DragonSpeed has scored its first European Le Mans Series win in the Four Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, as Nicolas Lapierre overtook Laurens Vanthoor for the lead in the closing stages of the race.
Lapierre shared the No. 21 Oreca 05 Nissan with Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman, and had already topped qualifying and both Free Practice sessions this weekend.
The race saw several major incidents that led to three safety car periods and two Full Course Yellows, for a total of almost an hour.
The running order was turned on its head when the safety car came in for the final time, as frontrunners G-Drive Racing, Thiriet by TDS Racing and SMP Racing all mistimed their pit stop strategies.
This resulted in the three cars all pitting just as the field went green, losing considerable time and dropping down the order.
While the championship-leading TDS Oreca Nissan was able to climb back up to third by the end, early leaders G-Drive Racing were less fortunate, having to settle for fifth.
This left Lapierre, who did the first and last stint for DragonSpeed, in second place, behind GT3 ace Laurens Vanthoor in the Spa-only Team WRT entry.
A fuel-saving exercise for the WRT Ligier JS P2 Judd meant that Vanthoor was lapping more than two seconds slower than Lapierre, who was rapidly closing in.
With a little over 30 minutes on the clock, the Frenchman made the pass for the lead at Les Combes.
This marks the American team’s first series victory, in the Elton Julian-owned team’s maiden year with the Oreca 05 Nissan.
With WRT second and TDS third, Nathanael Berthon and Harry Tincknell completed the top five for Greaves Motorsport and G-Drive Racing, respectively.
An incident for Andrea Pizzitola left the Algarve Pro Racing Ligier Nissan in the gravel trap in the final five minutes. The race ended under Full Course Yellow while the No. 25 car was recovered.
Paul Petit held on for his second LMP3 win in succession in the No. 9 Graff Ligier JS P3 Nissan, finishing ahead of the two United Autosports cars.
While Petit, Eric Trouillet and Enzo Guibbert took the race victory, a second-place finish was enough to secure the championship win for Alex Brundle, Christian England and Mike Guasch.
The No. 2 United Autosports crew won the first three races of the season, at Silverstone, Imola and Red Bull Ring, and has an insurmountable points lead heading into next month’s season finale at Estoril.
Meanwhile, JMW Motorsport drivers Rob Smith, Rory Butcher and Andrea Bertolini extended their points lead in GTE with their third win in a row.
The No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia benefitted from the final safety car period to take a class lead of over a lap. While their competitors were able to close the gap to an extent, the British squad enjoyed a comfortable lead at the end.
Matteo Cairoli finished second in the No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR, with Matt Griffin’s AF Corse Ferrari in third.
RESULTS: 4H Spa-Francorchamps