4-hour European Le Mans Series race today was the race recorded in history as the craziest – but luckily in an exciting way.
41 cars were ready on the starting grid with Panis Barthez Competition #23 on Pole Position, ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 and DragonSpeed #21.
In LMP3 EuroInternational #12 would start in front, followed by 360 Racing #6 and United Autosports #2.
Proton Competition Porsche had gotten both their cars in the first row in GTE, with #77 ahead of #88, and Gulf Racing UK Porsche #86 in third position.
It was a wild start of the race, with chaos already in Turn 1.
United Autosports #2 went off after getting a push. A few laps later it was 360 Racing #6’s turn to get a push so that they spun around.
There was a contact between Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 and the same-brand teammates in JMW Motorsport #66, but both could continue without too much problems.
One of the biggest gainers was High Class Racing #49, that was all they way up to P3 after a couple of swing. DragonSpeed #21 fell back down the field with Henrik Hedman behind the wheel, as the car’s bronze ranked driver.
Cetilar Villorba Corse #47 had some problems in Turn 1 and stalled in the middle of the track a few laps later. They managed to get the car back to the pits, but the rest of the race would be hard since they were four laps behind.
The two Proton Competition Porsche cars had swapped places, so #88 was ahead of#77, while Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 came up on third.
EuroInternational #12 had kept the lead in LMP3, with United Autosports #3 and Ultimate #17 in the following positions.
On seventh lap, Anders Fjordbach in High Class Racing #19 came up to second place after driving past Roman Rusinov in G-Drive Racing #26.
When the first LMP2 pitstop round started, Panis Barthez Competition #23 remained in front, but the second and third positions were now occupied by G-Drive Racing #26 and G-Drive Racing #40, while High Class Racing #49 also fell back behind Racing Engineering #24, when Dennis Andersen got in the car.
G-Drive Racing #26 went to take the lead in LMP2 after half an hour of the race, when Roman Rusinov flew past Julien Canal in Panis Barthez Competition #23. Canal also got overtaken by James Allen in G-Drive Racing #40 shortly afterwards.
An hour into the race, there was a Full Course Yellow, when United Autosports #22 stalled on the track. It couldn’t be seen on the car, but Phil Hanson came with an explanation when he came back to the pits. A piece of rubber from a car in front hit the car’s fire extinguisher button, and it meant there was no foam in the engine compartment and cockpit, also the killswitch was ripped from the car so it couldn’t be started again. Hence they retired on the spot.
But before they managed to remove the car, another car got stranded in the same place and only missed #22 by the skin of its teeth. It was SMP Racing #35 that drove off into the gravel and hit the tire barrier. It had problems with the gearbox, which suddenly didn’t want to downshift, and Victor Sheitar couldn’t brake the car in time.
#35 could, however, come back to the pits after getting lifted back to the asphalt. But they also had to retire since the team couldn’t solve the problem fast enough.
The race quickly got restarted, and a few laps later United Autosports #3 stopped in front of the LMP3 class.
RLR MSport #15 came up to third place in LMP3, while United Autosports #2 with Sean Rayhall behind the wheel had fought itself up after the spin on the first lap, and was now in fourth place.
Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 overtook the lead in GTE halfway into the race, while JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 was P2 and Proton Competition Porsche #88 was P3.
DragonSpeed #21 came back to second place after being in P13 with Hedman behind the wheel. It was Ben Hanley who pushed hard and got the car back up the field.
Panis Barthez Competition #23 was back to third place, when Julien Canal couldn’t brake quick enough as the FCY period started. It resulted in a drive-through penalty.
It was much worse for G-Drive Racing #40, that had problems with the exhaust. The engine sounded worse and worse, but the mechanics solved it during their second pitstop. The repair as well as the slower laptime thus far meant that they were P12 in their class when they got back to the track.
We had only lost three cars in the first three hours, and they were United Autosports #22 and SMP Racing #35, which oddly retired almost at the same time. And then there was M.Racing – YMR #18, that retired due to mechanical problems after two hours drive.
After three hours of the race, G-Drive Racing #26 was leading in LMP2, followed by Racing Engineering #24 and IDEC Sport #28, that was back in front. United Autosports had a 1-2 with #3 ahead of #2, while 360 Racing #6 also came back up through the field after the incident on the first lap. Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 had the lead in GTE, in front of JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and Proton Competition #88.
It all would turn upside down, however, in the last hour of the race.
RLR MSport #15 got a drive-through penalty for a collision with 360 Racing #6.
Gulf Racing UK Porsche #86 got a 10-second pitstop penalty for driving outside the white lines. Something they had gotten penalised for a few times in Friday practice. We would hope they could fix it for tomorrow’s FIA WEC race, since the same three drivers will be participating.
JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 also got a 10-second penalty for the same mistake, and it was more dramatic since they had pitted for the last time and was currently in second place in GTE.
Shortly afterwards, there was a message on the screen that the leading Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 got the same exact penalty as the two others.
And all good things come in four – Ebimotors Porsche #80 also got the same penalty.
It was four out of seven cars in the GTE field that got 10-second penalty each. Since Proton Competition Porsche #88 was less than ten seconds behind the leading Spirit of Race Ferrari #55, things could get exciting.
Thus in the last part of the race, there were only seconds separating #55, #66 and #88.
There was also a battle between G-Drive Racing #26, Racing Engineering #24 and IDEC Sport #28, for who could drive the longest on a full tank of fuel. It was unsure whether the cars could finish the race without pitting again, so the engineers were doing serious calculations on the pitwall.
One who needn’t to worry about the fuel was Norman Nato. The Frenchman went off the track under braking with only half an hour left. It deployed the second FCY of the day, so the car could get removed.
Hence IDEC Sport #28 went up to second place and Graff #39 P3 – until #39 had to pit for more fuel. The new car on P3 Duqueine Engineering #29 only enjoyed the podium spot for one lap before they, too, had to pit.
Slowly but surely, DragonSpeed #21 went up as the others pitted. G-Drive Racing #26 was also in the pits for the last time, to get the last splash of fuel, but they already had such a big gap the others wouldn’t be able to catch up on, even though they pitted again.
AVF by Adrian Valles #30 was on a promising third place, but then their rear wing broke, and Konstantin Tereschenko had to pit to get a new one mounted.
United Autosports looked like they would bring 1-2 home, until John Falb in #2 couldn’t restart the car after the last pitstop. It sent them out of the podium.
NEFIS by Speed Factory #5 didn’t see the chequered flag after not being able to start the car after their last pitstop. Instead of repairing the car, the team chose to push the car into the garage, since it would take too long to repair.
Ebimotors Porsche #80 needed just a bit more fuel to cross the finish line, and the team wanted to play it safe by refuelling, so that it wouldn’t run out. But it turned out that they didn’t manage to come out of the pits before the winner had taken the chequered flag. So instead of being classified as sixth in GTE, they left the race without any point, since the rules state that you have to cross the finish line to be classified.
Out in front, G-Drive Racing #26 with Jean-Eric Vergne, Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola won the race, ahead of DragonSpeed #21 with Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley and Nico Lapierre, and IDEC Sport #28 with Paul Loup Chatin, Memo Rojas and Paul Lafargue.
High Class Racing #49 drove itself to a general ninth place, but the most important for the team is a victory in Gentleman Trophy, which is for the teams without a Gold or Platinum driver. Anders Fjordbach is currently a silver-ranked driver, while Dennis Andersen is bronze-ranked.
LMP3 was won by United Autosports #3 with Anthony Wells, Garret Grist and Matt Bell, followed by Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen #7 with Christian Stubbe Olsen, Alex Kapadia and Colin Noble, while Ultimate #17 with Matthieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and Francois Heriau finished third.
Olsen was the one with the fastest laptime for #7, so it was a nice achievement for the young Dane.
In GTE class things were a bit more complicated. Number 1 and 2 in the class, Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 and JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 had both a penalty in store, so Proton Competition Porsche #88 would have to finish within ten seconds of #55 to win the race. It looked like that until the cars crossed the line.
JMW Motorsport #66 with Miguel Molina, Liam Griffin and Alex Macdowall ended up winning the race with 0,126, after taking their time penalty. Proton Competition Porsche #88 with Matteo Cairoli, Giorgio Roda and Gianluca Roda finished second ahead of Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 with Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Andrew Scott with their time penalty. A crazy finish to the race, where the victory slipped in the very last corner for Cairoli, when he had a problem going past a super slow LMP2 car, and it costed him over a second in the last sector.
After the race today, Proton Competition Porsche #88 is still leading the GTE championship, ahead of JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and Spirit of Race Ferrari #55.
RLR MSport #15 is still in front in LMP3 championship, ahead of EuroInternational #11, that finished without any point today. United Autosports #3 had taken a big jump up tp P3 with today’s victory, and overtaken 360 Racing #6 and Euro Interpol Competition #13.
G-Drive Racing #26 had extended their lead in LMP2 championship, so they with 34-point gap only need to finish in top two to secure the title by themselves. If Racing Engineering #24 finishes second, IDEC Sport #28 on third or DragonSpeed #21 finishes in front of them, the title is theirs no matter what. Otherwise there are lots of complicated calculations on how they can win.
The teams have now a month to calculate, when the fifth and penultimate round of European Le Mans Series will be run at Spa Francorchamps on 23 September.