Nerve-wracking four hours at Spa

It was a nerve-wracking four-hour race in the European Le Mans Series at Belgian Spa Francorchamps.

COOL Racing #37 with Charles Milesi, Nico Lapierre and Alexandre Coigny started the race from Pole Position, ahead of United Autosports #22 with Phil Hanson, Tom Gamble and Jonathan Aberdein, and with local Team WRT #41 with Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica and Yifei Ye from P3. Not enough with the general Pole for #37, it was also the LMP2 Pro/Am Pole.

In the LMP3 category, DKR Engineering #4 with Laurents Hörr and Mathieu de Barbuat was on Pole, ahead of Inter Europol Competition #13 with Ugo De Wilde, Martin Hippe and Aidan Read, and with United Autosports #2 Wayne Boyd, Robert Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe in third.

Richard Lietz, Michael Fassbender and Felipe Laser in Proton Competition Porsche #93 had taken the GTE Pole, ahead of Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 with Miguel Molina, Rino Mastronardi and Matteo Cressoni, while AF Corse Ferrari #88 with Alessio Rovera, Emmanuel Collard and Francois Perrodo qualified in P3.

There were two big accidents in the qualifying. The first one was for Racing Experience #12 in the LMP3 category. They had chosen to pull away from the weekend since it wasn’t possible to get the car ready in time. United Autosports #32 had a similar accident at Raidillon, and had to build a new car in one night. But they managed to get ready for the race.

4 Hours of Spa 2021 start
Photo: JJ Media

The start was wild and chaotic with lots of contacts in Turn 1.

G-Drive Racing #26 got a nudge from Racing Team Turkey #34, which sent Roman Rusinov across the track, and it started a chain reaction with United Autosports #22 and IDEC Sport #28 also touching each other. The entire field had to avoid the stranded cars. As the result, Racing Team Turkey #34 and BHK Motorsport #35 fell so far down in the middle of the LMP3 field.

JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and Nielsen Racing #6 had a collision in the Stavelot corner, and it needed a Safety Car to get #6 out of the gravel.

G-Drive Racing #26 rolled slowly back to the pits, where team owner Stewart Cox gave some loud instructions to the mechanics, which definitely couldn’t be misunderstood. They managed to repair the car, but when Rusinov was back to the track it wasn’t long before the car stopped, and he had to get out.

Proton Competition Porsche #77
Photo: JJ Media

In the chaos, Inter Europol Competition #13 had taken the lead in the LMP3 category, ahead of United Autosports #2 and DKR Engineering #4. In GTE, TF Sport Aston Martin #95 had come ahead of Proton Competition Porsche #77 and Iron Lynx Ferrari #80.

When the race got restarted, there was contact between Racing Team Turkey #34 and Algarve Pro Racing #24, but it didn’t do the cars any damage.

Proton Competition Porsche #77 took the lead in GTE.

Racing Team Turkey #34 got a Drive-through for the contact at the start of the race.

United Autosports #32 got a Drive-through for the contact with Racing Team Turkey #34.

Racing Team Turkey #34
Photo: JJ Media

Racing Team Turkey #34 ended up in the gravel in Turn 7, when the steering broke on the way into the corner. It triggered a Full Course Yellow to get Salih Yoluc out of the gravel, but unfortunately, they had to give up and retire the car.

Team Virage #20 had a spin in Turn 1 when Rob Hodes was being too nice and let the faster LMP traffic past, and he drove wide on the dirty side of the track and lost the grip. But he quickly came back.

Algarve Pro Racing #24 was in trouble again when Diego Manchaca outbraked himself and crashed into the rear end of Michael Benham in RLR MSport #15. The contact was so hard that the rear on #15 flew high above the ground, and the diffuser was completely smashed. When Manchaca tried to continue, he drove back to the ideal line where poor Duncan Cameron in Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 came blazing in full speed, and hit #24 from behind. Both cars retired on the spot.

It triggered, naturally, a Safety Car due to all the debris all over the track.

