Monday 13 July 2015

ELMS 4 hours of the Red Bull Ring - Race report

An amazing track and infrastructure, hot summer weather, 29 cars on the grid ... everything was set for a great race on Sunday, and what a race we got !  Third race of the season, third winning car and team and an exciting race with no less than 5 safety car periods. Jota Sport and their "Mighty 38" clinched a well deserved victory at the even so mighty Red Bull Ring in front of more than 12,000 spectators.

Qualifying was upset with the crash of Gary Hirsch in the Greaves Motorsport Gibson/Nissan.  At first it seemed the Gibson had substantial damage, but the mechanics managed to get the car up built up and competitive again by the start of the race.  Harry Tincknell claimed pole position in the Jota Gibson/Nissan, ahead of the #50 Murphy Prototypes Oreca/Nissan and the surprisingly fast #37 SMP Racing BR01/Nissan.  AF Corse took the honours in GTE with Matt Griffin putting the #55 Ferrari on pole ahead of the #51 AF Corse and #60 Formula Racing Ferrari.  Charlie Robertson was - as expected - fastest in LMP3, in GTC AF Corse again took the first 2 spots on the grid with #62 and #63 ahead of Thiriet's BMW Z4.

Filipe Albuquerque took a strong start from pole position and was able to build up a good lead, but when the safety car came out after a few laps, he had to do it all over again.  Albuquerque got a strong lead again, but another safety car made all his efforts worthless for the second time.  In the meantime, the Eurasia squad in the Oreca 03/Nissan managed to keep up with the pace of the frontrunners and even got briefly into the lead due to a different strategy during the safety car periods. Behind the leader, the #46 Oreca 05/Nissan from Thiriet by TDS became the biggest challenger for Simon Dolan and his crew. Unfortunately for them, a problem with their last pitstop and Gommendy charging through the red light at the pit exit during the last safety car period cost them a penalty.  Despite all that, the Oreca 05 came out of the pitlane less than 2 seconds behind, but Harry Tincknell kept his cool and gave the Jota Sport team their first ELMS victory of the season.

After 4 hours the #37 SMP Racing BR01/Nissan driven by Mikhail Aleshin and Anton & Kiriil Ladygin took the third step of the podium, 1 lap behind the leaders.  In only its third race, SMP managed to get a podium in the all new BR01, which felt like a truly well deserved victory for the team.  They battled it out with the unfortunate Greaves Motorsport who suffered several penalties which put them out of contention for a podium finish.   Bad luck for the SMP Racing team too, when the second BR01 in the hands of David Markozov went hard into the barriers right before turn 1 with 1h15' to go.  The Greaves Gibson made it home in 4th, only 3.1 seconds behind the BR01.  Tracy Krohn's bright green Ligier/Judd raced itself to fifth after an uneventful race. Murphy's men came in sixth after holding on to third position for quite some time, but losing out after a collision with a GTE car.  On their first race in ELMS, the Portuguese Algarve Pro Racing team managed to get their Ligier/Nissan to the finish line in 15th place overall, despite some unexpected problems during the race.

Not only LMP2 put up a mouthwatering spectacle, GTE gave us tension from the beginning to the end. The Ferrari's were all over the place in Spielberg with Formula Racing, 2 AF Corse's and JMW battling it out on the very limit.  The latter eventually fell off the leading group after a penalty. Matt Griffin rushed his way through the field in the #55 AF Corse after having to start at the back of the grid, getting into an extremely close battle with the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari 458 and the #51 AF Corse.  During the whole race, it was a nailbiting spectacle with all 3 cars just seconds apart.  At the final stage of the race, it seemed like Griffin had the top spot of the podium within his reach, but when the Thiriet Oreca 05 spinned in front of him in the last lap, Mikkel Mac made an epic move to take over the lead and score a great victory for the Formula Racing team.  With electrical problems all Saturday, the Marc VDS BMW Z4 came in fourth (again), despite their troubles only 13 seconds behind the #51 Ferrari.

In LMP3 Sir Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson took their second victory after their unsuccesful race in Imola.  Robertson drove a very strong opening stint, putting him into the top 10 and well into the mix of the GTE cars.  After a faultless double stint by Chris Hoy, Robertson just had to drive home to secure a dominant win.  All the other LMP3's had their problems during the race.  The #5 Villorba Corse came in second, before the second LNT prototype, 22 laps behind the leader.  The #15 SVK by Speed Factory had to retire after several contacts and losing some of its bodywork.

GTC saw the #59 Thiriet by TDS BMW Z4 leading the class, untill he ended up in the gravel trap at turn 3 right after a safety car period.  This saw the #62 AF Corse taking the lead, comfortably building it up to a 2 lap gap at the end of the race.  With the checkered flag in sight, the #68 Massive Motorsport Aston Martin with Kristian Poulsen at the wheel came in charging hard to the BMW, but Franck Perrara ultimately managed to keep track position to come in second.

After a well deserved summer break, the next ELMS race is scheduled at Le Castellet on September 6th.  With another exciting race behind us, a very competitive LMP2 field & door to door battles in the GT classes, we should be in for a thrilling weekend again.

Full race classification can be found here

Kristof Vermeulen