Saturday 22 October 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of Estoril: Third pole position for DragonSpeed

Nicolas Lapierre scored the third pole position this season for the Dragonspeed team in his #21 Oreca 05/Nissan. With a drying track in the final qualifying session of the day, Lapierre set his fastest lap at the very end of the 10 minute session. 

Early in the session, Dimiti Enjalbert in the #28 IDEC Sport Ligier set - quite surprisingly - the fastest time ahead of Paul Loup Chatin in the #23 Panis-Barthez Ligier. Chatin then took the lead, staying on top of the leaderboard until the dying moments of the session. 

In a frantic final minute, the whole starting order had been shaken up several times. Chatin was the first driver to improve his time on the drying track, but soon was beaten by Olivier Pla in the #40 Krohn Racing Ligier. Chatin reacted and took provisional pole again, now with Van der Garde moving up into second in his #38 G-Drive Gibson.  In his final charging lap, Lapierre put in a 1.44.146, beating Chatin with 0.407 seconds who wasn't able to improve his time once more. 

Mathias Beche in the championship leading #46 Thiriet by TDS Oreca never got into the battle for pole. Beche went off track in his opening lap and only managed to set the seventh fastest time at then end of the session. 

In LMP3 the sixth race of the season gave us the sixth different car on pole position. United Autosports took the first two places on the grid. Alex Brundle was fastest in class, scoring the first pole position for the #2 championship winning car in 1:50.355. Wayne Boyd set the #3 sister car on second place, 0186 seconds behind Brundle. Third fastest was Dino Lunardi in the #19 Duqueine Engineering, just edging out Antonin Borga in the second Duqueine Ligier (#20).

The GTE class were the first out for their qualifying session today and had to cope with a (very) wet track. Ben Barker impressed in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche, claiming the teams second pole position of the season and the first pole for Ben Barker. 

Behind the Englishman who took pole with a time of 1:54.754, Alessandro Pier Guidi fought himself into second in the #56 AT Racing Ferrari, giving in 0.337 seconds to Barker. Third fastest was Marco Cioci in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, only 0.068 seconds behind Pier Guidi. 

The second free practice this morning saw all kinds of weather. Starting on a damp track while the morning fog was still hanging down, over bright sunshine to rain in the dying minutes of the session.

The damp track proved to be tricky with lots of spins during the session.  The championship leading #46 Thiriet Oreca05 was one of the first victims early in the session, hitting the barrier with some damage on the front bodywork of the car. Frederic Vervisch in the #33 Eurasia was not so lucky when he went off and into the barriers in turn 7, suffering damage to the front and back of the Oreca. The car had to be towed out and away, causing a brief full course yellow.

Jota Sport set the pace early on with Harry Tincknell going fastest, followed by Giedo van der Garde who improved his teammate's time. After the full course yellow the track quickly dried out and laptimes started falling down. 

Lapierre was flying and drove a 1:35.671 in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca, no less than 0.670 seconds faster than Giedo van der Garde in the #38 G-Drive Nissan. Third fastest was the #41 Greaves Ligier driven by Julien Canal, just under a second slower than van der Garde. Rain started to fall down in the final 10 minutes of the session, leaving the Dragonspeed Oreca on top.

In LMP3 both United Autosport Ligiers were fastest after 90 minutes. Wayne Boyd quickest in the #3 with a 1.40.753, over 2 seconds ahead of Alex Brundle in the #2 Ligier. Matthieu Lahaye put the #17 Ultimate on third place, just under half a second behind Brundle. Yann Erlacher was fastest on track at the beginning of the session in the #18 M. Racing - YMR but fell down the order as track conditions improved.

GTE was a tight battle again with several cars fighting for the top spot on the leaderboard. The best times were set just before the rain fell at the end of the session. Marco Cioci drove a 1.45.976 in his #51 Ferrari, 0.356 seconds faster than Darren Turner in the #99 Beachdean Aston Martin. The championship leading JMW Ferrari only came out late in the session, Andrea Bertolini just 0.010 seconds behind third fastest Mikkel Mac in the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari F458 Italia.

The green flag for the final ELMS race of 2016 will be waived at 13.30h local time. The race will be streamed live on the ELMS website and can be seen at MotorsTV. 

Kristof Vermeulen.