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Picture © Jakob Ebrey Photography

2017 ELMS Champions Celebrate in Portimão

ELMS - 22/10/2017 - Jeff CARTER

A frantic and highly dramatic 4 Hours of Portimão saw the second victory for the no40 Graff Oreca-Gibson but all eyes were on the no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca as the Russian team won the 2017 ELMS title, with Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel taking the drivers title.

The no2 United Autosports Ligier started the race dead last but Sean Rayhall and John Falb fought their way through to finish second in class behind the no3 Ligier of their teammates and secure the titles for both the team and for themselves.

In 2016 it was heartbreak for JMW Motorsport when they were denied the ELMS title by a technical issue.  12 months later it was all smiles in the JMW Motorsport garage as Jody Fannin, Rob Smith and Will Stevens took the title in Portimão finishing second behind their teammates in the no3 Ligier.

LMP2: Hard Fought Victory for Graff – Championship Run for G-Drive Racing
The race started with the no32 United Autosports Ligier of Hugo de Sadeleer taking the fight to the no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca and taking the early lead from 5th on the grid have passed Fabien Barthez in the no23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier, which had started the race on pole.  

The first Safety Car period of the race slowed the proceedings after  the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca of Henrik Hedman went off into the gravel at T5.  Leo Roussel held third place in the no22 Oreca behind the two leaders, with the no47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara of Giorgio Sernagiotto in 4th and the no40 Graff Oreca of Gustavo Yacaman in 5th.

At the restart Roussel took second place from Barthez into T1, with Yacaman also moving up the order in the no40 Graff Oreca.

The no27 SMP Racing Dallara of Egor Orudzhev briefly led during the first round of pitstops, the Russian making good progress to move into the top five in the first half of the race.  As the race approached the half way point the no40 Graff Oreca of James Allen made a move to take the lead from the no32 United Autsports Ligier of de Sadeleer at T14 before the Australian pitted on the next lap.  The car failed to start and lost a few seconds as the car was fired up and Allen sent on his way.

As the clock counted down the race was between the no32 United Autosports Ligier, the no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca, the no40 Graff Oreca and the no27 SMP Racing Dallara, with all four cars taking the lead at some point. 

The no39 Graff Oreca of Paul Petit spun on the last corner, spearing across the track and hitting the barriers at the end of the pitlane, blocking the entrance.  The marshals worked under local yellow flags to clear the track quickly.

Richard Bradley, now at the wheel of the no40 Oreca, caught and passed the no32 United Autosports Ligier and led the rest of the race before taking the chequered flag.  The no27 SMP Racing Dallara of Matevos Isaakyan was second but was caught and passed with five minutes on the clock by the no32 Ligier, now with local hero Filipe Albuquerque at the wheel.  The no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca was 4th, with Ryo Hirakawa finishing just 1.9 seconds behind the SMP Racing Dallara at the flag to take the 2017 ELMS title.

LMP3: 1-2 for United Autosports in Portimão 
Mikkel Jensen in the no9 AT Racing Ligier took advantage of the pole position to lead the LMP3 category ahead of the no6 360 Racing Ligier of Ross Kaiser and the no3 United Autosports Ligier of Wayne Boyd.

The no2 Ligier driven by Sean Rayhall was making progress up the order while their onlty rival for the title, the no18 M.Racing YMR Ligier was running in 5th place with Alexandre Cougnaud at the wheel.  The no18 car needed to finish first to be in with a change of overtaking the United Autosports crew while Rayhall needed to get his car into the top seven to be guaranteed the 2017 titles. After the first hour Rayhall had fought his way up to 6th and was closing rapidly on the cars ahead of him.

After several pitstops the no2 Ligier hit the front and was being trailed by the no9 AT Racing and the no3 United Autosports Ligiers.  The no9 car was hit with a drive through penalty for track limits and this reduced the fight for the lead between the no2 Ligier of John Falb and the no3 car of Christian England.  England took the opportunity to sweep past his teammate and take the win in Portugal while second place provided the two Americans with the 2017 ELMS title.

LMGTE: Proton Competition Victory – JMW Motorsport Champions
In LMGTE the no77 Proton Competition Porsche of Joel Camathias took the lead with the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Aaron Scott pushing the Swiss driver.  The no77 Porsche was clipped by the no10 Oregon Team Ligier, which earned the LMP3 car a drive through penalty but is cost the Porsche the lead as Camathias rejoined in 3rd behind the no51 Ferrari, with Scott leading the race.

The no55 car looked strong until the car was sidelined with a suspected engine/transmission issue.  The no51 Ferrari was also a retiree after a trip into the gravel.

The GTE class became a fight between the no77 Porsche and the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, with the championship leading no90 TF Sport Aston Martin looking to close the gap to the leading duo.

In the end it was the no77 Proton Competition Porsche that took the chequered flag for the first time in 2017 with the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari in second to take the 2017 ELMS title for Hody Fanin and Rob Smith to add to the 24 Hours of Le Mans LMGTE Am title Rob Smith and Will Stevens won in June. 

CLICK HERE for the results from the 4 Hours of Portimao

CLICK HERE for the final championship positions

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