Friday 21 April 2017

ELMS 2017 - United Autosports win highly entertaining 4 Hours of Silverstone

United Autosports scored a historic double last weekend at Silverstone, claiming victory in both LMP2 and LMP3 after a very entertaining 4 Hours of Silverstone. 

After 3 hours and 45 minutes, G-Drive seemed to have the first ELMS race of the season in the bag, until tyre wear decided to play its role. G-Drive racing was through its allocated amount of tyre sets through the weekend and could only watch how Felipe Albuquerque in the #32 United Autosports Ligier catched up with Ryo Hirakawa in the #22 Oreca. Hirakawa's radio communication also failed in the final stage of the race, leaving him almost oblivious of what went on behind him.

Albuquerque was flying in those final laps of the race, closed down the gap of 30 seconds and took over the lead in the penultimate lap of the race. United Autosport wrote history by winning in 2 different classes: LMP2 and LMP3. A rather surprising third was the Danish High Class Racing Dallara P217 of Anders Fjordbach & Dennis Anderson. In their debut race, the Danes impressed with their pace and consistency, fighting for a well deserved podium place.

Ben Hanley had a rocket start in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca, immediately flying away from the rest of the field. A spin by Henrik Hedman and gearbox troubles would put the American team out of contention dor the win, losing 6 laps. Behind the leaders, it was Richard Bradley putting in an impressive drive in his #40 Graff Oreca. Starting from 28th place on the grid, Bradley stormed through the field and was leading the pack by the first round of pitstops. Franck Matelli would take over the wheel of the #40 but dropped down to third place after losing first place to the #25 Algarve Pro Ligier and being passed by Roussel in the G-Drive.

Roussel leads the race at the half-time point, after passing Matt Mc Murray in the #25. Behind the leaders, the #32 United Autosports now sits in third place, ahead of the Dragonspeed Oreca and the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara. During the second round of pitstops, the #49 High Class Racing Dallara shortly led the race with Anders Fjordbach, in their ELMS debut race.

Ath the three hour mark, the race seemed to stabilize a bit, now with the #22 G-Drive Oreca in the lead, with a 30 second margin to to #32 United Autosport Ligier and the #49 High Class Racing Dallara 17 seconds further behind. A gearbox problem also hit the Algarve Pro Racing, forcing them to park the Ligier. The Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier also fell out of contention early in the race when Nathanaƫl Berthon lost 3 laps in the pits due to a transponder issue.

United Autosport also took victory in the LMP3 class with the #2 Ligier of Americans John Falb & Sean Rayhall. Rayhall took the lead in the first lap of the race and literally never looked back. Both United Autosport Ligier JSP3's quickly got in front of the whole field, with only the #6 360 Racing Ligier able to follow their pace. Alexander Talkanitsa Jr in the #9 AT Racing Ligier, who started from pole dropped to fourth place after the first round. 

The second United Autosport Ligier seemed settled for second, but fell back a bit by the end of the race, down to fourth. Second crossing the line after four hours was the #6 360 Racing Ligier after a steady and faultless race, but on a respectable distance from the winners.

After the race however, the team was handed a 1 lap penalty for not respecting the minimal driving time by their bronze driver Anthony Wells.  The penalty left them seventh overall and promoted the #17 Ultimate Ligier to the second spot of the podium, followed by the second United Autosport Ligier and the M. Racing YMR Ligier.

TF Sport steered their Aston Martin Vantage V8 to victory in the GTE class. First race for the new team in the European Le Mans Series, first victory. After winning the Michelin Le Mans Cup last year, TF Sports new season couldn't have a better start. Salih Yulok took the start from pole in the #90 Aston Martin, but soon dropped into second hen Aaron Scott put in a ballsy move to the lead, overtaking both Aston Martins in his #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari. A few laps later, the Beechdean Aston had a spin after contact with another car, dropping down to the back of the field.

Euan Hankey took over the #90 at the first round of pitstops, went back into the lead and started to build up a gap to the competition. Things looked worse however when contact with the #51 Ferrari resulted in a spin and losing the lead in the race. Joel Camathias now took the lead in the #77 Proton Porsche, followed by the surprisingly fast #66 JMW Ferrari F458. Duncan Cameron fell back to third in the #55 Ferrari after their strong start.

Nicki Thiim took over the leading Aston Martin at the second pitstop and quickly got settled in a comfortable lead over the Porsche. Behind both leaders, Ross Gunn & Darren Turner were hammering down their Beechdean Aston Martin, getting back on a podium spot after overtaking the #66 and #55 Ferrari's. The third hour of the race was quite uneventful, with most cars and drivers settling for their spot in the race.

At the final round of pitstops, Hankey had built up a lead of + 50 seconds, handing the car back over to Nicki Thiim. Behind him Matteo Cairoli got into the Proton Porsche, who now had Ross Gunn behind him in the second Aston Martin. After 4 hours Nicki Thiim crossed the line with a one lap lead over Matteo Cairoli. The young Italian drove his his #77 Proton Competition Porsche to second place, just over a second ahead of Ross Gunn in the charging #99 Beechdean Aston Martin.

Race results

Kristof Vermeulen.