Thiriet by TDS Racing claimed victory in Saturday’s European Le Mans Series season opening round at Silverstone.
The No. 46 Morgan Nissan of Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and Tristan Gommendy crossed the line in first after an intense battle in the final 15 minutes of the four-hour race.
Starting from pole position, Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN Nissan quickly pulled away from Rodolfo Gonzalez, who was handed a a stop & go penalty for jumping the start.
After 45 minutes Albuquerque handed over to Simon Dolan, who returned behind James Littlejohn in the No. 28 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Nissan and Christian Klien in the No. 43 Newblood by Morand Racing Morgan Judd.
Dolan pulled away from his rivals again after the next round of stops and after two hours he was over 30 seconds clear of the Morgan and the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca.
With just over 45 minutes remaining Dolan was pushed wide onto the grass by the No. 55 AF Corse Ferrari of Michele Rugolo. The Zytek veered across the circuit, clipped the back of the Larbre Competition Morgan and hit the wall hard. Dolan was conscious and taken to the medical center as a precautionary measure.
The safety car was scrambled immediately. Teams rushed out for their final pit stops and with 22 minutes left the race was restarted with Frey leading Tristan Gommendy and Gary Hirsch.
What followed was a thrilling finale. Frey eventually got stuck in traffic and Gommendy took the opportunity to pass him and take the lead. Hirsch tried to pass as well, but was unsuccessful and had to settle for third.
After 118 laps Gommendy crossed the line to take the first win of the season. 3.828s later it was Frey in second place, Hirsch finishing third at 4.731s from Gommendy.
“At the restart I knew Frey was on new tires, so I couldn’t imagine it was possible for me to catch him,” said Gommendy. “But I saw it was possible and I kept pushing.”
“I saw he (Frey) was fighting with a GT, I braked a little bit before the corner and at the exit of Copse I was massively faster and I took a risk to overtake two cars.”
In GTE, SMP Racing was unable to convert pole to a win. Andrea Bertolini in the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari started from pole and battled for the lead with the No. 55 AF Corse Ferrari for most of the time.
Minutes before the end Marco Cioci spun the No. 54 AF Corse Ferrari after contact with Bertolini. Rugolo managed to pass Bertolini again and went on to win GTE, finishing 4.590s ahead of Bertolini. IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche took third.
“There was contact between him (Bertolini) and another Ferrari. He spun and I took the chance to overtake him,” said race winner Rugolo, when asked about the pass for the lead.
In GTC, the pole winning No. 71 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia didn’t even make it to the start. 30 minutes before the end the No. 60 Formula Racing Ferrari was in the lead, but that lead quickly disappeared.
After four hours it was Alessandro Pier Guidi who claimed victory in the No. 96 Team Ukraine Ferrari. David Markozov finished second for SMP Racing, with Mikkel Mac salvaging third for Formula Racing.
“We were unlucky with the safety car. We lost all the advantage, changed the wheel and went from first to second position,” said Pier Guidi. “I was scared about the time remaining, fortunately I had time enough to catch the leader and overtook him.”
Results: Four Hours of Silverstone