With huge grids and top class competitors from around the world, the European Le Mans Series provided yet another season of high octane entertainment on six of Europe’s leading circuits. After 24 hours of racing that saw thirteen different teams stand on the top of the three class podiums, the champions were declared in Portimão at the end of a gruelling and hard fought 2018 season.
LMP2: G-Drive Racing Take 2018 Title After Three Wins
The name G-Drive Racing will appear on the LMP2 Team Champions trophy for the third year in a row after the TDS Racing run no26 Oreca 07-Gibson secured 100.25 points after six races to finish the year 34.25 points ahead of the no24 Racing Engineering Oreca.
Three teams – G Drive Racing, Racing Engineering and United Autosports - took the overall wins at the six races, while the six pole positions were claimed by five different cars.
The season started well for Spanish outfit Racing Engineering, taking the win on their ELMS debut at the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. In May Jean-Eric Vergne started his season in Italy and completed a dominant victory in the 4 Hours of Monza in the no26 G-Drive Racing, joining Rusinov and Pizzitola on the top step of the podium. A second win followed for the G-Drive Racing Oreca in Austria and then a third was added in Silverstone for the Russian flagged team to have one hand on the title ahead of the penultimate race in Belgium.
Heavy rain caused the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in September to be red flagged and a result declared after two hours of racing as the track conditions deteriorated. The no22 United Autosports Ligier-Gibson of Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque took their first win of 2018, with 19-year-old Hanson also became the youngest driver to take an overall race victory in the history of the ELMS.
The no26 G Drive Racing Oreca finished well down the order in the difficult conditions but with only half championship points awarded for the race Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola were declared champions with one race to spare.
The no22 United Autosports Ligier-Gibson of Albuquerque and Hanson took a second consecutive ELMS victory with a hard fought win on the twist and turns of the the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portugal.
LMP3: Big Grids and Young Talent
With five different teams taking wins in the six races and 17-year-old Kay Van Berlo becoming the youngest ever ELMS class winner, the LMP3 category provided great entertainment and the perfect platform for the endurance racing stars of tomorrow.
A massive 18 car grid formed up for the first race in Le Castellet with the no15 RLR M Sport Ligier of Rob Garofall, Job Van Uitert and John Farano getting their championship winning season off to a great start. One month later victory went to the no11 Eurointernational Ligier of Giorgio Mondini and Kay Van Berlo after a race long battle with several cars including the no2 United Autosports Ligier of reigning champions Sean Rayhall and John Falb.
In Austria the LMP3 class victory was secured by the no15 RLR MSport Ligier-Nissan for the second time in 2018. Rob Garofall taking the chequered flag just 5 seconds ahead of a hard charging Alex Kapadia in the no7 Ecurie Ecosse/ Nielsen Ligier.
2017 Team Champions United Autosports took their first LMP3 win of the 2018 season at Silverstone with the no3 Ligier of Tony Wells, Matt Bell and Garret Grist taking the top spot and the team
celebrated again at the shortened 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps this time it was the no2 Ligier-Nissan of John Falb and Scott Andrews making it to the top step of the podium.
The LMP3 season finished in Portugal with victory for the no13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier of Martin Hippe and Jakub Smiechowski, a debut win for the Polish team. However it was all smiles at British team RLR MSport when the crew of the no15 Ligier of Job Van Uitert, John Farano and Rob Garofall finished in 5th place to clinch the 2018 LMP3 Driver and Team titles.
LMGTE: Ferrari and Porsche Go Head to Head
The LMGTE category might have the smallest number of cars of the three ELMS classes but what they lack in numbers they certainly make up for it with superb, edge of the seat racing action.
The 4 Hours of Le Castellet went down to the wire with the race being decided on the last lap between Spain’s Miguel Molina in the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari and Matteo Cairoli in the no88 Proton Competition Porsche. The two drivers had been battling for lap of lap with Cairoli leading, but on the last lap a lunge by Molina saw the Ferrari get ahead and take the chequered flag.
At the 4 Hours of Monza in May the LMGTE class was won in convincing style by the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari finishing over a minute ahead of the no77 Proton Competition Porsche in second place.
In Austria Proton Competition took the first LMGTE win of the season for Porsche with a dominate win for the no88 Porsche 911 RSR of Gianluca Roda, Giorgio Roda and Matteo Cairoli finishing a lap ahead of the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari F488 GTE.
In the 4 Hours of Silverstone there was drama in the LMGTE category when the first two cars on the road were both given 10 second penalties for exceeding track limits. The no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Miguel Molina finished first but was subject to a 10 second penalty. However Molina finished 10.126 seconds ahead of the no88 Proton Competition Porsche of Matteo Cairoli, which, when corrected, meant the No66 Ferrari won the race by just 0.126s.
In the heavy rain in Belgium the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps finished with the 2017 Michelin Le Mans Cup GT3 Championship winning team Ebimotors claiming victory with Riccardo Pera, Fabio Babini and Bret Curtis celebrating the debut ELMS win.
In Portugal ELMS history was made in LMGTE when Gianluca and Giorgio Roda became the first Father and Son driver pairing to win an ELMS title. They brought home the no88 Proton Competition Porsche with their Italian teammate Matteo Cairoli in third place behind the no77 911, which took the chequered flag to secure the first win of 2018 for Christian Ried, Dennis Olsen and Marvin Dienst.