It was a perfect sunny day at Red Bull Ring, when the second round of the European Le Mans started at the Austrian race track.
Racing Team Turkey #34 with Logan Sargeant, Charlie Eastwood and Salih Yoluc had taken Pole Position in not just LMP2 but also the LMP2 Pro/Am category. Algarve Pro Racing #24 with local hero Ferdinand Habsburg, Diego Menchaca, and Richard Bradley would start second, while United Autosports #32 with Nicolas Jamin, Job van Uitert and Manuel Maldonado started from P3.
DKR Engineering #4 with Laurents Hörr, Leo Weiss and Jean-Phillippe Dayraut had LMP3 Pole Position, ahead of United Autosports #2 with Wayne Boyd, Rob Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe, and United Autosports #3 with Duncan Tappy, Jim McGuire and Andrew Bentley.
RLR MSport #15 with Alex Kapadia, Michael Benham and Malthe Jakobsen started from P10, after taking a chance on wet tires in the qualifying, but the track dried out before the ten minutes were up.
AF Corse Ferrari #88 with Alessio Rovera, Francois Perrodo and Emmanuel Collard had taken Pole Position in GTE, followed by Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 with Michelle Gatting, Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner in P2, and their teammates in #60 with Paolo Ruberti, Giorgio Sernagiotto and Claudio Schiavoni.
The start got exciting in Turn 1, where Yoluc in the Pole car was about to outbrake himself. At the same time, John Falb in G-Drive Racing #25 came past from the outside and took the lead, while United Autosports #32 went up to the second place.
There was drama at the start of the second lap when Team Virage #20 spun under braking in Turn 3, and hit poor 1 AIM Villorba Corse #18 on the side, who could do absolutely nothing. Graff #8 was also shortly involved but could drive again. It triggered a Safety Car, in order to remove the two stranded cars.
There was also drama for DKR Engineering #4 when they had to pit with a damaged nose. It cost them a couple of laps before they could come back out.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 had taken the lead in the GTE category.
When the race got restarted, it wasn’t long before United Autosports #22 also drove past Racing Team Turkey #34.
Nielsen Racing #7 started all the way back from P13 in the LMP3 category, but now they were leading the class after overtaking United Autosports #2. At the same time, Michael Benham in RLR MSport #15 went up from P10 to P4.
G-Drive Racing #25 got a Drive-through penalty because John Falb had overtaken outside the white lines in Turn 1 on the first lap.
After several warnings, the stewards began giving out penalties. The first penalty for Track Limits went to AF Corse Ferrari #88, followed by Inter Europol Competition #13 and #14, as well as DragonSpeed USA #21, and United Autosports #22. All of them got a Drive-through penalty.
Graff #9 nudged RLR MSport #15 in Turn 9, and both cars went off the track at high speed. While #15 rolled backwards, Benham hit Rory Penttinen, which broke the rear of both cars. Thus, both must go back to the garage right away. Unfortunately, the damage on RLR MSport #15 was too severe that they had to retire before Malthe Jakobsen’s turn to drive.
There was a close battle between the two United Autosports LMP2 cars, where #32 drove past #22, but Phil Hanson in #22 wouldn’t give up the position just like that, and did everything he could to keep his teammate Manuel Maldonado behind him. But in the end, he couldn’t.
Ultimate #29 and G-Drive Racing #25 had an intense duel through several laps, before Jean-Baptiste Lahaye outbraked himself in Turn 4 and went off the track over the gravel.
AF Corse Ferrari #88 had gone all the way up to P2 again, after their penalty earlier in the race. Perrodo did a great job in the Ferrari, choosing to drive both his obligatory stints at the start of the race, before handing the car over to Collard and Rovera.
The United Autosports LMP2 cars weren’t done playing with each other, where Hanson came up beside Maldonado again and again. They were pretty close but luckily didn’t hit each other.
United Autosports #3 had a spin in Turn 3, where Jim McGuire got the wheels over the curbs under braking. Luckily, he managed to avoid hitting the cars in front of him and could drive again.
Nielsen Racing #6 spun in Turn 1 when Nick Adcock was about to get squeezed between Algarve Pro Racing #24 and Proton Competition Porsche #77, and he had to be really aware.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 had a solo spin in Turn 3 when Manuela Gostner went a bit too fast as she saw a potential overtake on Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55.
Since both United Autosports cars were busy competing with each other, G-Drive Racing #26 could lead the race in peace, ahead of Team WRT #41.
JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and Proton Competition Porsche #93 were involved in an intense duel, which Richard Lietz in #93 ended up winning over Rodrigo Sales.
Panis Racing #65 had a spin on the way out of Turn 3, but James Allen managed to drive again, even though he got really close to the Armco.
UA continued to fight, where it was now Jonathan Aberdein on board #22, who needed a few laps before he could overtake Maldonado in #32.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 and IDEC Sport #28 had a collision in Turn 3. First, #28 was over the grass, and then Paul-Loup Chatin swayed a bit towards Richard Bradley in the other car. On the lap after that, it repeated, until Chatin outbraked Bradley in Turn 4. An exciting driving from both drivers.
Halfway through the race, G-Drive Racing #26 was leading LMP2, Ultimate #29 in LMP2 Pro/Am, United Autosports #2 in LMP3, and Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 in GTE.
At the same time, the dark clouds began to drive over the track, and shortly afterwards there were some drops on the cars’ windshields.
The teams began to their wet tires ready, but it all depended on how long the rain would fall. A sign of wet asphalt was when Panis Racing #65 had two wheels over the curb and was about to spin, but managed to catch it just in time.
