Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson secured the European Le Mans Series drivers’ title with their third straight victory in the penultimate four-hour race of the season at Monza.
Hanson led home a one-two for United Autosports with the driver of the No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson crossing the finish line three seconds ahead of Alex Brundle in the team’s No. 32 machine that was also driven by Will Owen and Job van Uitert.
Victory in Sunday’s race gave Albuquerque and Hanson an unbeatable 37-point lead over their sister crew heading into the final round of the season at Portimao next month.
It also means they become the first drivers to win both the ELMS and FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 accolades in the same year.
Their victory with Paul di Resta in last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans confirmed them as the WEC champions with one round of the 2019-20 season to spare.
DragonSpeed’s Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and Charles Milesi completed the Monza top-three after Hanley successfully held off a charging Anders Fjordbach at the end.
Fjordbach settled for fourth with his co-driver Dennis Andersen while Nicolas Lapierre, Alexandre Coigny and Antonin Borga finished fifth in the No. 37 Cool Racing Oreca.
United’s route to victory got off to a rocky start when Hanson’s pole-sitting car picked up right-rear damage after contact with another car in the run through the first chicane.
Chaos ensued elsewhere in the field as Roman Rusinov, who started from second, had his G-Drive Racing Oreca-based Aurus tagged into a spin by the Graff Oreca.
Rusinov was stranded in the middle of the chicane while this and an LMP3 car stuck in the gravel at Curva Grande added up to necessitate an early safety car period.
The G-Drive car did not complete the race after its rotation resulted in a water leak.
Hanson’s incident dropped him out of the top ten, while a broken right-rear corner prompted United to bring its No. 22 car in for an early pit stop after just nine laps.
This enabled Jonathan Hirschi to assume the lead for Duqueine Team, before the Swiss driver was passed spectacularly at Variante Ascari by Panis Racing’s Nico Jamin.
However, Jamin was forced to pit almost immediately after making his maneuver around the outside, with his Oreca’s front-left corner falling to pieces after contact with the rear of Hirschi’s car during the bunch-up for the safety car restart.
Hirschi therefore got back ahead, only for the Duqueine car to snap away from him under braking into Parabolica a few moments later.
After just 15 minutes the lead had changed again, with Fjordbach now in front for High Class Racing from Algarve Pro’s Henning Enqvist, Cool Racing’s Borga and Owen in the highest-placed United car which like its sister machine had also made an early stop.
The United Orecas, which were initially pitting slightly out of sequence to the rest of the front-runners, switched places early in the second hour when Owen ran deep into Turn 1, enabling a recovering Hanson to breeze past.
A Full Course Yellow period midway through the hour for debris on-track equalized most of the LMP2 pit strategies, bar Cool Racing and DragonSpeed which stayed out.
Albuquerque emerged from this round of stops in second, with the Portuguese river ahead of van Uitert and around 20 seconds behind Fjordbach’s co-driver Andersen.
The race’s pole-sitter then closed the gap to his Bronze-rated Danish adversary and moved in front not long after the halfway mark.
Both United cars were ahead when the race ticked over into its final hour, while Hanley caught and passed Fjordbach for net third place into Turn 1 with half an hour to go.
At the same time, Hanley and Fjordbach superficially rose to first and second when United pitted Hanson and Brundle for the final time, but DragonSpeed and High Class Racing’s strategies still required their drivers to make one more stop.
Hanson rejoined the track just behind the pair and assumed first place when they came in seven laps after him.
Inter Europol Returns to LMP3 Top Step
Martin Hippe and Dino Lunardi delivered Inter Europol Competition’s first LMP3 class victory of the season, and its first since the 4 Hours of Barcelona last year.
Lunardi brought the yellow and lime No. 13 Ligier JSP20 Nissan past the checkered flag around 20 seconds clear of Niko Kari in the Euroinernational Ligier that also included Nicolas Maulini and Jacopo Baratto.
Kari did well to fend off United Autosports’ Wayne Boyd, who came up 0.062 seconds short at the end in the No. 2 Ligier.
GTE honors went to Kessel Racing’s David Perel, Michael Broniszewski and Nicola Cadei who moved clear in the championship standings with their second win of 2020.
Their nearest title rivals Alessio Picariello, Christian Ried and Michele Beretta took second in the No. 77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR, keeping the title race wide open heading into the 4 Hours of Portimao.
The all-female Iron Lynx Ferrari crew of Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Manuela Gostner finished third for the third time this season, ahead of the No. 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari.
RESULTS: 4H Monza