If you thought yesterday’s Michelin Le Mans Cup race was dramatic, the European Le Mans Series drivers decided to give it another notch up.
The 4 Hours of Monza started on wet asphalt, since it had rained overnight. The track was drying, but it was a question if people would go for slicks or wets.
United Autosports #22 with Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson started the race from Pole Position, ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 with Nyck de Vries, Roman Rusinov and Mikkel Jensen, while Duqueine Team #30 with Konstantin Tereschenko, Jonathan Hirschi and Julien Canal were third fastest.
Wayne Boyd, Tom Gamble and Rob Wheldon started the race from Pole in LMP3, ahead of RLR MSport #15 with Malthe Jakobsen, James Dayson and Gustas Grinbergas, while DKR Engineering #4 with Laurents Hörr, Francois Kirmann and Wolfgang Triller was starting from third.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 with Claudio Schiavoni, Andrea Piccini and Sergio Pianezzola were on GTE Pole, ahead of Proton Competition Porsche #93 with Richard Lietz, Michael Fassbender and Felipe Nasr, with Proton Competition Porsche #77 with Alessandro Picariello, Michele Beretta and Christian Ried in P3.
There was drama on the way to grid, when United Autosports #32 spun on the wet tarmac, on slicks. Cool Racing #37 lost a wheel, so they would have to limp back to the pits, to get a new one fitted.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 had some issues with their brakes when leaving the pits, so an extinguisher had to be used while the car was parked on the grid.
Once the race finally got going, there were troubles in Turn 1. United Autosports #22 almost outbraked itself, which created more panic through the field. Hanson ended up running through the gravel, on the exit of Turn 1, while Graff #39 turned G-Drive Racing #26 around. #26 got stuck on one of the sausage curbs, that is meant to stop people from cutting the chicane.
There were troubles in LMP3, just two corners later. James Dayson in RLR MSport #15 lost the car going around Turn 3 and got the rear wheels stuck in the gravel, so he needed a tow to get out. With that car suddenly sliding across the track, DragonSpeed #27, BHK Motorsport #16 and one of the Nielsen Racing cars had to run through the gravel to avoid Dayson.
The Safety Car was called due to the two stranded cars, so two loaders could be sent out, to pull the cars onto the tarmac again.
During all this mess, the Duqueine Team #30 had taken the lead of the race. Panis Racing #31 tried to be smart at the restart, and get a bit of a jump on them, but that resulted in #31 running up the rear of #30, just as the race was about to go green. #31 was able to take the lead shortly after, despite the damages to the front of the car. The team did, however, choose to pit the #31, to get a new nose section on.
Anders Fjordbach in the High Class Racing #20 was flying on the slippery asphalt. Having started 14th, he swiftly found himself in second and was able to take the lead of the race from shortly thereafter from Duqueine Team #30. Very well driven from the young Dane.
United Autosports #32 had to go straight on at the first chicane when Will Owen braked a little too late.
The GTE lead had changed too, since Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 was the new leader, ahead of Proton Competition Porsche #77 and Kessel Racing Ferrari #74.
Inter Europol Competition #13 had taken the LMP3 lead.
RLR MSport #15 had to be pushed into the garage for repair, after the earlier spin and contact, and that cost them a few laps in the pits.
G-Drive Racing #26 had to get repairs too, since there was some issue towards the rear of the car.
Graff #39 was handed a drive-through penalty, for having hit G-Drive Racing #26 during the start of the race. #26 lost a total of 7 laps, before it was able to rejoin the track.
BHK Motorsport #35 and Proton Competition Porsche #77 had contact going into Variante Della Roggia, but nothing worse than both cars could resume.
RLR MSport #15 was handed a Drive-through penalty, since the stewards had seen them overtake during the Safety Car period.
Cool Racing #37 was hit by Realteam Racing #8 in Turn 1, which cost the rear light of #37.
There were troubles at Variante Ascari, when Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 and United Autosports #3 collided. #3 pushed #60 into a spin, that and went through the gravel, and rolled backwards across the track, with Claudio Schiavoni then ending up hitting Jim McGuire. Both cars were stranded, so a Full Course Yellow had to be called. To no surprise, there was a lot of Italian arm-waving send towards McGuire, once the two drivers got out of the cars. The contact had ripped the rear wheel off the Ferrari, so it was unable to go any further.
The two United Autosports LMP2 cars were battling hard over the fifth position.
The GTE lead changed, when Proton Competition Porsche #77 overtook Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55, that fell all the way back to third, since Kessel Racing Ferrari #74 made its way past too.
Fjordbach had built up a big lead for High Class Racing #20 in the LMP2 category, with Algarve Pro Racing #24 running second, after their earlier problems on the grid.
United Autosports #3 was handed a 10 seconds Stop & Go penalty for the contact with the Iron Lynx Ferrari #60.
Full Course Yellow was deployed, when Nielsen Racing #7 lost one of the rear lights, and it had to be removed by one of the track marshals.
High Class Racing #20 chose to switch from Fjordbach to Dennis Andersen, who could rejoin the race as the leader.
BHK Motorsport #35 got a Black & White warning flag, for the earlier contact with Proton Competition Porsche #77.
G-Drive Racing #26 had another trip to the garage, where the car, unfortunately, had to be parked for the day, due to too severe technical issues. Mikkel Jensen had managed to set the fastest lap of the race prior to that.
