The #22 United Autosports Oreca 07-Gibson of Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson took the victory in the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the Anglo-Portuguese pairing giving their team the second win from two races and recording their third ELMS win at Spa in three years.
The race started with blue skies and high temperatures but, in true Spa style, the weather turned to rain before the chequered flag was shown at 3pm.
Hanson took his place at the head of the 38-car field and led into the first corner, followed by his teammate Will Owen in the #32 United Autosports Oreca, with Mikkel Jensen in the #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01-Gibson in third. Jensen briefly lost his third place to the #38 JOTA Oreca of 2014 World Endurance Drivers Champion Anthony Davidson, but the Dane fought back to regain the place by the end of the lap.
At the end of the first lap the #21 DragonSpeed Oreca of Ryan Cullen joined the back of the field from the pitlane after a fuel issue on the way to the grid delayed the American flagged team, forcing them to start from the end of the pitlane one lap down.
Phil Hanson started to open up a small gap to Owen as the American came under pressure from a flying Mikkel Jensen and on lap 2 Jensen was past and into second place.
On Lap 8 the first of two Safety Cars was deployed when Martin Hippe in the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier went into the tyre wall on the exit of Bruxelles trying to avoid the spinning #10 Nielsen Racing Duqueine of Rob Hodes. The race was neutralised for 20 minutes before the green flag was shown to resume.
At the restart, Jensen got a better run out of La Source than Hanson and the G-Drive Racing Aurus was able to overtake the United Autosports Oreca on the run up the hill towards Les Combes.
After the first set of pitstops a second Safety Car was deployed to recover the #60 Iron Lynx Ferrari of Claudio Schiavoni, the Italian colliding with Will Owen’s #32 Oreca as the American overtook him. Owen was penalised with a stop and go penalty for causing the collision later in the race.
The #37 Cool Racing Oreca of Antonin Borga, the #30 Duqueine Team Oreca of Jonathan Hirschi and the #38 JOTA Oreca of Anthony Davidson were lined up behind the third place #32 Oreca, with Owen keeping his position but only just in the hard-fought battle.
Mikkel Jensen had opened up a 6 second advantage over Phil Hanson as the two cars headed to the pits to hand over to Roman Rusinov and Filipe Albuquerque respectively. Rusinov rejoined in front of Albuquerque but was soon being challenged by the Portuguese driver, taking the lead with a dive down the inside of the #26 Aurus-Gibson on the run into the final corner.
Albuquerque came in for another stop with 1 hour and 37 minutes left on the clock and as he emerged a Full Course Yellow was declared. The #54 AF Corse Ferrari of Francesco Castellacci stopped at T15 and after seven minutes the car was recovered, and racing resumed.
At the restart, Albuquerque regained the lead as they exited the final corner, a GTE car catching out the n#26 car, now with Mikkel Jensen back in the car, allowing the #22 United Autosports Oreca to take the lead before the first turn at La Source.
Jensen kept pace with the lead car and as the race entered the final hour, he took the lead on the Kemmel Straight. The #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus was pulling away as rain was reported to be falling at T5.
Jensen made a mistake at Blanchimont when he ran wide onto the kerbs, putting the car into a spin and straight into the barriers. The Dane was OK but the car was badly damaged and out of the race. Under the Full Course Yellow, Albuquerque pitted to allow Phil Hanson to complete the race.
The #22 Oreca was now over a minute ahead of the field but behind him there was a titanic battle being fought for the minor podium places. Tristan Gommendy was second in the no30 Duqueine Team Oreca with the #39 Graff of Thomas Laurent and the #31 Panis Racing Oreca of Will Stevens all tightly packed together.
After a final FCY to recover some debris on the track after T1, the final few minutes saw this battle play out. Laurent took second place from Gommendy, who also lost out to Stevens, but Gommendy fought back. The three cars were nose-to-tail as they negotiated the traffic.
As they entered the final lap, the #30 regained third place at La Source with Stevens fighting back at every turn. However, the drama wasn’t over as the #30 Duqueine Team Oreca went off the track at the end of the lap with a puncture allowing the #31 Panis Racing Oreca back into third place.Gommendy managed to limp across the line to claim 4th place.
The #22 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson of Phil Hanson crossed the line 58 seconds ahead of the #39 Graff Oreca, with the #31 Panis Racing Oreca in third after four hours of action packed racing.