The third round of this year’s European Le Mans Series was run in the Austrian Steiermark at the Red Bull Ring.
IDEC Sport #28 started the race from Pole Position in LMP2, with Duqueine Engineering #29 and Racing Engineering #24 on the subsequent positions.
Ultimate #17 were on Pole Position in LMP3 ahead of M.Racing – YMR #19 and RLR M.Sport #15. AT Racing #9 had initially been on Pole Position, but was demoted to P6.
JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 had Pole Positipn in GTE ahead of Proton Competition Porsche #88 and Krohn Racing Ferrari #83. The gaps between the cars were so close, that anything would be possible in the race.
The weather gods had already been teasing all the teams throughout the Saturday with rain in practice, dry in qualifying and then rain later on again for some of the support races, and a similar weather forecast was on for the race.
The race started on a bone dry track and 19 degrees air temperature at exactly 12.00 local time.
The start was hectic as always at the Red Bull Ring.Duqueine Engineering #29 grabbed the lead going into Turn 1 ahead of #28 and G-Drive Racing #26.
There were wholesale changes in LMP3 as well, since RLR MSport #15 had taken the lead ahead of AT Racing #9 and Ultimate #17. The GTE category also saw changes since Proton Competition Porsche #88 lead JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and Proton Competition Porsche #77.
There was quite a battle between DragonSpeed #21 and G-Drive Racing #40, where James Allen in #40 overtook Henrik Hedman around the outside – a great manoeuvre.
Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 and JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 swapped positions on the track, so #55 was second in the GTE class.
Tracy Krohn had a small off track moment, but nothing worse than he could rejoin without any damage.
G-Drive Racing #26 got a drive-through penalty for making a jump start.
High Class Racing #49 was up into 8th position in LMP2, thanks to great driving by Anders Fjordbach.
After the first round of pitstops, the Duqueine Engineering #29 was still leading ahead of IDEC Sport #28, while Racing Engineering #24 was back in third. SMP Racing #35 had made the way into 4th after only starting 11th.
RLR MSport #15 was still leading in LMP3, with AT Racing #9 in second, and M.Racing – YMR #19 in third.
Proton Competition Porsche #88 kept the lead in GTE, ahead of Spirit of Race Ferrari #55, and JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66.
DragonSpeed #21 got a Drive-Through for hitting the Ultimate #17 in Turn 3. Both were able to continue without problems.
Dennis Andersen in the High Class Racing #49 had a battle with Nicolas Minassian in the IDEC Sport #27, but have to give way to the former Peugeot Works driver amongst many others things.
Panis Barthez Competition #23 hit the rear of the Cetilar Villorba #47, which made Giorgio Sernagiotto drop several positions within the next few turns.
Mikkel Jensen and AT Racing #9 took the LMP3 lead from Job van Uitert in the #15 after just under 60 minutes of racing.
Cool Racing #4 and Nefis by Speed Factory #5 had a bit of contact on the track, but nothing more than both were able to continue.
BHK Motorsport #16 got a Drive-Through penalty for unsafe release and shortly after, the Nefis by Speed Factory #5 received the same punishment for Track Limits
JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 stopped on the track, right after having been in the pits. The initial reports from the team was that Alex Macdowall wasn’t able to change gears, and thus stopping up the hill. That resulted in a Full Course Yellow, where all the cars had to get down to 80 kph, so the Ferrari could be recovered, resulting in a DNF for them.
Eurointernational #12 also got a Drive-Through penalty for Track Limits.
AT Racing #9 had to pit an additional time since the left door had opened up. The team put Alexander Talkanitsa Sr. into the car, when they were in anyway. But that resulted in them dropping to 4th in the LMP3 category while United Autosports #2 slowly had moved into P2.
After a bit more than 90 minutes of race, AVF by Adrian Valles #30 and #28 got the attention of the stewards. Konstantin Tereschenko made contact with Memo Rojas in the IDEC Sport #28, which resulted in them hitting the Oregon Team #10, that ended up in the gravel. The two others were able to continue. #30 and #28 were not even in a battle for position, but the stewards gave both cars a drive-through penalty – #30 for ignoring blue flags and #28 for causing the collision, when Rojas pulled in the #30 – perhaps in frustration of Tereschenko not moving over fast enough. But it still wasn’t okay for #28 to go over towards #30.
That resulted in a short FCY period to get #10 out of the gravel, but Clement Mateu was able to go on with his race.
Cetilar Villorba Corse #47 had a quick trip through the gravel, in a stint that Giorgio Sernagiotto surely wants to forget as fast as possible, with the earlier contact included.
The drama was back 105 minutes into the race, when the M.Racing – YMR #19 got stuck in the gravel. At the same time we had BHK Motorsport #16 crawling back to the pits with a broken suspension.
That resulted in another FCY.
That made the pitlane very busy, and the two Proton Competition Porsche cars almost collided when one was done with the refuelling, while the other one was just coming in. Thankfully the mechanics avoided contact.
United Autosports #2 left the pits with a big trail of fluid pouring out of the car. They continued on the track, and the mechanics didn’t take much notice.
The race was quickly resumed again, and almost instantly there was a close call between SMP Racing #35 and Oregon Team #10, but the two did race on.
IDEC Sport #27 got a Drive-Through penalty for crossing the white line at the pit entry.
United Autosports #2 spun off the track shortly after, with a huge cloud of smoke and/or steam. The resulted in the first Safety Car of the day, since race control was a bit unsure if John Falb had covered the track in oil. It started to drizzle at the same time, making the conditions even hard on the track.
Several of the teams used the caution to take their third stop of the race.
