The weather gods were out to play, when this season’s fourth round of the European Le Mans Series was run at Silverstone in England.
DragonSpeed #21 had taken Pole Position, with Henrik Hedman, Ben Hanley and James Allen, followed by United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque, and IDEC Sport #28 with Paul Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue and Memo Rojas.
M Racing #19 with Yann Ehrlacher, Lucas Legeret and Laurent Millara had taken Pole Position in LMP3, ahead of Ultimate #17 with Matthieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and Francois Heriau, and Oregon Team #10 with Damiano Fioravanti, Gustas Grinbergas, and Lorenzo Bontempelli in P3
Proton Competition Porsche #88 with Thomas Preining, Ricardo Sanchez and Gian Luca Giraudi took Pole Position in GTE, in front of Kessel Racing Ferrari #60 with Giacomo Piccini, Sergio Pianezzola and Nicola Cadei, and Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 with Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and Andrew Scott.
From the Danish side, High Class Racing #20 with Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen started from P13 in LMP2, Mikkel Jensen and Jens Petersen in Eurointernational #11 started P4 in LMP3, Christian Stubbe Olsen, Martin Vedel Mortensen and Martin Rich in RLR MSport #15 from P10, while Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner in Kessel Racing Ferrari #83 would start in fifth place in GTE, right in front of Nicklas Nielsen, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Fabien Lavergne in Luzich Racing Ferrari #51.
The race started on a dry asphalt, but dark clouds drifted close over the track. There was panic in Turn 1, where several cars went off the track. IDEC Sport #27 spun sideways and almost got hit from behind – but luckily it didn’t.
Eurointernational #11 was also one of the teams, who fell back for avoiding to hit other cars.
Two laps into the race, the rain started to come and a bunch of teams chose to pit for wet tires.
DragonSpeed #21 had a spin but it was one of the remaining cars that was on dry tires. A few laps later, Ben Hanley pitted with #21 as he gave up driving on slicks.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 had a spin in the middle of the Maggotts/Becketts combo, but it quickly came back to the right track.
But it wasn’t the case with JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66. They spun in one of the only run-off gravel areas. It required a Full Course Yellow to get them out of there.
Eurointernational #11 with Mikkel Jensen took it easy and continued on the track on slicks, as did 360 Racing #6. All the other cars went in to change to wet tires.
Anders Fjordbach in High Class Racing #20 had a spin and lost a lot of time.
Phil Hanson in United Autosports #22 did a mistake in the traffic, and he had to avoid hitting other cars by driving over the grass. The armco got closer and closer, so the young driver chose to throw the car sideways, to help with the braking. It worked to a point – the problem was that the rear tires got caught in the gravel trap and he was stuck. He needed a help to get out of there, and since it wasn’t a dangerous place to stop, he wasn’t allowed to drive back to the track. It was the end of the race for him, before he could hand the car to Albuquerque.
John Falb had a really good drive in Algarve Pro Racing #25, where he was all the way up to fourth place, but as the track dried up, he couldn’t keep up with the younger drivers.
360 Racing #6 had a spin but could continue without any help.
Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 had to pit due to problems with the steering. The mechanics quickly changed the whole front of the car, to get it ready to drive again.
Michelle Gatting had a really good race, when she handed the Kessel Racing Ferrari #83 to Manuela Gostner on a real second place in the GTE class. Gatting had been in the car through difficult conditions and several pitstops, with different tire choices.
United Autosports #32 got a Drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellow flag.
Carlin #45 couldn’t start the car when they were about to leave the pits following their third pitstop. They finally managed to turn it on after a long stop.
Oregon Team #10 stalled in the pit entry. The car came to the garage a few minutes later but never got out again, since the mechanics couldn’t solve the problem.
RLR MSport #15 and M Racing #19 had a bit of contact in the Stowe Corner, but both could continue.
