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United Autosports Wins Silverstone ELMS Thriller

United Autosports beats G-Drive to Silverstone win…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

United Autosports started the European Le Mans Series season with a hard-fought win, after Filipe Albuquerque took the lead in the penultimate lap of Saturday’s Four Hours of Silverstone.

The Anglo-American team overcame a drive-through penalty to take the checkered flag with a six-second margin on the No. 22 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Toyota protege Ryo Hirakawa.

Albuquerque pushed the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson to the limit in the final hour to close down a 30-second gap to the DragonSpeed-run Oreca, which seemed to struggle with its tires.

The Portuguese driver shared the car with Hugo de Sadeleer and American Will Owen, who where battling for the top three in the first half of the race.

An overtaking maneuver under yellow by de Sadeleer resulted in a drive-through penalty, which put the Ligier on the back foot.

Leo Roussel was the standout performer in the G-Drive Oreca that eventually had to settle for second.

The Frenchman started the car in fourth, regained the time lost during Memo Rojas’ stint and went on to overtake the No. 40 Graff Oreca 07 of Franck Matelli and the No. 25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier in the space of two laps to take the lead and quickly build up a gap.

The No. 49 High Class Racing Dallara P217 Gibson of Dennis Andersen and Anders Fjordbach completed the podium almost 30 seconds down, making it three different chassis manufacturers in the top three.

Fjordbach briefly led the race at the end of the opening hour before an unleashed Richard Bradley moved the No. 40 Graff Oreca into P1 after starting only 28th on the grid.

Teammates Franck Matelli and James Allen could not consolidate the big lead built up by Bradley and brought the No. 40 car home in fourth.

The pole-sitting DragonSpeed Oreca was off to a promising start with Ben Hanley leading the opening hour, before a couple of spins by Henrik Hedman and gearbox troubles took the No. 21 entry out of the running.

The Algarve Pro Racing Ligier of Andrea Roda, Andrea Pizzitola and Matt McMurry was another front-runner, before a gearbox issue brought the car to a halt at pit entry.

United Autosports also took the LMP3 class win with the No. 2 Ligier JS P3 Nissan driven by John Falb and Sean Rayhall.

The American pairing dominated the race from start to finish, their lead was big enough to easily overcome a spin by Falb 30 minutes from the end.

The No. 6 360 Racing and No. 17 Ultimate Ligiers completed the podium in the LMP3 class, while the second United Autosports Ligier had to settle for fourth.

TF Sport dominated the GTE class on its debut in the series, with Nicki Thiim crossing the line with a one-lap margin in the matt blue Aston Martin Vantage V8 GTE.

The 2016 Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup winning team started the race from pole, but Salih Yoluc lost P1 to Aaron Scott’s No. 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE after the first couple of laps.

Euan Hankey retook the lead after the first round of pitstops, building up a 50-second lead before losing some ground again after a spin involving a back marker.

Thiim controlled the final part of the race, while Matteo Cairoli’s Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR and Ross Gunn’s Beechdean AMR Aston Martin battled it out for the remaining podium positions.

A quick pitstop by the Proton crew gave the Cairoli the advantage heading into the final hour, although Gunn closed down the gap to just 1.124 seconds.

RESULTS: Race

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. CJ

    April 15, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    What a thoroughly fantastic race!!!!
    Only a couple of retirements and no stoppages (caution)!
    Each of the chassis seem equally matched! I can only hope the rest of the season delivers racing like this!

    I like the selection of LMP2 constructors, rather than the WEC single make LMP2 showing, especially as there seems to be no advantage for the Oreca once the racing starts.

    Good opener for the season.

    • Michael Sørensen

      April 16, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      The fact that there are only Oreca in WEC is entirely the choice of the choice of the individual teams​. The four chassis are available as a choice as can be seen on the le Mans entry list

    • Kathleen Burns

      May 23, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      I am knew to this world of fast cars and sudden upsets. I love watching the gentleman so proper, sofisicated and they get behind the wheel and all hell breaks loose. Off they go petal to the metal. The thrill. I started watching when Hugo deSadeleer became part of the team #32 car. Will Owen, Filipino Albuquerque . For an old widow who days are numbered. I have found a new passion. Fast with a FORCE. . My go to fist pump FOR HUGO. FIERCE,FOCUSED,FORCE . NOW i shall add FAST.
      FOCUS🔷FIERCE.🔷 FAST🔷FORCE🔷 Take no Prisoners. .Hugo is humble and polite. I think his team mates are the same. Thank you for allowing me to drop you a line. Thank you for info. And sharing info.

  2. daedalus

    April 15, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    was a good race, it was impossible to know who would take the win before the end. The LMP2s almost look like formula cars in the high speed corners and the lmp3 cars also made things interesting. Even though there were only 6 GTE cars they still provided plenty of action.

  3. Matt

    April 15, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Interesting result in GTE.
    Would have thought the Ferrari’s dominated, after all the concerns of the Porsche and Aston GTE-AM teams had in Ferrari.
    Thoughts?

    • arandomguy

      April 18, 2017 at 10:46 am

      The GTE race was quite surprising with the “outdated” Porsche coming in second. Great race by them.

  4. Steven

    April 16, 2017 at 7:52 am

    ELMS is the best endurance racing series for 2017, hands down.

    What a great race and the ending was fantastic.

  5. GT3 Racer

    April 16, 2017 at 10:50 am

    Great race! Ligier, Oreca, Dallara 1-2-3, really fun to watch the battles throughout the field.

    • KW

      April 17, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Right; this race has finally proven that the new LMP2 formula works. It seems that Cosworth/Gibson have learnt from the electronics issues the LMP2 cars have shown in the IMSA opening races. Now add more chassis variety to the FIA WEC LMP2 class for 2018, and everything is fine with this class.
      Also nice to see that the Norma chassis were on pace in LMP3; hope this will also lead away from the Ligier one-make status.

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