Picture © Jakob Ebrey Photography
ELMS - 14/12/2018 - Jeff CARTER
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.
The season started well for Spanish outfit Racing Engineering, taking the win on their ELMS debut at the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. The all French crew of Olivier Pla, Norman Nato and Paul Petit finishing ahead of the no33 TDS Racing Oreca of Matthieu Vaxvière, Loic Duval and Francois Perodo. The no26 G-Drive Racing Oreca finished 4th with Jean-Eric Vergne being replaced by Alexandre Imperatori alongside Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola, those 12 missing points for Vergne proving crucial six month later in Portugal.
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. The Franco-Russian crew finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of the no33 TDS Racing Oreca, which had started at the back of the LMP2 field, with the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca finishing 2.1 seconds behind TDS Racing to claim the final podium place.
After a two month break for the 24 Hours of Le Mans the ELMS returned in July with the annual trip to Austria for the 4 Hours of Red Bull Ring. The no26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Gibson took the chequered flag for the second time in 2018, finishing 19 seconds ahead of the no29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca. Nelson Panciatici held off a determined challenge from Olivier Pla in the no24 Racing Engineering Oreca to take second place by just 0.2 seconds. However, in post-race scrutineering the no29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca was disqualified because the fuel did not confirm indicated by the organiser (Stewards Decision no35). This promoted the no22 United Autosports Ligier-Gibson of Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque into the final podium position behind the Racing Engineering crew.
The no26 G-Drive Racing Oreca-Gibson of Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Eric Vergne won another ELMS race, taking the top honours in the 4 Hours of Silverstone, the third win in a row for the Russian flagged team to extend their championship lead. In a dominant display Vergne finished one lap ahead of the rest of the field, with the no21 DragonSpeed Oreca of Nico Lapierre and the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca of Paul Lafargue finishing second and third respectively.
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 the 2018 season finishing ahead of the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca of Nico Lapierre, Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman and the no23 Panis Barthez Competition. 19-year-old Phil 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 the team was declared 2018 champions, with Roman Rusinov and Andrea Pizzitola lifting the ELMS drivers crown.
The season finale took place in Portugal in October with the 4 Hours of Portimão. The no22 United Autosports Ligier-Gibson of Filipe Albuquerque and Phil 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. Local hero Albuquerque crossed the line just 0.5 seconds ahead of Will Stevens in the no23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier. The no32 United Autosports Ligier of Will Owen took the final podium position.
The European Le Mans Series will return in 2019 with six 4-hours races, starting with Le Castellet in April, Monza in May, Barcelona, a new addition to the calendar, in July, Silverstone in August, Spa-Francorchamps in September and finishing once again in Portimão in October.