An hour and 36 minutes into the race, DragonSpeed #21 took the lead of the LMP2 class again, when James Allen overtook John Farano in RLR MSport #43. Farano couldn’t drive the same laptimes as the other LMP2 drivers around him, so it wasn’t long until he came under pressure from Panis Barthez Competition #24 and Graff #39.
After a nice drive by Christian Stubbe Olsen in RLR MSport #15, the mechanics unfortunately had to push the car into the garage. They repaired it for a couple of minutes before it was ready for Martin Rich. The team had problems starting the car, but they managed to solve it in the garage.
Nicklas Nielsen overtook Luzich Racing Ferrari #51 on third position, and could set his sight on the two Kessel Racing cars that were twenty seconds ahead of him.
Duqueine Engineering #30 did an extremely late dive on Inter Europol Competition #14, which sent the green and yellow car around, and got clipped by another car, causing a huge damage on the front of the car. It had to crawl back to the pits and got pushed back to the garage. The stewards looked into it and gave #30 a Drive-through penalty for the incident.
RLR MSport #43 had a damage on the rear suspension and had to be pushed into the garage, which was a shame for them after leading the race earlier. The car never made it back to the track, since the gearbox was broken and couldn’t be repaired.
Panis Barthez Competition #23 had problems with the door, where the mechanics tried sealing it with a lot of tapes. Oddly enough, the car was sent back to the track without any objection from the officials, which is a bit weird, since the driver should always be able to get out of the car without help.
Nielsen in #51 closed the gap to Gostner in #83, but the two Ferraris got interrupted by a mass of LMP cars, so it took a few laps before Nielsen could get past.
With an hour and 50 minutes left, Jens Petersen in Eurointernational #11 came in. Mikkel Jensen had built a huge gap so they could pit and come back to the track still in the lead of the LMP3 class – and even with nearly two laps to P2.
An hour and 44 minutes into the race, the Safety Car was deployed when Panis Barthez Competition #24 and United Autosports #3 collided coming into the ultra fast Maggotts Corner. #3 pretty much hit the concrete wall without braking, which damaged the LMP3 car, and naturally the doctors were careful when they extracted Mike Guasch from the car. Get well soon, Guasch.
The race got restarted with 80 minutes left. Right away, Graff #39 dived past DragonSpeed #21 and took third position.
It didn’t go longer than half a lap before the Safety Car returned to the track, when Cool Racing #37 had a contact with M Racing #19 and spun. Afterwards Duqueine Engineering #30 came from behind and hit the stranded LMP2 competitor damaged both cars, so both of them were forced to retire from the race.
Green flag was given with just over an hour left. It didn’t go so well when Graff #39 braked hard down the straight, almost causing a pile-up.
The last hour started with Graff #39 in the lead of LMP2, Eurointernational #11 in LMP3 and Kessel Racing Ferrari #83 in GTE.
G-Drive Racing #26 had a good progress and took second place in the LMP2 class, now setting their sight on the leading Graff car.
When DragonSpeed #21 was about to pit, Fjordbach in High Class Racing #20 had a spin as he tried to avoid hitting Swedish Henrik Hedman. It cost the Danish team even more, who was already down in P12 in the first place.
Realteam Racing #9 and United Autosports #2 were close to having a collision, but #9 went over the grass and avoided the contact.
United Autosports #32 and Inter Europol Competition #34 had a contact with each other, but both could continue. It was a duel for tenth place in LMP2.
Graff #39 almost drove into the back of United Autosports #2 but managed to avoid it.
Inter Europol Competition #34 pitted to change the front of the car due to some damages, after the contact from earlier in the race.
48 minutes before the end of the race, Jens Petersen got spun around by a competitor. It then appeared to be Nielsen Racing #7, who got a Drive-Through for the incident.
Proton Competition Porsche #88 came flying from behind in the battle for the lead in the GTE class, while Rahel Frey in Kessel Racing Ferrari #83 tried to hold on.
