United Autosports stamped their authority on the third round of the European Le Mans Series at Austria’s Red Bull Ring today taking the win in both LMP2 and LMP3 classes.
The #32 Ligier JS P217 of William Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer and Filipe Albuquerque took the chequered flag in 4:00:57.876, 4.554 seconds ahead of the pole-sitting #22 G-Drive Racing Oreca of Memo Rojas, Nicolas Minassian and Léo Roussel. The all-French squad of Eric Trouillet, Paul Petit and Enzo Guibbert brought their #39 Graff Racing Oreca in a lap down to seal third place despite a spin and a brief bit of ‘off-roading’ by Petit in the latter parts of the race.
Despite starting from pole position and exchanging the lead with the #32 Ligier throughout the race, the G-Drive sponsored squad suffered delays in the middle stint when super-sub Nicolas Minassian was held up by Matt McMurry’s Algarve Pro Ligier not obeying blue flags, earning McMurry a drive-through penalty.
The lost time brought the United Autosports Ligier back into contention and the Anglo-American team finally leap-frogged the G-Drive car in the final round of pit stops.
The #21 DragonSpeed Oreca had looked a certain podium prospect for much of the race however, with an hour to go the car ran out of fuel at Turn 8 while Henrik Hedman was running in fifth place bringing out the only Full-Course Yellow of the race.
In LMP3, the #2 pairing of Sean Rayhall and John Falb survived a penultimate lap drive-through penalty for track-limits abuse with Falb bringing his United Autosports Ligier JS P3 out the pits marginally ahead of a fast-charging Giorgio Mondini in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier, to take the class win by 1.7 seconds. The #18 M.Racing YMR Ligier of Alexandre Cougnaud, Antoine Jung and Romano Ricci closed out the podium places some 57.326 seconds adrift of the winner.
The category showed close racing as ever with all the cars getting a clean start. Pole-sitting David Droux in the #7 Duqueine Engineering slipped back to third as a hard charging Rayhall rocketed his #2 Liger from sixth to slot into second place. Droux re-took position soon anfer and and Giorgio Mondini in the #11 Eurointernational Ligier had passed the American by lap 30 and following the first set of pitstops lead the class.
the Italian duo of Mondini and Uboldi dipped their Eurointernational Ligier in and out of the lead throughout the race until loosing it to a charging John Falb in the #2 Ligier three laps from the end.
Despite the close racing it was a race of attrition with many falling by the wayside. On lap two, Wayne Boyd spun the #3 United Autosports Ligier spectacularly on the exit to T1 leaving the car with drive issues and an early retirement; 32 minutes in Ross Kaiser’s #6 360 Racing Ligier again lost its right rear wheel. The silver rated Brit did a brave job of returning the car to the pits but the failure was terminal and the car officially retired on lap 21.
Seven minutes into the second hour the #13 Inter Europol Competition spun in front of Ricky Capo in the #12 Eurointernational Ligier. With nowhere to go the Australian collected the #13 suffering what initially looked like a puncture however, despite a brave effort to return the car to the pits the damage was terminal and the car retired after 44 laps. In total, six cars were retired from the LMP3 class.
LMGTE again served up some terrific racing from the get-go. The Ferrari 488’s of Spirit of Race and JMW Motorsport were the class of the race, clearly having not just the speed but the braking advantage over the ageing Aston Martins and Porsche 911. While time may seem a one sided battle the quality of the drivers shone thorough and each and every car pushed and challenged for the top spots at one time through the race.
The battle between the #66 JMW Motorsport and #55 Spirit of Race Ferraris raged through the closing hour of the race until Irishman Matt Griffin managed to pass Jody Fannin as the #66 driver struggled to pass LMP3 traffic. Once past Griffin brought the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari he shares with Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott home for the win 17.593 seconds ahead of Fannin.
With a large dose of right-foot, Nicki Thiim brought the TF Sport Aston Matin Vantage in to scoop the final podium spot when he passed Georgio Roda in the #51 on the final lap.
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The #77 Proton Competition Porsche of Matteo Carol, Christian Ried and Joel Camathias finished fifth with the Beechdean AMR Aston closing out the field. There were no retirements in the class.