added Filipe Alberquerque. “It’s not over though, we have seen with TDS that trouble can affect anyone”.
“I want another pole and another win in Estoril” said an enthused Tincknell. “Maximum points, perfect!”
Over the coming laps the BR01’s of AF Racing began to pull out a solid lead over the rest of the pack with Mikhail Aleshin pulling out a 20+ second lead in the #21 car over team mate, Frenchman Nicolas Minassian in the #20 car. While the Russian cars appeared to be dominating, safety car periods and pit stops would prove to be perhaps the Achillies-heel allowing the pack to close up.
Following an early puncture, Tristan Gommendy in the Thirilet by TDS Oreca 05 Nissan put in a spirited drive to take the lead by the half way point. Another safety car period following a huge crash by the Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03R Nissan closed up the pack and allowed both of the Gibson’s to take to the head of the pack.
In the LMP3 class, Team LNT’s Charlie Robertson and Chris Hoy took the win to also wrap up the LMP3 title with a race in hand. Their #2 sister car of Michael Simpson and Gaetan Paletou was faster during the race until a suspension failure caused Paletou to crash out, leaving the way clear for Robertson and Hoy to cruise to the finish and take the title. Second place went to the #5 car of Villorba Corse with thirs wrapped by by SCK by Speed Factory.
The LMGTE class was wrapped up by the #60 Ferrari F458 Italia of Formula Racing’ Laursen, Mac and Rizzoli. A perhaps surprising , but welcome 2nd place went to BMW Team MarcVDS bringing the BMW z4 GTE in a lap behind the Ferrari. Third place on the podium went to British team JMW Motorsport with a fantastic debut from Rory Butcher bringing the yellow Ferrari home two laps down on the winners.
Finally in GTC pole-sitters TDS lead from the start to claim the top step with the BMW Z4 GTE. The #62 AF Corse Ferrari took the second step despite various penalties for exceeding track limits and the Danish squad Massive Motorsport’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 collected a well-earned third place.