A trouble-free strategy ensured Jota Sport’s first victory of the European Le Mans Series season at Austria’s Red Bull Ring.
Harry Tincknell brought the #38 Gibson 015S Nissan to the chequered flag, 27 seconds ahead of Tristan Gommendy in the Thiriet by TDS Racing ORECA 05.
A late stop-go penalty for Gommendy and a spin on the final lap left Tincknell free to complete the win that he shared with team-mates Simon Dolan and Filipe Albuquerque.
Frivolous action throughout the pack characterised the opening 10 minutes at the sweeping 2.7 mile circuit, although Audi LMP1 driver Albuquerque was able to escape the jostling prototype pack to develop a comfortable 20 second lead. However, his hard work was stunted by a safety car after Nicolas Minassian spun the #27 SMP Racing BR01 at the infield section.
Murphy Prototypes driver Mark Patterson, starting from second, struggled to keep the quicker drivers at bay in his team’s ORECA 03R, as Mikhail Aleshin (#37 SMP Racing), Ludovic Badey (Thiriet by TDS) and Gary Hirsch (#41 Greaves Motorsport) moved through the field. Nevertheless, the 63 year old was able to avoid a potentially race ending contact with the Thiriet ORECA early on, helping to keep his team in firm contention heading into the first round of pit stops.
The Murphy squad had initially planned to send Michael Lyons on a triple stint strategy after Nathanael Berthon suffered an eye injury during lunch, but the Frenchman was able to return for the final stint after being cleared by the on-track medical centre.
An early pit stop placed the Eurasia Motorsport ORECA 03 at the top of the standings for a brief period, although Pu Jun Jin was quickly caught by Jota Sport’s Dolan in traffic.
Another safety car was then called after the LMGTE class leading #56 AT Racing Ferrari made contact at Turn One with the #64 AF Corse Ferrari, pushing the championship-leading AT squad down the order as the car received repairs to the left-front brakes.
At the halfway mark Dolan was in control of the race but soon came under pressure from Pierre Thiriet in the #46 car. The Frenchman used the aerodynamic superiority of his ORECA 05 chassis to reduce the gap to less than a second, and briefly took the lead on the approach to Turn One. Thiriet managed to dive on the inside of the Gibson, but Dolan’s impressive acceleratory grip meant that the Frenchman’s advantage would last no more than a few feet.
The final hour saw three safety car periods: two for debris on the racing line and one for a heavy head-on collision for David Markozov in the #27 SMP Racing BR01. The safety car allowed the Thiriet squad to get back into contention after Thiriet brought the car in moments before the safety car was called, but a quick dive into the pit lane from Tincknell ensured that Jota could emerge with the overall lead intact.
Tincknell was able to hold off a late charge from Gommendy, who became caught up in heavy GT traffic, to record his and Jota Sport’s first win of the season, and their first since last year’s Le Mans. Gommendy finished second despite spinning near the end, while SMP Racing collected its first LMP2 podium with the new BR01 chassis. A late altercation between Berthon (then third) and Marc VDS driver Jesse Krohn ended any hopes of a Murphy top three finish – instead the Irish squad had to settle for sixth as the Greaves Motorsport Gibson and Krohn Racing Ligier filed past.
LMP3 honours were taken comfortably by the Team LNT duo of Charlie Robertson and Sir Chris Hoy. The #3 car had dominated the practice and qualifying sessions, and continued its reliable form into the race where it won by 15 laps ahead of the Villorba Corse Ginetta.
All entries but the winner experienced significant issues during the race, most notably the SVK by Speed Factory car which caused two caution periods for depositing debris on the racing line. The #2 Team LNT Ginetta also struggled for reliability, as a loose bonnet issue forced the team into two irregular pit stops.
The LMGTE category was the closest of the four, with the class winner remaining a mystery until the final lap. However, it was Mikkel Mac who emerged victorious in the Formula Racing Ferrari 458 Italia, after he found a way past Matt Griffin in the #55 AF Corse entry. Matteo Cressoni was a constant threat in the #51 AF Corse machine, but ultimately couldn’t provide an answer to Mac’s pace and finished 1.5 seconds behind in third.
The #55 Ferrari had been penalised before the race had got underway following the discovery of International GT Open-spec fuel in the team’s fuel rig, which dropped pole-sitter Aaron Scott to the back of the 29 car grid. Nevertheless, the Irishman only needed 30 minutes to carve his way through the field and into the thick of a frantic lead battle that lasted for much of the race.
Rob Smith got a good start and quickly made his way to the head of the class field, although the JMW Motorsport driver was usurped under braking by Alex Talkanitsa Jr in the AT Racing Ferrari. Gulf Racing Porsche driver Dan Brown also lent a hand in the four-way skirmish for the lead, but it was Scott who was able to hold the advantage when the safety car came into play.
Later in the race, the JMW Motorsport squad was stung by a 20 second stop-go penalty initiated by a Sam Tordoff pit speeding violation. This released Griffin as the new class leader, with Cressoni looking to close the gap. The late safety car bunched the leading drivers together, and ultimately gave Mac, who had taken over from Andrea Rizzoli, the distance needed to mount an attack on Griffin for the race win.
GTC class honours came the way of the pole-sitting #62 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Stuart Hall, Thomas Flohr and Francesco Castellacci. The win appeared to be within reach for the TDS Racing BMW Z4 of Dino Lunardi until the Frenchman lost control on cold brakes and careered into the Turn Three gravel trap. Lunardi’s off enabled Hall to inherit the lead, which he was able to maintain until the finish.
Lunardi managed to recover from his error to finish second, albeit two laps behind the Briton, while the Massive Motorsport Aston Martin GT3 – carrying a performance break this weekend – benefited from problems for the #63 and #64 AF Corse Ferraris to take the third step on the podium.
The result means that Jota Sport will leave the Red Bull Ring two points ahead of Thiriet by TDS Racing in the teams’ championship. The European Le Mans Series will continue its tour of the continent with the penultimate round at France’s Paul Ricard circuit on September 5-6.