The Greaves Motorsport trio of Jon Lancaster, Bjorn Wirdheim and Gary Hirsch won the European Le Mans Series title in an eventful race at Portugal’s Estoril circuit.
Second place was enough to guarantee the championship by two points ahead of the race-winning Thiriet by TDS Racing squad, while Jota Sport finished third in the standings after a troublesome afternoon.
A yellow flag infringement during qualifying meant that Wirdheim was forced to start from 10th on the grid, but the Swedish driver soon worked his way through the field as Jota Sport’s Filipe Albuquerque sped away in the opening stint.
Behind Albuquerque erupted a magnificent battle for second place between the recovered Wirdheim, Thiriet’s Ludovic Badey and the BR01 Nissan of Victor Shaytar. Wirdheim lost second place when Shaytar made a perfectly timed move on his outside at turn one, and the BR01 driver soon picked off Badey when the Frenchman went wide while trying to avoid the #62 Ferrari.
The dueling allowed Albuquerque to manufacture a half-minute lead, but his hard work was undone early in the second hour when Jota team-mate Simon Dolan was caught out in a freak rain shower, which affected a number of other cars. Dolan spun into the gravel at turn three and was left stranded for a couple of minutes as the recovery team fetched his stricken Gibson, swinging the championship pendulum back in Greaves’ direction.
Hirsch, who was now at the wheel of the Greaves car, had made his way up to second after passing Shaytar, and was therefore promoted to the lead of the race when Dolan left the track.
However, Shaytar returned the favour shortly afterwards by tucking up on Hirsch’s inside at the first corner.
Greaves continued to plug away in the latter stages of the race, but a stop-go penalty for Hirsch releasing his seat belt too early when handing the car to Lancaster put paid to the team’s chances of a race win.
This brought Thiriet by TDS Racing into the lead, and Nicolas Lapierre made no mistake of piloting the red and grey ORECA 05 Nissan to the chequered flag for the team’s second victory of the season.
Lancaster crossed the line over a minute behind Lapierre, but the result was enough to clinch the title over Thiriet by 93 points to 91. Harry Tincknell put in a strong final stint for Jota Sport but could only rescue a fourth place finish, which dropped the team down to third with 89 points.
Third in the race was the #21 BR01 Nissan, while the sister #20 car completed the top five. Sixth place went to the ORECA 03R of Eurasia Motorsport, and seventh to Algarve Pro Racing’s Ligier JS P2.
Michael Simpson and Gaetan Paletou made up for the disappointment of their Paul Ricard retirement to win the final LMP3 race of the year. The Team LNT duo finished a lap ahead of the Graff Ligier JS P3, and two laps in front of the sister LNT car of champions-elect Chris Hoy and Charlie Robertson.
LMGTE honours went to the BMW Team Marc VDS squad in its last ever GT race. Henry Hassid gave the Belgian squad a good start by staying at the head of the class field, while Andy Priaulx produced a masterclass during the changeable conditions to help his team to a maiden win of the year, and a second successive category triumph at the 4 Hours of Estoril.
But, in the end it was Formula Racing that sealed its first ever LMGTE title with a stable run from Johnny Laursen, Mikkel Mac and Andrea Rizzoli. The #60 Ferrari 458 Italia finished fifth in class, which was enough to seal the championship by a margin of four points over BMW Team Marc VDS.
Second place in the race went to Aston Martin Racing, with the Gulf Racing UK Porsche finishing third.
TDS Racing secured its maiden GTC class title with a second place finish at Estoril. The #59 BMW Z4 of Dino Lunardi, Franck Perera and Eric Dermont was initially engaged in an absorbing lead battle with the TF Sport Aston Martin of Salih Yoluc. But when the Aston spun in the wet it was the turn of the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italias to apply pressure, namely the #63 car of Marco Cioci, Giorgo Roda and Ilya Melnikov which assumed the lead and held on to take its first win of the season.
Results – 2015 ELMS 4 Hours of Estoril
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