United Autosports have made history by taking victory in both LMP2 and LMP3 for the same event. The European Le Mans Series first round, the 4 Hours of Silverstone was won overall by #32 Ligier JSP217/Gibson as Filipe Albuquerque had a stunning final stint to give himself, Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen the victory.
The #2 from the same team took the glory in LMP3, while Aston Martin finished off a strong weekend of racing by taking the win in the LM GTE class with #90 TF Sport.
It was an entertaining showing for the new 2017 field with an action-packed four hours of racing. The promising showing was that the LMP2 field with the new regulations showed strong competitiveness. The new rule this year across all series that run an LMP2 field is that the cars must run Gibson V8 engines and one of four – Dallara, Ligier, ORECA, or Riley-Multimatic – chassis.
The impressive thing about the LMP2 podium from the 4 Hours of Silverstone is that three different chassis covered the top three positions, meaning that not one chassis is more superior to the others.
The race looked to belong to the #22 G-Drive Racing team as it reached the closing stages of the four-hour endurance race. However, the car was on old tyres and the tyres were falling off the cliff rapidly when they came to the end of their life. With such a short amount of time left in the race Rio Hirakawa was desperate for them to hold on long enough for him to take the chequered flag.
But Alburquerque saw his opportunity from behind and started putting on the pressure. With the #22’s fading performance, Alburquerque was able to bring down the 30-second lead Hirakawa had and pass the #22 for the lead with just three minutes remaining on the clock.
He ended the race with a 6.3 second lead over the Japanese driver, while Anders Fjordbach came home third in the #49 High Class Racing entrant.
After qualifying so poorly, it was an impressive achievement for the #40 Graff ORECA 07/Gibson team. Starting 29th, Richard Bradley had an amazing early stint to get the car up to the lead of the race. Pit stops and strategy saw the car fall to fourth but it was an unexpected 12-points for the team after what had been a poor qualifying day. The pole-sitting #21 DRAGONSPEED had an early issue with the car that dropped them quickly out of contention.
Winners Sean Rayhall and John Falb had an easy victory in LMP3, placing their #2 United Autosports 41-seconds ahead of the field at chequered flag. They had no real challenge or pressure at the front of the grid from second-placed on track #6 360 Racing. It could have been a bigger lead if Falb had not spun the Ligier JS P3-Nissan at Copse Corner with 30-minutes of the race remaining. Evidently, the spin was not costly at all.
But a post-race penalty saw a shift in the LMP3 order. Anthony Wells was handed a penalty for not spending enough time in the car. Each driver is supposed to race in a car for a certain amount of time depending on his driver status. This is amended due to health and safety matters. However, Wells – as a bronze driver – failed to completed enough time in the car and was handed a time penalty after the chequered flag. This dropped the car to P7 in class and promoted #17 Ultimate and #3 United Autosports onto the podium for second and third respectively.
Aston Martin appeared to be untouchable this weekend in the LM GTE class. Euan Hankey and Nicki Thiim took class victory with over a lap advantage on second place. It was not a clean race for the duo as an incident in the opening stages of the race put their performance in the endurance in uncertainty. After qualifying on pole, the #90 TF Sport Aston Martin was hit by the #51 Spirit of Race Ferrari and the two cars ended up off the track. The Aston Martin was able to recover from the crash and came from the back of the field to take victory.
The other two podium positions were filled by the #77 Proton Competition and the #99 Beechdean AMR entrant. the #77 managed to get between the two Aston Martins but it was a close finish at the end. Ross Gunn had closed down the gap to the Porsche to just 1.1 seconds. Had there have been a few extra laps the Porsche would have had to settle for third.