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Asian Le Mans Series

G-Drive Crew Clinches Title as JOTA Wins Abu Dhabi Finale

JOTA claims Abu Dhabi weekend sweep but G-Drive Racing defends its LMP2 title…

Photo: Sergey Savrasov

G-Drive Racing’s Ferdinand Habsburg, Rene Binder and Yifei Ye clinched the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series title with a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s season-ending race that was won by the JOTA pairing of Sean Gelael and Tom Blomqvist.

Gelael beat Franco Colapinto by a slender 0.442-second margin to secure a JOTA sweep of the weekend’s two four-hour contests at Yas Marina, after he and Blomqvist won on Friday.

However, a double triumph for Gelael, who contested the first two races of the season with Stoffel Vandoorne, wasn’t enough to snatch the title away from the drivers of the Oreca-based No. 26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson.

The 2021 Asian LMS season was held over four races in eight days split evenly between Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina.

Habsburg, Binder and Ye arrived in Abu Dhabi with an 18-point championship lead after winning both of last weekend’s four-hour races in Dubai.

While both G-Drive and JOTA took two wins apiece this season, the former posted a second and a fourth in its other results while the latter registered a second and a sixth.

This ensured a four-point margin at the top of the final standings in favor of Habsburg, Binder and Ye, who earned an automative 24 Hours of Le Mans invitation for G-Drive.

It also marked the second consecutive Asian LMS title for the Algarve Pro Racing-run G-Drive squad, which won in 2019-20 with Roman Rusinov, James French and Leonard Hoogenboom.

Saturday’s LMP2 contest featured multiple lead changes and a dramatic conclusion, but the title was determined by a steady and uneventful run from the No. 26 crew.

Binder started from pole and led through a short early safety car period, but lost his advantage to Gelael during the first round of pit stops under a second safety car that occupied half of the opening hour.

Both safety cars were called for incidents involving GT3 Ferraris, with the latter coming after a heavy accident at Turn 11 involving the two AF Corse machines.

Binder dropped to fourth during the first pit cycle, while his G-Drive teammate Colapinto moved up to the sharp end before his co-driver Rui Andrade captured the lead when Gelael spun during a clash with a Garage 59 Aston Martin at the pre-hairpin chicane.

With Andrade’s lead increasing, Gelael swapped out for Blomqvist in the third hour and the Formula E driver went on to transform a 20-second deficit into a reclaimed lead by the end of his only stint.

The No. 25 G-Drive Aurus was then dealt another blow when it was forced to serve a drive-through penalty early in the final hour for pit lane speeding, which promoted Phoenix Racing’s Kelvin van der Linde up to second with Habsburg not far down the road.

However, a fuel-only final stop from the G-Drive crew saved Colapinto 13 seconds on van der Linde and restored the No. 25 in second, while the Argentine teenager almost managed to snatch the win from Gelael in a thrilling late duel.

Van der Linde, Matthias Kaiser and Simon Trummer rounded out the podium for Phoenix, which claimed fourth in the standings behind the No. 26, JOTA and No. 25 crews.

Racing Team India’s Oreca had a quiet run to fifth, while further back Era Motorsport wrapped up the LMP2 Am title as the sub-category’s only participant in Abu Dhabi.

In LMP3, United Autosports entries finished first, second and third as Wayne Boyd, Manuel Maldonado and Rory Penttinen sealed their third win of the season and the title.

Boyd finished four seconds ahead of Duncan Tappy in the sister No. 3 Ligier JS P320 Nissan, while Andy Meyrick overtook Nielsen Racing’s Colin Noble for third in the final stint.

Adam Eteki and Laurents Hoerr also found ways past Noble to put CD Sport and DKR Engineering into the top-five.

Both the Meyrick-driven No. 2 Ligier and the DKR Duqueine D08 Nissan took turns to lead, however both lost their respective positions due to drive-through penalties.

Herberth Earns GT Title after GPX Woes

Robert Renauer, Alfred Renauer and Ralf Bohn secured the hotly-contested GT class title after an enthralling final race of the season for the 19-car category.

Their Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R finished fifth to complete the season on 64 points, while Dubai race two and Abu Dhabi race one winner GPX Racing only banked half a point after a troubled run to 14th, putting it on a 62.5-point total.

GPX Racing’s Porsche was caught up in an early incident that required the team to make an unscheduled stop for repairs which set it back for the rest of the afternoon.

At the front, Car Guy Racing claimed race honors with its Kessel-run Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 driven by Mikkel Jensen, Come Ledogar and team owner Takeshi Kimura.

Jensen was the latest of the many GT podium contenders to make his final stop, with just under 10 minutes remaining.

The recent Peugeot Le Mans Hypercar signing had 44 seconds in hand to Ben Barnicoat before his last pit call, but only spent 37 seconds in the box an intake of fuel.

Barnicoat in the Inception Racing with Optimum McLaren 720S GT3 had originally fought past Robert Renauer’s Porsche into second, but the Brit was ordered to give that position back.

Barnicoat eased off after building up an 11-second buffer to Renauer, enabling Jensen to break clear, before the McLaren man quickly re-passed the Herberth machine.

Renauer then lost two further places in an entertaining scrap to Davide Rigon in the No. 55 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari, which finished third, and Jonny Adam in the Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 which picked up fourth.

However, a top-five result was enough for Herberth to win the championship.

The top-four teams in the GT standings will receive automatic Le Mans invitations. Provisionally, those places are set to be held by Herberth, GPX, Rinaldi and Optimum.

RESULTS: 4H Abu Dhabi Race 2 (provisional)

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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