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European Le Mans Series

G-Drive Wins Portimao Season Finale as Class Titles Decided

G-Drive back to winning ways in ELMS finale as United, Proton secure class titles…

Photo: ELMS

G-Drive Racing snapped United Autosports’ European Le Mans Series win streak as Nyck de Vries, Mikkel Jensen and Roman Rusinov took victory in the 4 Hours of Portimao.

De Vries pedalled the No. 26 Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson to the checkered flag to win the 2020 season finale by 35 seconds from Tristan Gommendy, who co-drove the Duqueine Oreca 07 Gibson with Jonathan Hirschi and Konstantin Tereschenko.

The two United Autosports Orecas that between them won the first four rounds of the year ended up third and fourth.

G-Drive was strong throughout Sunday’s final race of the campaign and fought off pressure from the Duqueine crew and United’s pair of cars, including the No. 22 title-winning Oreca of Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque which completed the top-three.

Rusinov made a terrific start to launch his G-Drive car into the lead from row three of the grid, with the Russian sweeping around United’s pole-sitter Will Owen at Turn 1.

Rusinov led for 13 minutes until he ran wide clearing GT traffic at the Turn 11 right-hander, which gave space for Owen to muscle through in the No. 32 United car that the American shared with Job van Uitert and Alex Brundle.

The lead then swapped over again in the second hour when Jensen, who took over from Rusinov at the first opportunity, out-braked Owen at the end of the main straight.

A strong triple stint from Jensen kept G-Drive in the net lead throughout the middle portion of the race, while Hanson and Albuquerque bounced back from a stutter on the first lap by becoming one of the crews to venture off-sequence in the early stages.

United’s No. 22 machine and the Duqueine Oreca were two of the cars that chose to come in after just nine laps when a Full Course Yellow was called to retrieve Rodrigo Sales’ JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE that had become beached in the gravel.

This strategy move put those two cars, and the handful of other LMP2s that also pitted early, out front when the standard-sequence runners including G-Drive came in.

The off-strategy group then gained further ground when a well-timed second FCY occurred during their expected pit window midway through the second hour, after Francois Perrodo’s Ferrari went off at the final corner.

This enabled Albuquerque, whose co-driver Hanson had dropped to the back of the LMP2 field after a tangle with Cool Racing on lap one, to emerge in second behind Jensen.

Jensen then drew up a lead of around 50 seconds over the No. 22 United car, only for a safety car to bring the front-runners together with one and a half hours remaining.

The intervention was caused by the leftovers of a punctured GTE Ferrari tire that had become strewn on the racing line at the final bend.

No pit stops took place under the safety car, meaning Jensen had to hand the G-Drive car over to de Vries under green flag conditions with just under an hour left.

Despite Hanson and Gommendy needing to make their final stops later than de Vries heading into the final 20 minutes, the Dutchman had rebuilt enough of an advantage to negate their shorter refueling to seal G-Drive’s first win since Barcelona in July 2019.

Hanson made his final pit call slightly earlier than expected, while Gommendy pitted on-time which gave the Frenchman the jump on the United Oreca at the final service.

Second place marked the first and only podium of the season for Gommendy, Hirschi and Tereschenko, whose previous best result was fourth in the 4 Hours of Spa.

Hanson crossed the line 12.5 seconds ahead of his United teammate van Uitert, who fended off Panis Racing’s Will Stevens on the final lap to secure fourth in the race and second in the LMP2 standings behind champions Hanson and Albuquerque.

Stevens, Julien Canal and Nicolas Jamin settled for fifth, ahead of crews from High Class Racing, Graff, Algarve Pro Racing and Cool Racing. 

United, Proton Win Class Championships

United Autosports and Proton Competition earned the LMP3 and GTE end-of-year titles with race victories in their respective classes.

Wayne Boyd, Rob Wheldon and Tom Gamble took a commanding win to consolidate their pre-Portimao LMP3 points edge while Alessio Picariello, Christian Ried and Michele Beretta won a thrilling GTE contest to supersede Kessel Racing’s crew on countback.

Boyd’s final-hour overtake on David Droux secured the win for United’s No. 2 Ligier JS P320 Nissan after Realteam Racing got Droux ahead at the final round of stops.

Boyd went on to win by 12.5 seconds as Dino Lunardi finished third with his co-driver Martin Hippe, who needed to beat the United trio to have a shot at the title.

In GTE, Picariello overcame the need for a late stop to replace a tire to remain ahead of the Kessel Racing Ferrari of David Perel, Michael Broniszewski and Nicola Cadei.

Picariello was helped by a costly spin for Perel at the Torre Vip hairpin after the two drivers emerged from the final set of stops just under four seconds apart.

With both cars ending the season on 99 points and both achieving identical sets of results over the season, Proton was declared the champion because its first win of the year at the Paul Ricard opener came before Kessel’s in round two at Spa.

Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott finished third for Spirit of Race, ahead of the pole-sitting Iron Lynx No. 60 Ferrari which commanded the opening stages before an incident with JMW Motorsport and a puncture dropped it outside the top-three.

RESULTS: 4H Portimao

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

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