Monday 18 July 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring: Thiriet by TDS takes the win after an exciting race in Austria

An action packed afternoon at the Red Bull Ring in Austria yesterday, where Thiriet by TDS Racing took their second victory in a row in their Oreca 05/Nissan.

Timothe Buret took a clean start in the #23 Panis Barthez Ligier JSP2 from pole position, leaving the competition to battle it out behind him. Giedo Van der Garde went up to second in the #38 G-Drive, but suffered from a slow puncture after he probably made contact with Tristan Gommendy in the #33 Eurasia Oreca 05 during the battle for second. This caused him to pit early, and losing initial contact with the frontrunners.

Gommendy drove a strong opening stint, staying close to Buret and kept on pushing hard when they hit traffic. Behind both leaders, Nicolas Lapierre steered his Dragonspeed Oreca into third place. When Buret made contact with the #66 JMW Ferrari, Gommendy took the lead of the race. Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 Dragonspeed and Pierre Thiriet – who didn't have the best start - also passed the unfortunate Buret who dropped into fourth place. As this wasn't enough bad luck already, the Panis Barthez team lost even more time with a drive through penalty, dropping them down the order.

After the first round of pitstops Pierre Thiriet took the lead in the #46, not changing drivers as most of the other teams did. Pu Junjin took the wheel of the Eurasia and locked in second position ahead of Brian Hedman in the Dragonspeed. Problems with a headlight messed up Thiriet's strategy, causing him to come in for a new nose, now handing over the wheel to Ryo Hirakawa.

The Japanese driver took the lead again after the second pitstops, now ahead of Julian Leal who put the #32 SMP Racing BR01 in contention for a podium finish. After a fierce stint of Van der Garde in the Gibson, Simon Dolan put the car back in third place, ahead of Nick De Bruijn in the Eurasia. When the race was almost half way, a full course yellow was deployed when the #7 Villorba Corse LMP3 got stuck into a gravel trap.

The third round of pitstops didn't change much on the running order. Mathias Beche now taking the wheel of the leading Oreca 05, followed by De Bruijn who had passed Dolan a few laps before. Dolan now gave the G-Drive #38 to Harry Tincknell who started to chase Stefano Coletti who took over from Julian Leal in the BR01.

Coletti didn't have the best start of his stint when he got involved in a situation with slower cars, but still managed to keep second place. Problems with his rear lights later on called for an extra stop, dropping him down to fourth position. Bad luck meanwhile for the Dragonspeed too, when Ben Hanley went quite hard into the barriers exiting the pits after the third round of pitstops. Hanley brought the car back in again with severe damage on the left hand side, causing it to retire.

Tincknell was up into third again, determined to climb up to second. Ahead of him Mathias Beche kept the lead in the #46 with the #33 Eurasia about seconds behind. Disaster struck again though when the Pegasus Racing Morgan spun right in front of Tincknell with no way to avoid a collision. The second full course yellow of the race was deployed, and another unscheduled pitstop for the G-Drive team who now only could nurse the car home and keep on to third place.

With 10 minutes to go a third full course yellow was given when Tracy Krohn had a slight off, releasing the field again with 3 laps to go. After an exciting and eventful 4 hours, Thiriet by TDS Racing took the second victory of the season, almost 52 seconds ahead of the #33 Eurasia Oreca and the unfortunate #38 G-Drive Gibson 015S which might have had the outright speed to battle for the win but was denied any good luck yesterday afternoon.

Fourth place was for the #32 SMP Racing BR01, with the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier securing fifth place in the final lap when Pizzitola passed Meme Rojas Jr in the Greaves Motorsport Ligier. The pole sitting Panis Barthez Ligier ultimately took the chequered flag in seventh position.

Halfway the championship, G-Drive Racing leads the table with 58 points after a win in Silverstone and 2 podium finishes afterwards. Thiriet by TDS Racing closes in with 51 points after back to back victories in Imola and Spielberg. Third in the standings is SMP Racing with 42 points. Eurasia Motorsport (28 points) and Krohn Racing (22 points) complete the top 5.


Valentin Moineault took the start in the #16 Panis Barthez Ligier but didn't get the most out of that advantage. After 2 collisions early in the race he dropped back to third behind the #19 Duqueine Engineering who got into the lead ahead of the #2 Graff Racing with Alex Brundle at the wheel. The #3 Graff sister car quickly got out of contention for the win when a puncture caused bodywork damage and a long pitstop for repairs.

After the first pitstops Andrea Mondini was leading the pack in the #11 Eurointernational with the #12 and #10 Graff behind him. Lots of lead changes in the class in the second hour of the race, when both Eurointernational cars lost the lead in the second sequence of pitstops. 

When the first full course yellow period was called, the #18 Yvan Muller Racing had the lead, but losing it again when the car needed repairs on its rear bodywork. The #6 360 Racing now took second place followed closely by David Halliday in the #19 Duqueine Engineering.

The #11 Eurointernational got back in front after the second set of pitstops, now ahead of the #19. Marco Jacobini built up a comfortable lead and seemed to be on the road for the win, but a clash with 2 LMP2 cars took him out. With the lead car eliminated, Duqueine Engineering got back in front, now chased by the #9 Graff and the #2 United Autosports.

In the fourth hour the #19 managed to hold on to its lead despite being chased by the #2, closing the gap ultimately to 3.5 seconds. The #6 360 Racing had a strong last stint, giving the crew a well deserved podium finish.

A few hours after the race, a harsh verdict came from the race stewards. Apparently the winning car didn't comply with the mandatory pitstop times in LMP3, receiving a 4 second penalty and handing over the win to the #2 United Autosports with a margin of 0.5 seconds. A clean sheet then for the British/American team, remaining unbeaten in the class this year.


Matteo Cairoli did a great job handing the #88 Proton Porsche its first pole position, but the team couldn't hold on to that advantage during the race. Andrea Bertolini & co in the #66 JMW Ferrari dominated the class and almost lead flag to flag in Austria.

It could have gone the other way though when starting driver Rory Butcher made contact with the #23 Panis Barthez LMP2 but got out unharmed. Aside from that moment, Butcher had a perfect start, immediately challenging the leading Porsche and climbing up the order inbetween the LMP3 field. They only lost the lead after a spin halfway the race, but that didn't stop them from lapping every one else in class.

Behind the untouchable Ferrari Marco Seefried drove an impressive double stint up to second in the #77 Proton Porsche and to first when the JMW spinned. The #56 AT Ferrari had a strong home race, Alexander Talkanitsa Jr strongly held on to its third behind the leading Porsche and Ferrari. After the second round of pitstops, Andrea Bertolini was in the lead now being chased by Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Porsche and the #51 & #56 Ferrari.

The #88 fell down the order when Christian Reid got back in the car after the last stop, being overtaken by both the #51 and #56 Ferrari's. Behind them the Beachdean Aston Martin Ferrari had a strong second part of the race, crossing the line 14 seconds behind third place.

Rory Butcher crossed the line first, handing the well deserved win to the JMW team who lost their first place in Silverstone earlier this year.

The next race in the ELMS championship is scheduled in the last weekend of August at the Paul Ricard track at Le Castellet.

Kristof Vermeulen.