Thursday 17 May 2018

ELMS: G-Drive takes victory in an eventful 4 Hours of Monza

G-Drive Racing took victory last Sunday in the #26 Gibson powered Oreca 07 making it two weekends with two race wins after the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and three in a row for Jean-Eric Vergne who won the Formula-e race in Paris three weekends ago. 

In an eventful race strewn with accidents and what was certainly questionable driving standards, the Russian backed car (which also won last weekend at Spa, the first round of the World Endurance Championship’s Super-Season) took today’s win at the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Monza.

The #33 TDS Racing Oreca 07, which started the race at the back of the LMP2 pack after having Matthieu Vaxiviere’s qualifying times cancelled when tape found on the car in post-session scrutineering was deemed a technical infringement, took advantage of the multiple safety car periods to work back to the head of the pack and claim second place. French team IDEC Sport completed an Oreca 07 clean sweep of the podium with Paul Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue, and Memo Rojas bringing the #28 car home for third place. 

The Safety Car was called into action four times along with various Full Course Yellow periods in what was certainly the most eventful of races. Somewhat unusually for Monza all of the pack made it through variante Retifillio unscathed, thanks no doubt to Race Director Eduardo Freitas mandating two warm-up laps to ensure that the cars brakes and tyres were up to temperature. However, soon after that, mayhem started. 

The #19 YMR Norma of David Droux was hit on the first lap causing a rear puncture and damage to the legality panel that would plague the car for the rest of the race. Soon after the #39 Graff Racing Oreca hit the tyre wall at Lesmo 2 so hard it nearly launched over the top bringing out the Safety Car whilst the barriers and tyres were repaired. Luckily Alexandre Cougnaud emerged from the wrecked car unscathed.

With the barriers repaired and 3h 24 minutes to go the SC came in and green flag racing recommenced ….. for a while! The battle for the lead was between the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca and, showing certain pace following the ‘Joker’ updates this year, the two United Autosports Ligier JSP2s, #22 and #32 with the #49 High Class Racing Dallara snapping at the leading trio’s heels. 

As this battle raged, Enzo Guibbert planted his #40 G-Drive backed Oreca firmly into tyre wall at entry of Ascari, ending the race for the TDS run car. As the SC was again deployed while the mess was cleared up we saw a bunch of cars dive into the pits including the #19 YMR Norma for it’s third visit, still suffering problems with the legality panel. With so many cars on the grid (43), there was eschewing chaos as cars jostled for position and mechanics pushed and manhandled them about to get the vehicles lined up to leave!

While the chaos in the pits was underway, Christian Olsen somehow managed to smash his #7 ECURIE ECOSSE NIELSEN Ligier LMP3 into the barriers under the Safety Car causing extensive damage to the front; he did however continue to drive it, somewhat recklessly, back to the pits where the team managed to get a new front fitted and get the car back into the race, albeit some laps down. 

After the first hour’s ‘racing’ the #26 G-Drive had dropped back and the leading three cars were the #29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca followed by the Dallaras of AVF By Andrian Valles (#30) and the #47 of local team Cetilar Villorba Corse. 

As the race went back to green again there was contact between the #17 Ultimate and #20 Racing for Poland Ligiers. Mondini in the #11 Eurointernational was fighting hard with Sean Rayhall in the #2 United Autosports LMP3 for second position while Terrence Woodward held the lead position in the #6 360 Racing Ligier. Henrik Hedman in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca earned himself a drive through penalty following an accident with the #18 YMR Ligier leding to its retirement and a thoroughly miserable weekend for the French team. 

Next ‘off the track’ was the #8 DKR Norma M30 which needed to be towed off to the pits to retire bringing out another FCY then SC while the #88 Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR dived into the puts with damage following contact with the (freshly repaired) #20 Racing for Poland Ligier. 

By half distance Andrea Pizzitola’s G-Drive Oreca lead the DUQUEINE ENGINEERING car of Nelson Panciatici in LMP2, Sean Rayhall was leading the P3 class from Kay van Bierlo in the #11 Eurointernational and in GTE, Aaron Scott in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari was ahead of Marc Lieb in the #77 Porsche. 

The race continued until a big shunt at Lesmo 2 involving various P3 cars and the #66 JMW Ferrari brought out the fourth safety car of the race – due to some possible miscommunication, both of the United Autosports P2 Ligiers passed the safety car and then had to wait just before Parabolica to be collected, slotting in neatly behind the Jaguar Safety Car as it passed.

One lap later, with 1h 38 to go the race again went green, however Harisson Newey jumped the restart in the #31 Algarve Pro Rebellion Racing car earning himself a penalty. Phil Hanson in the #22 United Autosports Ligier was putting up a great fight against Andrea Pizzitola in the #26 Oreca but eventually succumbed and handed the lead to the Italian two laps later.

At the final scheduled round of pitstops, the #26 G-Drive Racing car retained its lead with Filipe Albuquerque still pushing hard in the #22 Ligier behind. Matthieu Vaxivière continued to work his way up from last to third position. 

With 45 minutes to go Albuquerque had to pit handing third to Vaxivière, Falb led Kay Van Berlo in the P3 class with Cameron leading GTE in the #55 Ferrari. The leading G-Drive car then dived into the pits for a splash and rejoined in third. 

As the chequered flag fell, Jean Eric Vergne brought home the G-Drive car just under 30 seconds ahead of Matthieu Vaxivière who’d battled his #33 TDS Racing Oreca all the way to the head of the pack. 

In the LMP3 category, the #11 Eurointernational Ligier JSP3 driven by Giorgio Mondini and Kay Van Berlo took first place after late race drama for the John Falb in the #2 United Autosports Ligier who saw a certain win vanish when a puncture forced the American for an extra pitstop with just eight minutes to go. The #6 360 Racing Ligier JSP3 driven by Terrence Woodward and Ross Kaiser came home second, some four seconds behind the leaders.  A strong effort from the team as James Swift was excluded from the race. Martin Hippe in the #13 Inter Europol Ligier seemed to be on his way to the podium, but almost ran out of fuel in the penultimate lap and had to come in for a splash & dash.  The final podium position in the LMP3 class went to the #3 United Autosports Ligier shared by Anthony Wells, Garret Grist and Matt Bell.

In GTE the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE of Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron, and Aaron Scott took home the win after leading their class for a majority of the race. The #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of  Christian Ried, Marvin Dienst and Marc Lieb finished the race in second with the #80 Porsche of Ebimotors rounding out the GTE podium.

Race Results

Text: John Stevens/Kristof Vermeulen
Pictures: JellyBaby.Media