Thiriet By TDS Racing stormed to their second European Le Mans Series victory in a row as they claimed victory at the Red Bull Ring by almost one minute with Pierre Thiriet, Mathias Beche and Ryo Hirakawa combining for a great victory.
At the start of the four hour race, the pole-sitting Panis Barthez Competition Ligier held onto the lead in what was a rather congested track but coming off worse was the second place G-Drive Racing Gibson of Giedo van der Garde – who had got past Pierre Thiriet at the start – and suffered a puncture which meant they had to limp round to the pits for a rapid tyre change.
For the first portion of the race, the LMP2 field seemed to run without trouble but a misjudged move by an LMGTE Ferrari while being lapped by Timothe Buret in the leading Panis Barthez car saw the Ligier spin across the run-off and sacrifice a number of positions to, amongst others, the Thiriet Oreca and the Dragonspeed Oreca.
It then became an inhumane beating for the Panis Barthez car as they were given a drive-through for not respecting the formation on the rolling start and then went into the barriers at turn six. That said, a great recovery drive from them saw a respectable seventh place finish at the flag.
However, all the action was ahead of them and by the time Mathias Beche jumped behind the wheel of the Thiriet machine for the last 90 minutes, he already held a lead of more than 40 seconds over the Eurasia Motorsport car of Nick de Bruijn who had to watch behind him as a hard-charging Harry Tincknell in the G-Drive Gibson was closing in from third place.
As the flag fell, the distinctive orange Gibson had to settle for third by seven seconds. A lap down was the fourth placed SMP Racing BR01 which had one of its best results of the season.
The #2 United Autosports Ligier-Nissan of Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England scored their third class victory in a row thanks to a fortuitous penalty to the Duqueine Engineering machine after the race which saw the United Autosports crew win by one second.
It was a devastating result for the Duqueine crew as David Droux had jumped from third to first on the first lap as Alex Brundle looked to get past teammate Mark Patterson who had found himself in second place.
Everything went a bit funny after that as Mark Patterson went off at turn one with a puncture and in trying to pass the Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JSP3 Sean Rayhall’s Graff Ligier spun off thanks to a love-tap by Valentin Moineault.
However, in the last chunk of the race it was the Eurointernational Ligier of Marco Jacobini who found himself in the lead but a tangling with one of the SMP LMP2s saw them forfeit their chance of victory with a lot of time spent in the pits to try and repair the damage.
That handed the lead to the Duqueine car, and even with a late full course yellow to recover Tracy Krohn’s beached Ligier, they ended 3.4s in credit. However, their 4s penalty for not respecting pit stop times on two occasions saw them lose their victory.
Early battles suggested that victory would be decided by a battle between rival Ferrari 458 Italias including the JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Rory Butcher and the AT Racing machine of Alexander Talkinitsa.
An early collision with the Panis Barthez Competition Ligier saw Bucther fall down the order somewhat, but a strong recovery drive from Robert Smith and Andrea Bertolini saw them climb back up the order and finish one lap ahead of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.
Going into the last ten minutes everything could have finished a lot differently though as a scrap between the #51 of Rui Aguas and the #99 Aston Martin Racing machine of Alex MacDowall. They were barging and banging for a number of laps before Aguas managed to get through, and to add insult to injury MacDowall slipped down to fourth as the #56 AT Racing entry of Alessandro Pier Guidi took advantage of the damaged Aston Martin.