The race went green after about 10 minutes behind the Safety Car, and the standings was really upside down. Duqueine Engineering #29 still led LMP2, while G-Drive Racing #26 was P2 ahead of IDEC Sport #28.
RLR MSport #15 had an almost one lap lead on the AT Racing #9 and Inter Europol Competition #13, who had a close fight for P2.
GTE saw Proton Competition Porsche #88 back on top with the sister car #77 in second, followed by the Spirit of Race Ferrari #55.
Wayne Boyd in the United Autosports #32 spun off the track when he made contact with IDEC Sport #27, but he was able to continue even when he brushed the Armco.
Eurointernational #12 spun all by themselves in Turn 1, as the rain intensified. Everybody was still on slicks, since most of the track was totally dry.
Colin Noble in the Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #7 was flying and was all the way up in P3 in LMP3, running right under the rear wing of P2.
Krohn Racing Ferrari #83 and Nefis by Speed Factory #5 collided in Turn 1, when #5 tried to drive on the inside, in a hopeless late manouvre. They were lucky that there was so much tarmac in Turn 1, that they could rejoin without assistance.
Cool Racing #4 ended up in the gravel in Turn 7, resulting in another FCY period to get him back on the tarmac. Just as the FCY was put in place, Francois Perrodo in the TDS Racing #33 blew past not one but two cars under yellow flags. Not surprisingly he was reported to the stewards and received a Drive-Through penalty.
United Autosports #3 was spun around by Cool Racing #4 in Turn 3, but both were able to rejoin.
Another rain shower appeared with 85 minutes to go. IDEC Sport #27 outbraked itself completely in Turn 1, but was able to rejoin again after a bit of reversal. The rain was so heavy that some teams started to get the rain tires ready.
Duqueine Engineering #29 had a small detour in Turn 1, but not enough to lose the lead.
AT Racing #9 had a solo spin, which made them lose even more time in the fight for a potential podium position.
Oregon Team #10 had to pit when the rear end and rear lights started dangling off the back of the car. But with all the other troubles throughout the day, they were far off the points anyway.
SMP Racing #35 had a solo spin in Turn 1, and only just avoided getting hit by traffic. Proton Competition Porsche #77 had a trip through the gravel, when Christian Ried was giving a bit too much space for some LMP2 cars.
50 minutes before the end of the race, the Nefis by Speed Factory #5 almost came to a halt on the track, and due to some debris on the track, a FCY was almost called at the same time. #5 was able to fight its way back to the pits.
Another shower passed the track at that point, making everything a bit more exciting for the teams.
AVF by Adrien Valles #30 came to a stop out on circuit, and needed outside assistance to get going again.
The race went back green with 45 minutes left. SMP Racing #35 outbraked itself in Turn 1, but rejoined quickly.
Eurointernational #11 had to pit since they had lost their rear lights on the car. That cost them a podium place in a race where they had featured right at the top.
United Autosports #3 had a solo spin in Turn 6, but Anthony Wells was able to rejoin by himself
Racing Engineering #24 was the first in top-3 to pit for fuel and tires for the last time. There rear left was giving a bit of troubles, so that cost them a few extra seconds with the wheel gun.
United Autosports #22 were the next to pit, and that sent them out of a podium position at that point of the race. Several of the teams ahead of them would still have to pit.
IDEC Sport #28 pitted with 17 minutes to go, and fell behind #22.
Anders Fjordbach in the High Class Racing #49 had a spin, when he was trying to overtake the Oregon Team #10, which closed the door in the very final moment.
Eurointernational #12 spun at Turn 3 with just 12 minutes to go, and had to wait for the traffic to clear, before they could rejoin.
G-Drive Racing #26 pitted for the final time at that point too, and they even managed to keep the lead. Racing Engineering #24 was right underneath the rear wing of the Duqueine Engineering #29, in the fight for second. Panciatici in the #29 would let Pla in the #24 pass easily, and there was a bit of bumping between the two cars at Turn 3.
Proton Competition Porsche #77 received a drive-through with only 7 minutes go to, since they had offended Track Limits. That cost them a podium position, since Ebimotors #80 was only a few seconds behind Dennis Olsen in the #77.
Eurointernational #11 and Krohn Racing Ferrari #83 rubbed a bit at Turn 1, which resulted in damage to the #83, so Andrea Bertolini had to pit one extra time. The stewards gave #11 a drive-through for the contact.
G-Drive Racing #26 with Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne and Andrea Pizzitola won the LMP2 race, ahead of Duqueine Engineering #29, and Racing Engineering #24.
RLR MSport #15 won the LMP3 category with Rob Garofall, Job van Uitert, and John Farano, ahead of Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #7, and Inter Europol Competition #13.
Matteo Cairoli drove the Proton Competition Porsche #88 first over the line after sharing with Giorgio Roda, and Gianluca Roda. Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 were second, ahead of Ebimotors Porsche #80.
G-Drive Racing #26 still leads the LMP2 Championship, with Racing Engineering #24, and Duqueine Engineering #29 in the following positions.
The LMP3 Championship is now led by RLR MSport #15, ahead of Eurointernational #11, and Inter Europol Competition #13.
Proton Competition Porsche #88 took the GTE Championship lead, ahead of Ebimotors Porsche #80, and Spirit of Race Ferrari #55.
The European Le Mans Series is back on track in four weeks’ time, when they race at Silverstone in Great Britain, where the ELMS will share the weekend with the FIA WEC, having the ELMS race on Saturday and the FIA WEC race on Sunday afternoon.
Update – Duqueine Engineering #29 was disqualified from the race since non compliant fuel was found in their tank post race. Read more about that here
That moved United Autosports #22 into a podium position, while TDS Racing #33 moved into third in the LMP2 standings.