United Autosports earned its maiden class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, provisionally clinching the LMP2 title in the FIA World Endurance Championship along the way following a drama-filled contest.
Phil Hanson took the No. 22 Oreca 07 Gibson across the line for the class win, 32.831 seconds ahead of the No. 38 JOTA Oreca of Anthony Davidson.
The two British drivers had been locked into a late-race duel, with Hanson emerging just a few seconds ahead of Davidson following a stop for a splash of fuel in the final ten minutes.
However, Davidson was forced to pit one lap later, also for fuel, giving the 21-year-old enough of a gap to easily take the win.
He shared top class honors with Paul Di Resta and Filipe Albuquerque.
Hanson and Albuquerque have provisionally locked up the 2019-20 LMP2 drivers’ championship one race early.
Sunday’s victory marked the team’s fourth consecutive WEC class win dating back to last year’s 8 Hours of Bahrain.
The No. 38 JOTA entry of Davidson and co-drivers Roberto Gonzalez and Antonio Felix da Costa finished second, benefitting from an oil leak from the sister No. 32 United entry that was forced to make a lengthy stop with just over eight hours to go.
The two United entries had controlled the race up until that point, in what had looked to be a likely 1-2 sweep.
Panis Racing’s Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal and Nico Jamin completed the class podium after right-front suspension failure for the No. 26 G-Drive Aurus 01 Gibson of Jean-Eric Vergne forced the TDS Racing-run entry into the garage with less than 45 minutes to go.
The G-Drive entry finished fifth in class, only one lap down from the Panis entry, courtesy of a safety car period that slowed the entire field.
The No. 36 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson rebounded from a water leak which forced the car to the garage on the opening lap to finish fourth with Thomas Laurent, Andre Negrao and Pierre Ragues.
United’s No. 32 Oreca, meanwhile, came home 12th in class after its oil leak, while a number of other contenders retiring, and in the case of the No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing entry, being disqualified.
The JOTA-run entry was thrown out of the race just past midnight when it was found that Gabriel Aubry had received outside assistance from a team mechanic after stopping on track with electrical issues.
Retirements included the No. 16 G-Drive Racing by Algarve Aurus due to electrical issues and the No. 21 DragonSpeed Oreca, featuring Juan Pablo Montoya, which succumbed to a misfire.
Eighteen of the 24 starters in the class were running at the finish.
RESULTS: 24H Le Mans