Saturday 21 October 2017

ELMS 2017 - 4 Hours of Portimao: Panis Barthez Competition takes final pole of 2017

In a set of qualifying sessions that saw three red flags, Panis Barthez Competition took their first overall European Le Mans Series pole for Sunday's European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Portimao. 

The LMP2 session was red flagged at 7m09s when Andrea Pizzitola in #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier started to porpoise as he ran over the kerbs through T15 then locked up and spun off at T16. The session was restarted at 16:35 local and NathanaĆ«l Berthon went on to set a time of 1:33.575 in the team's #23LIGIER JSP217 on this penultimate lap. Despite pushing hard, neither of the Dragonspeed cars which had shown the pace throughout the practice sessions could snatch the time from the Frenchman and Lapierre had to settle for second with a 1:34.090. Ryo Hirakawa took the #22 G-Drive Oreca to third with a 1:34.235. 

The fastest Dallara was the #47 car of Cetilar Villorba Corse with Andrea Belicchi setting a 1:35.110. 

The LMP3 class qualifying session was red flagged twice; initially to allow the safe removal of the #18 YMR car from the gravel trap at T15 and the second one, a minute later to recover the Antonin Borga in the #7 Duqueine Engineering Ligier from T7's gravel trap.

The session restarted with 3m31s to run and Mikkel Jensen took class pole in the #9 AT Racing Ligier setting a time of 1:40.660 in the dying seconds of the session. United Autosports' Wayne Boyd also pulled out all of the stops on his final lap and finished just 0.164s behind Jensen. Simon Gachet took the #16 Panis Barthez Competition car to third with a 1:41.148.

The Championship leading #2 car could only manage 20th position on the grid with Sean Rayhall failing to set a complete lap time during the session. 

In the LM GTE Class it was a Ferrari lockout for the front of the class grid; Matt Griffin took the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari to class pole setting an emphatic 1:42.657, 0.640 seconds ahead of Will Stevens in the yellow and black #66 JMW car. Matteo Cairoli took the #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR 991 to a 1:43.370 to grab third on the grid. 

Both of the Astons appeared to struggle for speed around the undulating Portuguese track with TF Sport and Beechdean AMR starting on the final two positions on the grid respectively. The pressure will be on for TF Sport tomorrow as they only have a point lead in the championship compared to JMW. 

Dragonspeed dominated this mornings second free practice session as Ryo Hirakawa went fastest in the #22 G-Drive ahead of Nicolas Lapierre in the #21 Dragonspeed Oreca 07. Hirakawa set a time of 1.34.024, which was 0,324 seconds faster than the Frenchman. Third fastest was Richard Bradley in the #40 Graff Oreca in 1:34.459.  The Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara of Andrea Bellichi was the quickest non-Oreca, getting into fourth place with a best time of 1.35.009. 

The crew of the #32 United Autosports Ligier still seemed to be looking for pace as Filipe Albuquerque didn't get higher than fifth place in the session but still 1.2 second slower than Hirakawa's best time. 

M.Racing-YMR set the pace in the LMP3 class, with a 1.41.124 by Alexandre Cougnaud in the #18 Ligier JSP3. Wayne Boyd in the #3 United Autosports Ligier was second fastest ahead of 2 Norma's; the #7 Duqueine Engineering and the #19 M.Racing-YMR.  Sean Rayhall was quickest in the #2 chamionship leading United Autosports Ligier in 7th place with a best time of 1:42.704. 

LMGTE was very close this morning, the top 3 finishing withing 0.228 seconds from eachother. Matteo Cairoli went fastest in the #77 Proton Competition Porsche in 1.42.966, just 0.072 seconds ahead of Nicki Thiim in the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin. Will Stevens in the JMW Ferrari was third fastest in 1.43.194.

Qualifying results
Results Free Practice 2

Kristof Vermeulen
John Stevens