With the weather-gods smiling upon the paddock and spectators, Silverstone witnessed a historic first today when United Autosports took overall victory (LMP2) and the win in the LMP3 class giving the Anglo-American squad the first ever LMP2-LMP3 double victory in the European Le Mans Series.
Two weeks after the new Gibson-engined ‘Global LMP2′ chassis’ were seen on track for the first time together in Monza, today’s European Le Mans Series podium featured teams from each of the three manufacturers represented; Ligier, Oreca and Dallara.
With 15 minutes of the race remaining, Fillipe Albuquerque in the United Autosports Ligier JSP217 was 30 seconds adrift of Ryo Hirakawa in the #22 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07, however, the Japanese driver started to suffer from extreme tyre-degredation having been forced to race on the set used for qualifying after the team reached their new-tyre allowance. As grip and speed suffered, Albuquerque began to reel in the gap and passed the struggling Hirakawa with just three minutes of the race remaining.
The Portuguese ace took the chequered flag two laps later in a time of 4:01:24.751, 6.3 seconds ahead of Hirakawa. The final spot on the overall podium went Anders Fjordbach driving the #49 Dallara P217 of Danish prototype debutants High Class Racing.
Despite a spirited charge at the start of the race by Richard Bradley, taking the Graff Racing Oreca 07 from 29th on the grid to a race lead, the team could not hold onto their overall pace and Australian driver James Allen brought the #40 car home 53.4 seconds behind Albuquerque to claim fourth overall and a healthy 12 points.
The pole-sitting #21 DragonSpeed Oreca, which set the fastest lap of the race during Ben Hanley’s opening stint, lost six laps due to a gearbox selector fault and eventually finished 10th overall. The only prototype not to finish was the #25 Algarve Pro Racing which stopped on track after 70 laps and lead the team to retire the car.
In LMP3, a share in the history-making went to American pairing John Falb and Sean Rayhall who gave us a master-class with a virtually faultless race in the #2 United Autosports Liger JSP3; the only moment anything other than the win looked a remote possibility was when Falb spun the car at Copse in the final hour.
Second spot ‘ultimately’ went to the #17 Ultimate team’s Ligier following a post-race enquiry where the 360 Racing Ligier was given a penalty for Anthony Wells, a Bronze driver, not respecting the driving time running too short a stint. Ultimate’s cherry-red Ligier finished in a time of 4:01:47.538, a lap down on the #2. 360 Racing’s penalty also meant that the final prototype podium spot was picked up by Falb & Rayhall’s teammates Mark Patterson, Wayne Boyd and Christian England who brought the #3 United Autosports Liger home 2.4s behind the Ultimate car.
In the GTE Class it was another debutant team who took the top step of the podium when Euan Hankey converted the team pole to a win and brought the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage home a lap ahead of the #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of of Italian Matteo Cairoli.
However, it could all have been very different as the Pole-sitters failed to take an early lead when Aaron Scott catapulted his #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari into a first corner lead, passing both Salih Yoluc and Andrew Howard in their respective Aston Martins. The Beechdean car spun early on, dropping it to last place and the Euan Hankey in the #90 was clipped by Gianluca Roda in the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari during the second hour with both cars spun off the track. Roda was judged by the stewards to be at fault and was handed a drive-through penalty, effectively ending the team’s race.
With Ross Gunn driving the wheels off the Beechdean Aston Martin, the team eventually got the car back into third spot to claim the final podium position a mere 1.1 seconds behind Cairoli.