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Home / Championships Claimed by G-Drive and Aston Martin Racing in Drama Filled Race in Portugal

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Championships Claimed by G-Drive and Aston Martin Racing in Drama Filled Race in Portugal

ELMS - 23/10/2016

The 2016 European Le Mans Series LMP2 and LMGTE titles were both claimed in dramatic circumstances as the cars leading the two classes, the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca and the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, both encountered problems in the first half of the four hour event.

The race winners in each class, the no38 G-Drive Racing Gibson of Giedo Van Der Garde, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell and the no99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Alex MacDowall, Andrew Howard and Darren Turner, secured enough points to overhaul their rivals to secure the European titles.

The LMP3 class was won by the no18 MRacing-YMR Ligier of Thomas Laurent, Yann Ehrlacher and Alexandre Cougnaud, the first ELMS win of the season for the team and drivers.  

The race started with the no38 G-Drive Gibson of Giedo Van Der Garde moving into the lead at the first corner from the second row with Nico Lapierre in the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca on pole position being challenged by the no23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier of Fabien Barthez.  Lapierre held the position with Barthez spinning at Turn 4.  It wasn’t long before Lapierre was back on terms with the leading Gibson, passing Van Der Garde for the lead.

The no99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Alex MacDowall, which had started at the back of the grid, was soon on the move and by lap 14 was leading the LMGTE class after passing the rest of the field. MacDowall had championship leader Rory Butcher in the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari just 4 seconds behind.

2016 LMP3 Champion Alex Brundle started from pole position and soon had a good gap to his United Autosports teammate Wayne Boyd and the no9 Graff Ligier of Enzo Guibbert

As the pitstops approached on lap 31 Van Der Garde made a move to regain the lead on the inside of Lapierre’s Oreca-Nissan at Turn 2, with both drivers heading to the pits at the end of the lap.  Lapierre handed over to Henrik Hedman and Van Der Garde to Simon Dolan, with Dragonspeed electing not to change tyres allowing Hedman back on track ahead of Dolan.  Hedman made a mistake and went across the gravel at T3 and rejoined the track just in front of Dolan, who quickly took advantage and went into the lead.

In LMGTE the no66 JMW Ferrari went ahead of the leading no99 Aston Martin and soon built up a comfortable lead.

Back at the front the no38 Gibson had moved well ahead of the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca, with Nic Jonsson in the no40 Krohn Racing Ligier and Pierre Thiriet the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca battling for third and closing on the second placed car.  Another trip off the track for Hedman allowed the two cars through into 2nd and 3rd respectively.

At the end of the opening hour the no60 Formula Racing Ferrari retired with Johnny Laursen parking the car at T7.  The no66 JMW Ferrari came in for the first stop and was delayed, losing a lap on the leaders.  This was a taste of things to come for the championship leading team as smoke and fire was seen coming from the back of the F458 but Butcher kept the car circulating at speed until the next stop, when a gearbox issue forced the team to push it back into the garage.  After 30-minutes Rob Smith emerged only for the car to be collected by a spinning Mike Guasch at Turn 2.  Smith got the car back to the pits but the no66 Ferrari’s afternoon was done despite the herculean efforts by the mechanics to get the car back on track.

This left the leading Aston Martin, now with Andrew Howard at the wheel needing to win the race to secure the title, second or lower meant the JMW Motorsport crew would still be able to claim the 2016 titles.

After the issues with the no2 United Autosports Ligier and the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, the race seemed to be jinxed for the championship leaders and the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca also had a problem.  When Pierre Thiriet came in to hand over the car to Ryo Hirakawa the Oreca wouldn’t start.  The mechanics worked to solve the issue but then the car was wheeled back into the garage signalling the issue with the electrical systems on the car was a lot more serious.  The French team worked hard, eventually getting the Oreca back on track but towards the back of the field, over 20 laps behind.

Darren Turner was now in the no99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage but had the no51 AF Corse Ferrari of Rui Aguas just 0.4 seconds behind.  The Portuguese driver looked on course to pass the lead Aston Martin but the pressure was relieved when the no51 Ferrari spun off the track at Turn 1.  The nearest rival was now the no 55 AF Corse Ferrari, which was nearly 40 seconds further back.  A puncture for the no55 Ferrari forced it into the pits.

The lead of the LMP3 class had passed to the no18 MRacing YMR Ligier of Thomas Laurent, with Mark Patterson in the no3 United Autsports Ligier and the no16 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier following 5 seconds down the road.  With 90 minutes of the race remaining the no18 Ligier had a scare when it spun at T3 on some oil that had been left earlier.Laurent recovered to maintain his lead as Simon Gachet in the no16 Ligier took second place Patterson’s United Autosports car.  But an issue for the 16 car saw it struggle back to the pits.

Harry Tincknell took over the driving duties in the no38 car ahead of Stefano Coletti in the no32 SMP Racing BR01 and Olivier Pla in the no40 Krohn Racing Ligier.  Nico Lapierre had taken over the driving duties from Ben Hanley in the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca and was closing fast on the Krohn Racing Ligier.  With less than 30 minutes of the race remaining Lapierre passed Pla and then Coletti to move into second place.  Pla was still trying to pass Coletti to claim the final podium position when he clipped the rear of the BR01 and spun off.  Colletti was able to keep his pointing in the right direction and so moved well ahead of the French driver when he regained the track.

At the chequered flag it was the no38 G Drive Racing Gibson Nissan of Harry Tincknell who took the chequered flag and the championship to the delight of the team lining the pitwall.  Lapierre brought the Dragonspeed Oreca home in second place, 51 seconds behind the winners and nearly 30 seconds ahead of the no32 SMP Racing BR01 in third place.

Alex MacDowall returned to the cockpit of the Beechdean sponsored Aston Martin Racing Vantage to bring the car home to claim the Team and Driver titles for the all British team.  MacDowall finished one lap ahead of the AT Racing Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi and  the no55 AF Corse F458.

The LMP3 honours went to the no18 MRacing YMR Ligier with Yann Ehrlacher taking the chequered flag to claim the team’s first ELMS victory.  The Frenchman was two laps ahead of the no3 United Autosports Ligier and the no9 Graff JS P3-Nissan at the end of the four hour race.

The 2017 European Le Mans Series will begin with Round 1 at Silverstone on the 15 April 2017 with the official test at Monza on 27-29 March.

CLICK HERE for the provisionnal result of the 4 Hours of Estoril

CLICK HERE for the final classification

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