Picture © Jakob Ebrey Photography
ELMS - 27/08/2017 - Jeff CARTER
John Falb and Sean Rayhall took their second win of the 2017 season in the LMP3 category in the no2 United Autosports Ligier-Nissan. The LMGTE category was won for the second race in a row by the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari, with Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott taking maximum points at Le Castellet.
LMP2: Russian Celebrations in France
At the start of the race under blue skies and with the temperature approaching 30 degrees Celsius, the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca of Ben Hanley led the 35 car grid into the first corner. The no32 United Autosports Ligier of Hugo de Sadeleer moved ahead of the no27 SMP Racing Dallara of Matevos Isaakyan for 4th but then was tapped into a spin by the no47 Dallara of Andrea Belicchi, dropping the Swiss driver down the field and earning the Italian a drive through penalty for causing the collision.
After the first pitstops the no27 SMP Racing Dallara was out in front with Isaakyan holding a comfortable 20 second lead over the no39 Graff Oreca of Enzo Guibbert, with the no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca of Memo Rojas in third ahead of the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca of Henrik Hedman.
After the driver changes Egor Orudzhev started to opening up the gap even further to the chasing pack and with 90 minutes of the race remaining had a 44 second advantage over the no39 Graff Oreca of Eric Trouillet, with the no32 United Autosports Ligier of Will Owen recovering to third just 9 seconds behind the Frenchman.
Nicolas Minassian handed the no22 G-Drive Racing Oreca back to Leo Roussel with the French driver taking the car to the chequered flag. He caught and passed the no32 Ligier and then moved up to second place behind the leading SMP Racing Dallara. Roussel closed the gap to 20 seconds before two Full Course Yellow periods in the final 30 minutes blunted his charge to the chequered flag and he had to be content with another second place finish.
The no27 SMP Racing Dallara, with Matevos Isaakyan back behind the wheel, took the chequered flag to score their debut ELMS win, the all Russian team finishing ahead of the second placed Russian G Drive Racing team, with the American United Autosports in third after a great come back drive.
However the no32 United Autosports Ligier was given a post race penalty for not respecting the speed limit during the Full Course Yellow period and this dropped the team back to 5th behind the no39 Graff Oreca-Gibson of Enzo Guibbert, Paul Petit and Eric Trouillet, which was classified in 3rd, with the no23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier of Nathanael Berthon, Fabien Barthez and Timothe Buret in 4th.
LMP3: Fighting Victory for United Autosports
Alex Kapadia in the no15 RLR M Sport Ligier takes lead in LMP3 ahead of the No18 M.Racing YMR of Alexandre Cougnaud, with pole position holder Ross Kaiser dropping back to 4th on the opening lap. However Cougnaud’s start was judged to have been too good by the steward and he was given a drive through penalty for jumping the start.
Kapadia then opened up a healthy lead before handing over to John Farano. The Canadian was hit by no10 Oregon Team Ligier dropping him down the order with the no10 car receiving a drive through penalty for causing the incident.
The no2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3-Nissan was started by Sean Rayhall from 5th on the P3 grid and after an initial mid order running the American started to move towards the front of the LMP3 field. After 90 minutes of racing Rayhall put the Ligier in the lead of the LMP3 class before handing over to John Falb who had a brief battle with the no17 Ulitimate Ligier of Francois Heriau before bringing the car home in first place.
The win extends the championship lead for John Falb, Sean Rayhall and United Autosports to 12 points ahead of Alexandre Cougnaud, Antoine Jung and Romano Ricci in the no18 M Racing-YMR Ligier, who finished third behind the no13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier of Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe.
LMGTE: Two in a Row for Spirit of Race Ferrari
The no77 Proton Competition Porsche of Christian Ried took the lead of LMGTE at start but on lap 3 pole position holder Aaron Scott in the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari regained the lead from the German driver.
The no99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin of Ross Gunn moved up to third in class from the back of the grid on the opening lap and passes Christian Ried in the no77 Porsche for 2nd. Gunn handed the car over to reigning LMGTE Champion Andrew Howard but a spin damaged a drive plane and the handling of the car was affected badly, dropping the Aston Martin down the order.
The no90 TF Sport Aston Martin started to make progress in the second half of the race with Nikki Thiim muscling his way up to second place before handing over to Euan Hankey. Hankey had a good battle with Jody Fannin in the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari with Hankey bringing the car home in second place behind the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari to extend their championship lead.
Duncan Cameron took over the no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari from Aaron Scott who returned to the cockpit before handing over to Matt Griffin to bring the Ferrari home to claim the team’s second victory in a row and collect maximum points with the extra point for pole position to move them to just 13 points behind the no90 TF Sport trio in the championship standings.
Round 5 of the 2017 European Le Mans Series will take place at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday 24 September.
CLICK HERE to download the results from the 4 Hours of Le Castellet
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