Picture © Jakob Ebrey Photography
ELMS - 24/07/2017 - Press release - DragonSpeed
By finishing on the podium and scoring 18 points, the team, and its full-season duo of Rojas and Roussel have retained their championship lead heading into the fourth round of the season at Paul Ricard next month.
Starting from pole position, Roussel led the way in the opening stint, setting the race’s fastest lap, a 1:20.177 on the sixth tour of the 4.3-km Austrian circuit. But after the first round of stops, Rojas climbed in and rejoined the race in second. Rojas fought hard through the traffic, keeping the team in the top five, handing the car over to Minassian for his first racing stint of the year with two and a half hours remaining.
“We lost a few seconds in the pits, due to the car not firing,” explained Rojas after the race. “It was the same in Léo’s final stop, he was having to fight to get the engine started. But we fought hard to get what we could out of the race. I tried to keep the pace, Nic and Léo did a great job, we had an amazing car.”
DragonSpeed’s Sporting Director and Reserve Driver Minassian, standing in for Ryo Hirakawa this weekend, fought his way through the field, eventually taking the lead of the race with just over 90 minutes remaining. It wasn’t a done deal though, as he lost a lot of time through slower traffic before Roussel took over the reins for the final stint.
“I don’t usually complain about traffic, but I lost around 13 seconds because of an LMP2 driver not obeying blue flags,” Minassian explained, "plus another seven seconds pitting behind an LMP3 car coming in in trouble. “Positively though, we had the best car in terms of performance, we showed that in practice, qualifying and the race, which is great news for the rest of the season.”
21-year-old Roussel, who starred in Saturday qualifying, drove masterfully to the flag, after a slower pit stop with a starter problem cost the G-Drive Racing by DragonSpeed crew the lead again at the end of the third hour. He pushed hard to catch the leading car, reducing the deficit which was over 10 seconds in the final 30 minutes to just 4.5 seconds by the end of the race, all while on old tyres.
“In the last stint I pushed so hard, I tried to catch the leader but It wasn’t easy,” Roussel said. “It was a good result for the team though, getting pole position, the fastest lap and a podium. We also scored a lot of valuable points for the championship.”
Finishing second was a positive result for the G-Drive Racing by DragonSpeed crew, which has finished on the podium in all three races so far this season, one of them being in the team’s historic victory at Monza.
Unfortunately, DragonSpeed’s other ORECA 07 Gibson failed to finish, running out of fuel three hours into the race during Henrik Hedman’s stint.
It was a bitterly disappointing result for the number 21 10Star team of Hedman, Nicolas Lapierre and Ben Hanley, which was in the hunt for a podium finish throughout the race.
"It was a mistake pure and simple,” Team Principal Elton Julian explained. “The whole circuit, in fact the whole valley, suffered a power failure mid-race and everything went dark. Somehow in recovering from that there was an error made as we tried to squeeze the most we possibly could on fuel.
"That's a real shame because to that point we'd had a great run for both cars, Henrik did a great job keeping us in the hunt and it's just a real shame that Ben (Hanley) didn't get the chance to attack at the end because there was a result there for us today for both cars.
"As for the number 22, it was a great run, spoiled by Matt McMurry failing to observe blue flags, blocking Nic as he was getting on to terms with the leader, costing us 13 seconds in a race we lost by 4.5. He got a drive-through, but we lost the race. Not exactly a fair exchange for behaviour that has no place at this level."
The next round of the 2017 European Le Mans Series season is the 4 Hours of Le Castellet at Circuit Paul Ricard in France on August 27.
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