United Autosports’ Tom Gamble, Phil Hanson and Jonathan Aberdein won the final round of the 2021 European Le Mans Series at Portimao as crews from DKR Engineering and Iron Lynx earned the remaining available class titles in LMP3 and GTE.
Gamble drove the winning No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson to the checkered flag with 21.7 seconds in hand to Louis Deletraz, who finished second with his Team WRT co-drivers Robert Kubica and Yifei Ye.
WRT had already wrapped up the LMP2 title at the penultimate round of the season, however second place was still up for grabs in Sunday’s 4 Hours of Portimao.
The No. 22 United car’s victory saw Gamble, Hanson and Aberdein jump from fourth to second in the standings, handing last year’s ELMS champion squad an automatic invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ferdinand Habsburg, Sophia Floersch and Richard Bradley completed the podium for Algarve Pro Racing after Deletraz narrowly held off Habsburg at the end.
Cool Racing’s Charles Milesi led the opening stanza from pole position, while Hanson dropped one place to seventh in the early exchanges before rebounding to fourth with overtakes on Panis Racing’s Julien Canal, G-Drive Racing’s Roman Rusinov and Manuel Maldonado in the other United car.
The Brit was running behind Kubica, Bradley and race leader Milesi after half an hour when the race was red-flagged due to a major accident for LMP3 driver Andreas Laskaratos, whose Ligier JS P320 Nissan struck the end of the pit entry barrier.
Laskaratos ran into the barrier whilst trying to navigate past Memo Rojas, whose Duquiene Team Oreca had spun exiting the high-speed final corner after its left-rear wheel came off.
The Greek driver managed to climb from his LMP3 cockpit unaided, however the car and the barrier sustained significant damage that required the race to be stopped.
Racing resumed after a 22-minute delay with Milesi again breaking clear from Bradley who was being swarmed by Kubica and Hanson. The United car advanced to third when Hanson took Kubica at Torre Vip, shortly before the first round of pit stops.
Differences in pit strategy, with some teams opting to double stint their opening set of tires, resulted in Hanson’s co-driver Aberdein assuming the lead ahead of Maldonado, Canal and Franco Colapinto in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Aurus-Oreca.
After leading the early stages, Cool Racing dropped back due to a mixture of its tire change strategy and the left-side door becoming jammed open after the stop.
Aberdein increased the gap over Maldonado to around 11 seconds by halfway, as Colapinto progressed to third ahead of Canal before being handed a drive-through penalty for track limits abuse.
The second round of LMP2 stops at the start of the third hour saw Ye emerge in the lead after taking no new tires, with Floersch in second for Algarve Pro and Gamble third.
Gamble overtook Floersch but the gap to Ye hovered at around six seconds until the penultimate set of pit visits that took place shortly before the end of the final hour.
Another fuel-only stop from United gave Gamble the jump on Deletraz for a lead margin that would expand from seven to 16 seconds during the penultimate stint.
Gamble increased the gap further up to the checkered flag, as Deletraz reverted his attention to Habsburg whose Algarve Pro Oreca went slightly off-sequence due to an unscheduled stop for a reportedly damaged left-front tire.
Canal, Will Stevens and James Allen finished fourth for Panis, 14 seconds behind Habsburg and three seconds ahead of Nyck de Vries in the penalized No. 26 G-Drive.
Milesi, Nicolas Lapierre and Alexandre Coigny recovered from their door closure issue to take sixth for Cool Racing, which claimed the LMP2 Pro-Am win. John Falb and Rui Andrade were confirmed as the Pro-Am champions with second in class.
Hoerr Wins LMP3 Title; Iron Lynx Prevails in GTE
DKR Engineering driver Laurents Hoerr added to his two Michelin Le Mans Cup accolades to clinch the ELMS LMP3 title with a race win alongside Mathieu de Barbuat.
Hoerr and de Barbuart’s Duqueine D08 Nissan came out best in an early battle with the No. 2 United Autosports Ligier to post a fourth consecutive DKR victory.
The result meant that Hoerr – who also drove with Leo Weiss, Jean-Philippe Dayraut and Alain Berg this season – overturned the five-point deficit to Cool Racing’s Niklas Kruetten, Matt Bell and Nicolas Maulini coming into the Portimao decider.
After running fourth at the time of the red flag, Cool Racing’s day went downhill when a left-rear puncture occurred with two hours to go, leaving DKR Engineering in a prime position to win the championship if it remained near the head of the field.
Hoerr and de Barbuat ran consistently well in the second half of the race, while their race rivals at United served a penalty for abusing track limits which paved the way for a commanding 13-second win.
Inter Europol Competition, which moved past United during the second round of pit stops, finished second with Ugo de Wilde, Martin Hippe and Adam Eteki as United’s Wayne Boyd, Edouard Cauhaupe and Rob Wheldon recovered to third.
Miguel Molina, Matteo Cressoni and Rino Mastronardi capped a dominant GTE campaign for Iron Lynx by securing the title with their third victory of the season.
Molina held off a charging Felipe Fernandez Laser in the final stint to claim 25 points.
A lower score would have still seen the No. 80 Iron Lynx trio crowned, however, since their main challengers in the No. 88 AF Corse camp only finished 10th after being hampered by a pair of drive-throughs.
Richard Lietz made a superb move around the outside of Cressoni at Turn 4, setting his and Laser’s co-driver Michael Fassbender up for a potential maiden ELMS win, only for the Iron Lynx Ferrari to reclaim the place at the final pit stops.
Laser’s Porsche 911 RSR-19 touched the rear of Molina’s Ferrari through the Torre Vip hairpin but the Spaniard ultimately drew clear to win by 17 seconds.
Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting rounded out the podium in the No. 83 Iron Lynx Ferrari, while fourth place provisionally handed second in the championship to Spirit of Race Ferrari pair David Perel and Duncan Cameron.
RESULTS: 4 Hours of Portimao