IDEC Sport beat G-Drive Racing to the European Le Mans Series LMP2 title in a dramatic end to the 2019 season at the 4 Hours of Portimao.
Paul-Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue and Memo Rojas managed to overturn a 13-point deficit to Job van Uitert and Roman Rusinov – who were joined by Jean-Eric Vergne – by taking victory in Sunday’s race at Algarve International Circuit.
The championship battle between the two crews reached its height with just over an hour remaining when van Uitert tapped Rojas into a spin as the pair fought for second place.
Van Uitert was later handed a penalty that was taken by Vergne, which dropped the G-Drive team’s Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson to ninth in the order.
Meanwhile, the IDEC Sport Oreca 07 Gibson continued to run near the front and ended up taking its second win of the season to put itself in a title-winning position.
With 35 minutes to go, Chatin seized the lead with a clean dive into the Turn 6 braking zone to get past Phil Hanson in the No. 22 United Autosports Oreca which Filipe Albuquerque qualified on pole.
The Frenchman’s opportunity to pass came after the field was bunched up by a safety car period, following an accident for the Duqueine Engineering Oreca of Richard Bradley.
Chatin then led until the checkered flag despite a late resurgence from Hanson, with the pair taking the checkered flag 0.496 seconds apart.
Vergne had just over half an hour to make up six positions and finish third; a result that would have handed G-Drive its second consecutive title.
But the two-time Formula E champion only progressed as far as sixth with overtakes on both Panis-Barthez Competition cars and one of the Algarve Pro Racing Orecas.
This meant G-Drive missed out on the title by four points, with IDEC Sport out-scoring the Russian outfit by 105 points to 101.
Completing the overall podium was the No. 39 Graff Oreca driven by Tristan Gommendy, Alexandre Cougnaud and Jonathan Hirschi, while United’s No. 32 Oreca of Alex Brundle, Ryan Cullen and Will Owen finished fourth.
In fifth ahead of Vergne was last year’s LMP2 drivers’ champion Andrea Pizzitola in the No. 25 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca which also featured John Falb and Olivier Pla.
In LMP3, British squad 360 Racing picked up its maiden ELMS class win with Terence Woodward taking the No. 6 Ligier JS P3 Nissan to a 39-second victory over Nigel Moore in the No. 13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier.
Bronze-rated racer Woodward shared the top step of the podium with his co-drivers James Dayson and Ross Kaiser.
Second place was enough for Inter Europol to win the LMP3 title, with the Polish squad needing to beat the No. 11 Eurointernational Ligier on the road to clinch.
The Eurointernational car driven by Jens Petersen and Mikkel Jensen crossed the line down in seventh, leaving Inter Europol with a 12-point lead in the final table.
Huge Start Crash Causes Lengthy Red Flag
The final round of the 2019 ELMS started in dramatic fashion when a first-lap accident wiped out six cars and triggered a red flag that consumed the opening hour.
Jack Manchester spun the Carlin-entered Dallara P217 Gibson ahead of the LMP3 and GTE field and was hit by Christian England in one of United Autosports’ LMP3 Ligiers.
Other cars involved in the accident were both Proton Competition-run Porsche 911 RSRs, the Oregon Team Norma and the No. 83 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.
JMW Motorsport’s Ferrari also hit trouble with Wei Lu swerving to avoid one of the crashed Porsches before nosing into the barriers.
The incident thinned out the GTE field and resulted in a four-car race that was ultimately won by the Luzich Racing Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and Fabien Lavergne.
They finished five LMP3 cars ahead of the second-placed No. 60 Kessel Racing Ferrari crew and the No. 80 Ebimotors Porsche in third, to take their fourth win of the year.
RESULTS: 4 Hours of Portimao