Graff #39 pitted with 41 minutes left of the race, which was the very last chance, since Tristan Gommendy had to be in the car for at least 40 minutes, in order to be classified.
It meant that G-Drive Racing #26 was now in the lead, but they still needed to do their last pitstop.
Luzich Racing Ferrari #51 and Kessel Racing Ferrari #60 fought for third place in GTE, and both fought hard.
Kessel Racing Ferrari #83 and Proton Competition Porsche #88 drove only centimetres from each other, with half an hour left. After several laps of pressure, the Porsche went at it in Hangar Straight, and already got past before they reached Stowe.
DragonSpeed #21 took the lead of the race with 28 minutes left, when G-Drive Racing #26 pitted.
But there was more drama in the last half hour of the race.
Graff #39 got a Drive-through penalty for unnecessary braking under the last restart after the Safety Car. It caused them to lose the lead.
Thus DragonSpeed #21 was in front, but they had to pit one more time, which gave the lead back to G-Drive Racing #26. But #26 had a puncture, so they had to come in and change the tire. It meant that IDEC Sport #28 now had the lead of the LMP2 class, with only a few minutes left of the race.
In GTE, the battle for third place went back and forth. Kessel Racing #60 did the deciding overtake on Luzich Racing Ferrari #51 with under 20 minutes left.
IDEC Sport #28 with Paul Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue and Memo Rojas won the race, ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 with Jean-Eric Vergne, Job van Uitert and Roman Rusinov, while Graff #39 with Tristan Gommendy, Alexandre Cougnaud and Jonathan Hirschi finished third.
High Class Racing #20 finished in P11 with Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen. Unfortunately, another disappointing day for the Danish team.
In GTE, Proton Competition Porsche won with Thomas Preining, Ricardo Sanchez and Gian Luca Giraudi, followed by Kessel Racing Ferrari #83 with Michelle Gatting, Manuela Gostner and Rahel Frey, with Kessel Racing Ferrari #60 with Sergio Pianezzola, Nicola Cadei and Giacomo Piccini in P3.
But the drama didn’t end there. In LMP3 field, Eurointernational #11 had been in the lead since pretty much the start of the race – but the team had gotten a 30-second time penalty for ignoring a mechanical black flag.
It meant that Inter Europol Competition #13 won the race with Nigel Moore and Martin Hippe, ahead of Eurointernational #11 and United Autosports #2 with Tommy Erdos, Garett Grist and Wayne Boyd in P3. Or you would think so, until two hours later when the stewards gave #13 a one-minute and 43 seconds time penalty for not complying the minimum driving time for their bronze-rated driver Martin Hippe. Suddenly, it meant that #11 was the winner of the race after all.
Ultimate #17 also got a time penalty, but only for thirty seconds, for a similar offence. But Francois Heriau wasn’t as far behind the minimum time as Hippe had been.
RLR MSport with Martin Vedel Mortensen, Martin Rich and Christian Stubbe Olsen finish tenth in the LMP3 class.
G-Drive Racing #26 still leads the LMP2 championship, but IDEC Sport #28 is getting a lot closer. Graff is in third place, ahead of DragonSpeed #21. Duqueine Engineering #30 is the last team, who still has a theoretical chance to win the championship, but it requires two victories and a whole lot of bad luck for the four teams in front of them.
Inter Europol Competition #13 keeps the lead in the LMP3 championship, but Eurointernational #11 has gone up seven points closer, while the third finisher of the day, United Autosports #2, is also third in the championship, just a few points ahead of Ultimate #17.
Despite only finishing fourth in the race today, Luzich Racing Ferrari #51 extends their lead in the GTE championship, followed by Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77, Kessel Racing Ferrari #83 and JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66, who all have the exact same amount of points – 21 points behind #51.
It had been two exciting race weekends – not just from the Danish point of view, but also in general, in terms of the battles for the championships.
The next round of European Le Mans Series will be run on 22 September 2019 at Spa Francorchamps.