RLR MSport #15
Photo: JJ Media

When the race was restarted, COOL Racing #37 was quickly under pressure from both Panis Racing #65 and Ultimate #29, who then drove past on the way up to Kemmel Straight.

JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 got a Drive-through for the contact with Nielsen Racing #6 at the start of the race.

Michelle Gatting had gotten Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 all the way up to P3 in GTE before handing over the car to Sarah Bovy.

There was a light contact between United Autosports #3 and Inter Europol Competition #14 in La Source, but both cars got away unscathed.

Proton Competition Porsche #93 with Michael Fassbender tried to overtake Iron Lynx Ferrari #60, but ended up spinning around, and it took several seconds before he came back to the asphalt.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #83
Photo: JJ Media

Two hours into the race, Team WRT #41 was leading LMP2, COOL Racing #37 in LMP2 Pro/Am, COOL Racing #37 in LMP3, and Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 in GTE – the latter was because they had a little different pit strategy from some of the other GTE teams, who had already pitted their cars.

There was another battle between #3 and #14, where Mattia Pasini in #14 braked very late on the way into the Bus Stop chicane, but he ended up with a spin.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #60 got a Drive-through for having a run-off in Turn 5 and turning back around.

IDEC Sport #28 and Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 had contact on the way into the Blanchimont corner, which ripped the Ferrari’s side-view mirror. Half a lap later, Patrick Pilet also had contact with Team WRT #41, who zigzagged on the way up to Kemmel Straight.

Team Virage #20 & Eurointernational #11
Photo: JJ Media

G-Drive Racing #25 got a 30-second Stop & Go for not doing the Safety Car procedure correctly.

Inter Europol Competition #14 got a Drive-through for the contact with United Autosports #3 in Turn 1.

United Autosports #32 had taken over the lead of the race, since they hadn’t changed tires in their latest pitstop. Their accident yesterday had cost the team a set of tires, which meant that they were down one set of tires for the race today and had to drive extra economically compared to the competitors. It didn’t take long, however, before Yifei Ye in Team WRT #41 caught up with Manuel Maldonado, who had to give up the fight through the Les Combes chicane since the Chinese driver had much more grip from his new tires.

There was a close battle for the lead in LMP3 when DKR Engineering #4 caught up with COOL Racing #19, and overtook Niklas Krütten, with an impressive top speed from Laurents Hörr in #4.

TF Sport Aston Martin #95
Photo: JJ Media

RLR MSport #15, unfortunately, had to pull away from the race since the damage on the car was too severe. It meant, no Spa race for Danish Malthe Jakobsen, since only Michael Benham was in the car before it retired.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 was still leading the GTE category, after an impressive stint for Sarah Bovy, who kept Emmanuel Collard in AF Corse Ferrari #88 behind her in several minutes.

There was a Full Course Yellow when Inter Europol Competition #13 clipped the tire wall in Stavelot corner at a very high speed. Luckily, Aidan Read could climb out of the car by himself, even though the car was completely smashed.

The majority of the drivers used the chance to pit, losing less time than if they did it under the green flag.

United Autosports #22, G-Drive Racing #25,
Photo: JJ Media

Panis Racing #65 took third place in the LMP2 category when James Allen overtook Tristan Gommendy in Duqueine Team #30.

JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 got a 20-second pitstop penalty for not respecting the speed under Full Course Yellow.

An intense battle started between Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 and Proton Competition Porsche #93, which lasted for several laps. Bovy showed her worth once again, by keeping Felipe Laser behind her. The German got more and more frustrated and tried to overtake in some unusual places on the track. Finally, Laser managed to squeeze himself past on the way into the Bus Stop chicane, but Bovy kept hanging on behind him.

Gommendy in Duqueine Team #30 drove past Allen in Panis Racing #65 again, after some friction between the two cars on the way up to Kemmel Straight.

JMW Motorsport #66 got a Drive-through for abusing track limits despite several warnings.

The last hour of the race started with Team WRT #41 in front of LMP2, COOL Racing #37 in front of LMP2 Pro/Am, DKR Engineering #4 in LMP3, and AF Corse Ferrari #88 in GTE.

