Filipe Albuquerque highlighted the consistency of the United Autosports No. 22 crew after it claimed the team’s first-ever victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in LMP2.
Albuquerque watched from the garage as Phil Hanson brought theirs and Paul di Resta’s Oreca 07 Gibson to the checkered flag after a nervous final hour during which Jota Sport’s Anthony Davidson applied the pressure.
The United car needed a late splash for fuel, bringing Davidson within range of Hanson, but Jota then also needed to perform a late refuel stop for its No. 38 Oreca.
Prior to that, the United entry held a clear lead through Sunday morning after several of its key rivals hit trouble over the course of the race.
This included the No. 32 sister car, which had been quicker at stages and ran ahead of the eventual winner after Job van Uitert overtook Hanson at Indianapolis in the early stages.
But it was the team’s FIA World Endurance Championship car that prevailed as an oil leak thwarted the strong run from van Uitert, Alex Brundle and Will Owen.
Other potential contenders to hit strife included the Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca, which was disqualified for outside assistance, and Signatech Alpine which suffered an early water pressure setback before recovering to finish fourth.
There was also the G-Drive Racing Aurus-badged Oreca that ran at the sharp end and without trouble until Jean-Eric Vergne encountered a late suspension issue.
The win marked United’s seventh in a row and an extension of the team’s unbeaten run in WEC and European Le Mans Series LMP2 competition dating back to last December.
“We could see that today in this race that many strong cars fell through the race and they had a strong speed to go for the win,” said Albuquerque.
“But Le Mans is about consistency, no mistakes, and we put it together.
“Today, even if we were leading by two minutes, it was always a gamble with the safety cars.
“The last safety car was so important when Phil was in safety car A and they were in safety car B. But then in the end, during the last 10 minutes, it was still not a guaranteed win.
“We were 50 seconds ahead but we had to pit for the fuel and we knew the others were saving fuel, but we didn’t know they had to come in. It was Le Mans being Le Mans.”
Hanson admitted that he thought United had “thrown it away” as he trundled through the pits for the splash but that feeling was erased when the Jota car also had to come in.
“It was a very hectic last 10 minutes of the race and it made it for me,” said the 21-year-old Silver-rated driver.
“It’s not as exciting if you’re coasting home, just looking after the car, to if you’re pushing like mad to bring it home in P1. It was a really exciting way to end it.”
It marked the first Le Mans class wins for both Hanson and di Resta, while Albuquerque picked up his first winners’ trophy after six fruitless attempts.
Three of these came with United Autosports in a Ligier JS P217 Gibson, while two came with Audi in LMP1 along with a single race for the short-lived RGR Sport team in 2016.
“It’s my seventh time and I’ve been here quite a while,” said the Portuguese driver.
“I was just waiting for when it’s going to be my day. I’ve been searching for this podium and it’s a dream.
“LMP2 is a great category with many good drivers. With 24 cars it was extremely competitive. We never knew who would be the winner.”