Picture © Jakob Ebrey Photography
ELMS - 10/10/2017 - Jeff CARTER
Once again a 35 car grid will provide the fans at the circuit and at home watching on TV with some of the best motor sport entertainment anywhere in the world. The grid features some of the best sportscar drivers, including several World, European and Le Mans champions.
LMP2: Championship Decider – Who Will Win?
The race for the LMP2 team and driver titles is a two-way fight between the no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca and the no32 United Autosports Ligier, which includes local hero Filipe Albuquerque in the crew. However there are several other cars on the 12 strong LMP2 grid that are all capable of being first to the chequered flag.
The no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca will once again be crewed by championship leaders Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel, with the Franco-Mexican duo being joined by Japan’s Ryo Hirakawa for the fourth time in 2017. The Russian team have one win and four second places to their credit in 2017 and another podium finish will be enough to secure both titles.
The crew of the no32 United Autosports Ligier is unchanged for the sixth time with Swiss Hugo de Sadeleer, American Will Owen and Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque knowing that nothing less than a third victory won’t be enough to close the 18-point deficit to the G-Drive crew. So they will be going all out to add another victory in Portugal to the ones secured in Silverstone and Red Bull Ring.
The no40 Graff Oreca-Gibson of James Allen, Richard Bradley and Gustavo Yacaman stood on the top step of the podium in Belgium last month and while the French team cannot win the championship, they do have an outside chance of securing the vice champions position.
4 Hours of Le Castellet winners SMP Racing are currently lying in 5th place after missing the first two rounds at Silverstone and Monza. The Russian team will be looking to secure their third podium finish in a row in Portugal and young hotshoes Matevos Isaakyan and Egor Orudzhev will be looking for an impressive conclusion to their debut season in LMP2.
The no21 DragonSpeed Oreca is another car to watch with four pole positions from the first five races, the White and Blue Oreca-Gibson certainly has the pace but that first victory in 2017 has eluded them.
In addition to Filipe Albuquerque, local interest will also be focused on the no25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier-Gibson. The Portuguese team features three drivers from France, USA and Italy and will be hoping to put some bad luck behind them and finish the season on a high note on their home circuit.
LMP3: A Two Horse Race for a Highly Competitive Category
Like the LMP2 class, the race to the LMP3 titles has become a two horse race between the reigning champions the all American United Autosports team and the all French team M.Racing-YMR run by former multiple FIA World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller.
However with 17 cars forming the LMP3 class grid, there are plenty of contenders for the final winner’s trophy of the 2017 season. Pole position has been secured by five different cars in the five races run so far and there have been four different winners, underlining the competitiveness of the junior Le Mans prototype category.
Sean Rayhall and John Falb have a 19-point advantage over their rivals after scoring four podiums, including two wins at Silverstone and Le Castellet. Alexandre Cougnaud, Antoine Jung and Romano Ricci make up the crew of the no18 M.Racing-YMR Ligier-Nissan and have racked up three podium finishes but have yet to secure that elusive victory. The French trio will know that winning in Portimão is the only chance they have of securing the title.
The no9 AT Racing Ligier took a debut LMP3 win with father and son duo Alexander Talkanitsa Senior and Junior, along with Mikkel Jensen. The Talkanitsa pairing also joined an exclusive club of winning an ELMS race in two different categories after winning in LMGTE two years ago.
The no19 M.Racing – YMR Norma M30-Nissan won in Monza but the French team have failed to finish in the following three races dropping them down the order. Perhaps the Norma, with Yann Ehrlacher at the wheel, can return to winning ways in Portugal?
The no11 Eurointernational Ligier won in Austria last July and Giorgio Mondini and Andrea Dromedari will be looking for further success in Portimão.
LMGTE: Quality Grid Providing Drama All The Way to the Flag!
The LMGTE grid might only feature six cars but every single entry can reach the chequered flag first. The 2017 season boils down to the final encounter in Portimão with just one point separating the top two cars and with five of the six cars still mathematically able to win the title.
Silverstone race winners TF Sport have been doggedly holding off the challenges with Nicki Thiim, Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey amassing 87 points in the no90 Aston Martin Vantage, with four podium finishes from the first five races.
The no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Rob Smith and Jody Fannin are just one point behind on 86 points, after also taking four podiums, including one win in Monza. Will Stevens will once again join his British teammates as they go all out to secure the title that eluded them in 2016.
Double race winners Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott have moved within 11 points of the TF Sport Aston Martin in the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari and will be going flat out to secure that third victory of the season in Portugal.
The no51 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Andrea Bertolini, Giorgio Roda and Gianluca Roda travel to Portugal on the back of a debut win in Belgium and are 17 points behind the leaders.
The 2016 ELMS LMGTE Champions Andrew Howard and Darren Turner have an outside chance of retaining their title in the no99 Beechdean AMR Vantage but the British duo will realistically be hoping for a first place trophy to finish their season on a high note.
The 4 Hours of Portimão will take place on Sunday 22 October and is round 6 of the 2017 European Le Mans Series.
CLICK HERE for the provisional entry list for the 4 Hours of Portimão.
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