An indomitable performance from Jean-Eric Vergne, Andrea Pizzitola and Roman Rusinov hands G-Drive their third win of this European Le Mans Series season.
Despite being pipped to pole by Panis-Barthez Competition, G-Drive Racing wasted no time in re-establishing their dominance over the ELMS field thanks to another commanding performance from the #26 crew. By the halfway point, the Russian team had a forty second lead over second place, and by the end of the race, that gap had extended to over a lap, thanks to the demise of the charging #24 Racing Engineering Oreca. Second in LMP2 was the charging #21 Dragonspeed of Nicolas Lapierre, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley, while the #28 IDEC Sport took the third step of the podium.
Tony Wells, Garret Grist and Matt Bell in the United Autosports #3 took the win in LMP3 but the team missed out on the 1-2 thanks to an unfortunate issue during a pitstop in the last hour. Second place was then inherited by the #7 Ecurie Ecosse/Nielsen Racing entry of Colin Noble, Alex Kapadia and Christian Olsen, ahead of the #17 Ultimate car of Matthieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and Francois Heriau.
The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat – it looked like post-race penalties would hand the win to the #88 Proton Competition Porsche, but a slow lap from the Porsche and a big push from JMW allowed the British team to keep ahold of the victory, by a single tenth of a second. Third on the LMGTE podium was the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari.
#ELMS – What a thrilling finale: At the #4hSilverstone, @Cairoli96 #GianlucaRoda and #GiorgioRoda missed their second @EuropeanLMS win in a row by just 0,126 secs in the No 88 @ProtonRacing #911RSR. @SilverstoneUK @Porsche pic.twitter.com/uvHnfuWrXM
— Proton Competition (@ProtonRacing) August 18, 2018
It was a relatively clean start, aside from the usual ‘trying to get a whole pack of 42 cars into a small space of tarmac’, and for a while, Panis-Barthez managed to hold onto the lead – it was only a matter of time before a charging G-Drive took the place from them. There were problems for the #47 Cetillar Villorba Corse early on, but despite a lengthy visit to the garage, the team turned the car around and managed to finish the race. The #11 EuroInternational LMP3 also suffered early race issues.
During the second hour, Phil Hanson brought the #22 United Autosports to a stop at Village and swiftly jumped out of the car, ending the car’s race. However, that wasn’t quite the end of that incident as Victor Shaitar in the #35 SMP Racing Dallara locked up coming into Village and narrowly missed Hanson, his car and the marshals lending a hand to the stricken Ligier! A full course yellow was thrown, and though Shaitar managed to get back to the pitlane, the team decided to retire the car. A torrid afternoon for the #5 NEFIS by Speed Factory Ligier JSP3 soon started as the team were slapped with a stop/go penalty for their pit stop procedure. Driver Alexey Chulkin was then handed another stop/go penalty for spinning his wheels as he drove away from the first stop/go!
By the halfway mark, G-Drive were well away at the head of the field, United Autosports were running a commanding race in LMP3 in first and second, and fan favourites JMW were leading LMGTE. Penalties started coming through more quickly with a drive-through for the pole-sitting Panis-Barthez Competition car for not respecting the full-course yellow procedures and the #86 Gulf Racing gained 10 seconds on their pit stop for constant abuse of track limits. It wasn’t all about penalties though, there was some spectacular track action, particularly in LMGTE as Duncan Cameron in the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari ND Giorgio Roda in the #88 Proton Competition Porsche were fighting tooth and nail for the class lead.
Into the last hour and Jean-Eric Vergne jumped into the G-Drive Oreca and apparently turned it up to 11. A mega stint saw the Frenchman extend the lead and set personal bests and the overall fastest lap of the race – a 1:47.225 on lap 101. Racing Engineering had consistently been running longer stints than their LMP2 rivals, but sadly we never got to see the strategy play out as Norman Nato ended up in the gravel at Club with just half an hour to go.
A short time before the chequered flag dropped, time penalties started to appear for several LMGTE cars – the #55 Spirit of Race, #66 JMW Motorsport and #80 Ebimotors all received 10-second penalties for abuse of track limits. A nerve-wracking last half hour but it was JMW who ultimately took the LMGTE win.
G-Drive Racing will extend their championship lead, RLR Motorsport should maintain their lead in the LMP3 championship despite finishing down in fifth, and Proton Competition should also retain their LMGTE championship lead.
The next round of the ELMS championship will be the Four Hours of Spa-Francorchamps in September.