Signatech Take Top Honours In Austria

Signatech-Alpine took top honours in last weekend’s 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring, with the French team taking overall victory  by 12 seconds

Filipe Albuquerque in the JOTA Sport Zytek started on pole position, with the Portuguese leading the field away at the start, with Nelson Panciatici in the Signatech A450b making his way up the order from fifth, sitting behind the #34 Race Performance ORECA 03 of Franck Mailleux in third.

This then lead on to a hard battle for third, with Panciatici being joined by Pierre Thiriet in the Ligier JS P2 and Pierre Ragues’ NewBlood by Morand Racing Morgan-Judd. This fight carried on through traffic, with the battle being split up by the stops, with the Signatech Alpine pitting first followed by the Ligier, with Ragues just about making it to the pit lane, where the car eventually ran out of fuel, leaving the mechanics to push into pitlane.

The second hour of the race began with a scare for Ludovic Badey in the TDS Ligier, with the JS P2 going off the track, narrowly missing the barriers.  The car, which was making its début in the ELMS, made its way back into the pits, with the team setting to work on repairing a suspension and front brake disc problem. The car did, however, make it back into the race, albeit briefly, with the car eventually retiring due to a broken stub axle.

At the front of the race a battle was still raging, with the Race Performance ORECA 03 of Michele Frey taking the lead from Simon Dolan in the JOTA Sport Zytek, with Paul-Loup Chatin third in the Alpine. An hour and twenty in, however, Dolan tried – and succeeded, in taking the lead from Frey, with Chatin also moving ahead of the ORECA.

The battle didn’t stop there, with Chatin taking the race lead on lap 66 after a stop from Dolan. Third position had also changed, with the#28 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Nissan driven by Russian Mark Shulzhitskiy moving up a place, with the Race Performance Oreca falling down to fifth at mid distance.

The third hour was a quitter affair, with Dolan regaining the lead after a stop for Chatin, with Gary Hirsch also pitting, although in the process he cut the white line at the entry to the pits twice, with the Stewards rewarding him with a two minute penalty.

The only on-track battle in hour three was on laps 119 and 120, with Harry Tincknell in the JOTA and Chatin enthralling everyone on and around the track by passing and re-passing,  with little to choose between them.

Entering the final part of the race the #38 JOTA Zytek lead, with Chatin second, although the Brit had by now pulled out a lead of more than four seconds. The race had quietened down by then, but only until the stops, with Dolan and Oliver Webb getting into the #38 and #36 at the same time, with duo fighting it out until Webb got pass, creating a lead of around three seconds, increasing that to 12 seconds to take the flag.

“What a great result!” said Webb. “Coming here off the back of our podium at Le Mans we felt confident, but there was a lot of work to do with the setup, and the competition was extremely strong. Nelson did a great job in qualifying, and made a really good start, and Paul-Loup put in a great performance during his stint. The team did a fantastic job to turn the car around in the last pitstops to gain five seconds, and the car felt great as I set about chasing down the leaders. It was incredibly close, but a great feeling to take the lead when they pitted. After that, I managed to build up a good lead, and was able to manage the tyres, but it was a slightly stressful end to the race when the fuel light came on and the rain started. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see the chequered flag!

“It’s great to have secured this result, which has been coming as we continue to improve, and great to be leading the championship. There is a lot of work to do for the final two races of the season, especially with such a strong field, but we will keep pushing, and hopefully we can be on the top step again this season.”