The newly build Inter Europol Competition #34 and Duqueine Team #30 had a battle on the track, where the engine cover suddenly flew off, going down towards Parabolica. The engine cover flew off right in front of #30 and Nielsen Racing #10, where #10 ended up spinning when trying to avoid. That resulted in another FCY, due to the large piece of debris, and many smaller parts.
The final hour of the race started with High Class Racing #20 leading in LMP2, Inter Europol Competition #13 in LMP3, and Kessel Racing Ferrari #74 in GTE.
United Autosports had slowly moved their way into the frame once again and was an alternative strategy compared to the other LMP2 cars. They could have a theoretical advantage if the rest of the race would fall their way. They would not want to do anything stupid, since they were on their way to grabbing the championship title.
Graff #5 was in troubles again. They had spent a lot of minutes in the pits already, and the earlier issues had returned again.
High Class Racing #20 pitted with 56 minutes left of the race, where Fjordbach got a new tank of gas. That meant that they would have to pit one more time, to get to the finish.
The GTE teams refuelled one by one, with about 50 minutes left of the race. Kessel Racing Ferrari #74 was able to stay in the lead, having almost a one minute lead to Proton Competition Porsche #77 in second, while Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 slowly had made their way into third, with Rahel Frey behind the wheel.
There were potential problems for Inter Europol Competition #13, which was the LMP3 leader. Dino Lunardi had been off the circuit at Variante Della Roggia, and the rule states, that he has to rejoin the race track, by going the right way around a cone in the run-off area – the Italian didn’t do that, so the team boss was called to the stewards.
High Class Racing #20 and DragonSpeed #27 almost hit each other, at the end of the straight, when Ben Hanley in #27 was close to outbraking himself, but thankfully avoided hitting Fjordbach. The pair fought for third in the race, that was in the hands of Fjordbach at that point. Fjordbach was caught behind a slower LMP3 one lap later, so Hanley got a good run, and was able to grab the position from the Dane.
The two United Autosports cars pitted with half an hour left of the race, and would only have to wait for the competition to pit too – and exactly how much fuel would they need. That send DragonSpeed #27 to the lead of the race, ahead of High Class Racing #20, until they would have to refuel.
Phil Hanson in UA #22 was just a few seconds behind Fjordbach in #20, and thereby also Hanley in #27, so they were very close at taking the lead anyway – without the need of the others pitting, even though it would big help.
High Class Racing #20 and DragonSpeed #27 pitted with 17 minutes left of the race, handing on a 1-2 lead to United Autosports #22 and #32.
Inter Europol Competition #34 lost another engine cover with 14 minutes left of the race. This time, it flew off the track, so we avoided FCY or SC interruption.
While DragonSpeed #27 and High Class Racing #20 fought for 3rd, Cool Racing #37 was sneaking up from behind, catching the pair with several seconds per lap. Nico Lapierre was able to smell a trophy, but would he be able to catch and pass the pair?
United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque won the race, ahead of teammates Will Owen, Job van Uitert and Alex Brundle in #32, while DragonSpeed #27 with Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and Charles Milesi finished third.
High Class Racing #20 with Dennis Andersen and Anders Fjordbach finished fourth, after having led a lot of race, but was denied the win, due to the alternative strategy used by United Autosports.
Inter Europol Competition #13 with Martin Hippe and Dino Lunardi won the LMP3 category, ahead of Eurointernational #11 with Niko Kari, Nicolas Maulini and Jacopo Baratto, while United Autosports #2 with Wayne Boyd, Tom Gamble and Rob Wheldon finished third.
The GTE category was won by Kessel Racing Ferrari #74 with Michael Broniszewski, David Perel and Nicola Cadei, ahead of Proton Competition Porsche #77 with Alessio Picariello, Michele Beretta and Christian Ried, while Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner finished third in the Iron Lynx Ferrari #83.
The 1-2 means that United Autosports are secured the first position in the Championship with #22, while #32 is very close at securing second – and the fourth possible Le Mans ticket for 2021, after already winning Le Mans and the FIA WEC, which gives them other auto entries. Graff #39 and Panis Racing #31 in Portimao, with chances for G-Drive Racing #26 to grab third, if they have a bit more luck than Mikkel Jensen and Roman Rusinov has had this year. The three teams are just separated by a single point in the standings.
United Autosports #2 holds on the LMP3 Championship lead, while Inter Europol Competition #13 has moved closer, and are now in second, while Realteam Racing #8 just holds on to third, right ahead of Eurointernational #11. The LMP3 winners will also get a Le Mans ticket for the 2021 race.
The GTE Championship lead has been grabbed by Kessel Racing Ferrari #74 after being equal on points with the now second-placed Proton Competition Porsche #77. Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 has moved into third, but the three female drivers no longer have a chance of grabbing the title, which is a two-way fight between #74 and #77. #83 is just a single point ahead of Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55, and unless Proton Competition Porsche #93 or JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 wins in Portimao, the third place in standings will be decided between #83 and #55.
The season finale of this years European Le Mans Series will run in three weeks time at Portimao in Portugal.
DragonSpeed #27 was disqualified post-race, since the diffusor height was 6mm too tall. That puts High Class Racing #20 into their first overall podium since Silverstone 2017.
Graff #5 got a one-lap penalty, since Luis Sanjuan didn’t comply with the minimum drive time of 50 minutes for him. That doesn’t change much, since they were already last in the LMP3 category.