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European Le Mans Series

United Autosports Takes Spa Win After Late Graff Penalty

Second consecutive Spa victory for Hanson, Albuquerque as late drama decides LMP2 and LMP3…

Photo: MPS Agency

Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson claimed their second 4 Hours of Spa victory in dramatic fashion after a late drive-through handed the United Autosports pair the win.

Graff’s No. 39 Oreca was on course to end a four-race long run of winless top-five finishes when it was penalized for disobeying a Full Course Yellow procedure with 16 minutes left on the clock.

Tristan Gommendy’s unplanned trip down pit lane promoted Hanson, who was next in the LMP2 order, into a lead that the Englishman would hold until the checkered flag.

Hanson and Albuquerque, whose car had started from pole, finished 12 seconds clear of the second-placed car as they repeated their Spa win from 12 months ago.

It also marked United Autosports’ first win with an Oreca chassis, which the team debuted in the previous round at Silverstone.

Second was set to go to the No. 39 Graff Oreca which ended up only losing one place, but a clash with the No. 37 Cool Racing Oreca led to a late change in the order.

The damage dealt by Graff’s penalty was softened somewhat by a fortuitously-timed Full Course Yellow period late on, which enabled Gommendy to trundle down pit lane while the rest of the field’s speed was capped at 80 km/h.

The Frenchman, who had gone into the final half-hour with a 12-second lead that Hanson had reduced to five-seconds just before his drive-through, re-emerged in second, ahead of Cool Racing’s Antonin Borga.

But Borga, who had shared the Cool Oreca with Nico Lapierre, made a speculative final lap lunge around the outside of Gommendy into the Bus Stop chicane.

Borga was initially handed a 10-second time penalty that dropped him to third, but this was later removed to hand Cool Racing second position, and Graff third.

G-Drive Racing’sOreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson finished in fourth, almost half a minute behind the battle for second.

While Jean-Eric Vergne, Job van Uitert and Roman Rusinov couldn’t wrap up the LMP2 title one round early for G-Drive, their steady run to a fifth straight top-five result means they will arrive at the season-closing 4 Hours of Portimao with a 13-point advantage.

Completing the overall top five was the No. 30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca of Richard Bradley, Nico Jamin and Pierre Ragues, ahead of G-Drive’s closest rivals Paul-Loup Chatin, Paul Lafargue and Memo Rojas of IDEC Sport.

The IDEC Sport Oreca made a brilliant recovery from the back of the grid after it was forced to miss qualifying while the team sourced a new chassis to replace the one that was destroyed in a crash at Raidillon during practice.

Late drama also decided the winner in the LMP3 category as Mikkel Jensen overtook two cars on the final lap to give Eurointernational the victory.

Jensen started the last lap in third, but found a way past both Tony Wells – who was originally leading – and Nigel Moore to chalk up his and Jens Petersen’s third win of the year.

Moore, driving the Inter Europol Competition Ligier, also got past the Nielsen Racing Norma M30 Nissan of Wells and Colin Noble and was on course to win until Jensen squeezed past at the final corner.

The Nielsen squad had already recovered from a penalty after Noble clipped the back of the Realteam Racing Norma in passing for the lead during the second hour.

Story updated after post-race time penalty for Cool Racing was rescinded.

Luzich Racing Seals GTE Title

Alessandro Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and Fabien Lavergne wrapped up the 2019 GTE teams’ championship for Luzich Racing with their third victory in five races.

The No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo ultimately came out on top from a race-long duel with the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR of Christian Ried, Matteo Cairoli and Riccardo Pera.

Luzich’s title confirmation effectively means the Swiss team, which was only formed last year, has now claimed two titles in two seasons.

Its teams’ championship in its debut ELMS season comes a year after it won the International GT Open title with a Ferrari 488 GT3 in 2018.

Third in the GTE class at Spa was the No. 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari, which profited from a 45s stop-hold penalty for the No. 60 Ferrari of Kessel Racing which was caught speeding in the pit lane.

RESULTS: 4H Spa

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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