There was contact between United Autosports #32 and Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 in Turn 10, where Manuel Maldonado dove very late on Giorgio Sernagiotto, and the two cars spun over the run-off area. But luckily both could continue.
At the same time, the rain fell harder and harder over the track, and Panis Racing #65 was the first to put intermediate tires on the car. The track was especially wet around Turn 1 and Turn 3.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 was the first car that went off the track. Sernagiotto spun in Turn 7 and it took a while before he could come back to the track. But he managed to do it on his own.
The rain fell harder, and there was no doubt that wet tires were the right choice for everyone.
Algarve Pro Racing #24 had a spin in Turn 1 when Bradley went a bit too fast.
United Autosports #22 spun in Turn 7, followed by IDEC Sport #28, Duqueine Team #30 and United Autosports #32, as well as Racing Team Turkey #34. It triggered a Safety Car since the drivers couldn’t stay on the track, even on wet tires.
Racing Experience #12 stalled in the middle of the track and had to be towed free.
United Autosports #32 came back to the pits, and the mechanics had a big task ahead of them since Job van Uitert had hit the tire wall hard.
Graff #39 spun under the SC period, so did Proton Competition Porsche #93. Luckily, both could drive again without hitting anything.
At the start of the last hour of the race, Team WRT #41 was now leading LMP2, Ultimate #29 in LMP2 Pro/Am, United Autosports #2 in LMP3, and Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 in GTE.
The race got restarted with 58 minutes left.
G-Drive Racing #26 took a risk putting on Intermediates, just before the restart.
Cool Racing #37 had a spin in Turn 1, but Antonin Borga came back to the track quickly.
G-Drive Racing #25 overtook United Autosports #22, which also meant that Roberto Merhi was now in third place, as well as the leader in LMP2 Pro/Am.
Nielsen Racing #7 stalled on the start-finish straight, and it took a bit of time before Colin Noble could get the car started again.
The teams began putting on Intermediates on the cars – and forty minutes before the chequered flag the sky opened up and the rain fell down in full force. It happened just as Team WRT #41 had put on Inters on their car, as well as changing the driver to Luis Deletraz, who would drive the car to the finish.
Lady Luck was on their side because the rain stopped.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 went up to second place in GTE, but Alessio Rovera in AF Corse Ferrari #88 came flying from behind, and not only had he set his sight on Rahel Frey in #83, but also on the leading Miguel Molina in Iron Lynx Ferrari #80.
Panis Racing #65 and United Autosports #2 got a Drive-through penalty each for driving out of the pits when the red light was still on.
Cool Racing #19 was suddenly ahead in the lead in LMP3 again, just as they did in the opening race in Barcelona. Now, Matt Bell just had to keep the car going in the last half hour. But it could be challenging if the asphalt dried up quickly and they would need to put on new tires.
G-Drive Racing #26 pitted for the last time with 27 minutes left, and they managed to come out in the lead, a few seconds ahead of Team WRT #41. The next minutes went by with an extreme defensive driving by Franco Colapinto in #26, while Louis Deletraz in #41 tried to attack him with all his might.
United Autosports #22 got a Drive-through for crossing the white line at the pit entry. The same penalty went to Iron Lynx Ferrari #83.
Deletraz in #41 managed to take the lead in Turn 3 when Colapinto made a little mistake. The gap quickly grew as Colapinto seemed to struggle with his tires.
Cool Racing #19 was under pressure by Graff #8, who caught up with Matt Bell in a flash. David Droux succeeded at taking the LMP3 lead with just under ten minutes left.
The track slowly but surely dried out, so the drivers who were still on wet tires had no chance against those on Intermediates.
MV2S Racing #5 got a 2-second Stop & Go penalty for not complying with the minimum pitstop time.
There was a huge drama in the LMP3 category when the leading Graff #8 got a 101-second Stop & Go penalty for not complying with the minimum pitstop time. The same penalty went to Racing Experience #12, who had retired earlier in the race.
Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 had the most unlucky ending to the race when Rahel Frey got stuck on the gravel, on the very last lap. From being in a potential P4 after overtaking Proton Competition Porsche #93, to a zero point for the all-female team. The rule states that one MUST cross the finish line, and it doesn’t matter if you retire after two minutes or four hours.
Team WRT #41 with Yifei Yi, Robert Kubica, and Louis Deletraz won the race, as they did in the first round, ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 with Franco Colapinto, Nyck de Vries and Roman Rusinov, while the second G-Drive Racing #25 with John Falb, Rui Andrade, and Roberto Merhi finished third, as well as the best Pro/Am car.
Cool Racing #19 with Matt Bell, Nicolas Maulini, and Niklas Krütten won the LMP3 category – just as they did in Barcelona. Eurointernational #11 with Andrea Dromedari, Joey Alders and Cem Bolukbasi finished in P2, just 0,1 second after the winning trio. Graff #8 crossed the finish line in third place after taking a Stop & Go, but not in 101 seconds. Therefore, Inter Europol Competition #13 with Martin Hippe, Ugo de Wilde and Ulysse de Pauw got bumped up to third.
The GTE category was won by AF Corse Ferrari #88 with Francois Perrodo, Alessio Rovera and Emmanuel Collard, ahead of Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 with Dane Cameron, David Perel, and Matt Griffen, and with Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 with Rino Mastronardi, Matteo Cressoni, and Miguel Molina in P3.
The next round of the European Le Mans Series will be run in three weeks’ time at Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France.
Graff #8 was allowed to keep their third place. Instead, their time penalty got converted into a 43-second additional time. It was the first podium position for David Droix, Sebastien Page, and Eric Trouillet.