AF Corse Ferrari #88, Iron Lynx Ferrari #80, Spirit of Race Ferrari #55
Photo: JJ Media

Rahel Frey took over #83 with 49 minutes left, hence it didn’t need a full tank of fuel. At the same time, she got new tires so she could push in the remaining time.

MV2S Racing #5 got a Drive-through for Track Limits, causing them to lose a potential top 5 finish in LMP3. Proton Competition Porsche #77 got the same penalty, who therefore also lost the chance of a potential podium finish in GTE.

The LMP2 battle got more exciting as some of the teams pitted with under fifty minutes left, while others waited until the 45-minute mark – which was about a full tank of fuel. At the same time, there were only thirty seconds separating the top five in the LMP2 category. So a lot of things could happen.

TF Sport Aston Martin #95 got a Drive-through for speeding in the pitlane.

Proton Competition Porsche #77 got a 10-second Stop & Go penalty for Track Limits abuse.

Nielsen Racing #7 got en Drive-through due to Track Limits.

DKR Engineering #4
Photo: JJ Media

United Autosports #32 and Panis Racing #65 had a fantastic duel, which lasted all the way from Blanchimont, through Bus Stop, La Source, Eau Rouge, Les Combes, and Bruxelles, before it ended – with the two cars side by side most of the time. Cool racing, with Will Stevens emerging as the winner of the duel in #65.

Inter Europol Competition #14 got pushed back into the garage with only ten minutes left. The team had struggled with technical problems through the majority of the race.

MV2S Racing #5 had a big exit in the Eau Rouge/Raidillon combination with seven minutes left, and crashed backwards into the tire wall, causing another Full Course Yellow. Luckily, Christoph Cresp could climb out of the car by himself after the crazy incident.

The race got a restart with under two minutes left, and Rahel Frey in Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 was quick to use the chance to snatch P3 in the GTE category from Felipe Laser in Proton Competition Porsche #93.

Team WRT #41
Photo: JJ Media

Team WRT #41 with Louis Deletraz, Yifei Ye and Robert Kubica won the race, ahead of Duqueine Team #30 with Tristan Gommendy, Memo Rojas and Rene Binder, while Panis Racing #65 with Will Stevens, Julien Canal and James Allen finished third.

COOL Racing #37 with Nicolas Lapierre, Alexandre Coigny and Charles Milesi was the best LMP2 Pro/Am team, ahead of G-Drive Racing #25 with Gustavo Menezes, John Falb and Rui Andrade.

DKR Engineering #4 with Laurents Hörr and Mathieu de Barbuat won the LMP3 category, ahead of COOL Racing #19 with Matt Bell, Niklas Krütten and Nicolas Maulini, and United Autosports #2 with Wayne Boyd, Rob Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe in P3.

The GTE category was won by AF Corse Ferrari #88 with Francois Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Alessio Rovera, ahead of Iron Lynx Ferrari #80 with Miguel Molina, Rino Mastronardi and Matteo Cresoni, and Iron Lynx Ferrari #83 with Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting in P3.

With the victory today, Team WRT #41 can already call themselves the 2021 LMP2 champions. G-Drive Racing #26 is still in second place, while Panis Racing #65 jumped up to third, one and a half points ahead of United Autosports #22, and one and a half points behind G-Drive Racing #26.

In the LMP2 Pro/Am category, G-Drive Racing #25 is very close to securing the title, as long as they finish the race in Portugal. If they didn’t, COOL Racing #37 in second place MUST win the race to win the title. Racing Team Turkey #34 in P3 can feel that Ultimate #29 is breathing down their neck from P4.

COOL Racing #19 still leads the LMP3 championship, but DKR Engineering #4 has come closer with only five points behind. United Autosports #2 no longer has the chance to defend the title, even though they finished the race today in third place.

The GTE category is still led by Iron Lynx Ferrari #80, while AF Corse Ferrari #88 now comes up in second place, and Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 falls back to third. Only those three have a chance to win the title – but #80 has to retire before the other two can win.

The last round of the European Le Mans Series 2021 will be run on 24 October at the Portimao track in Portugal.

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