European Le Mans Series

Graff grabs controversial 4 Hours of Spa victory

3 Mins read
Credit: ELMS/Jakob Ebrey Photography

The #40 Graff Oreca team won a dramatic 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, although the race may be settled in the stewards’ room as the French team is pending investigation for a pit-stop violation.

Running in the top five in the first half of the race, a rapid middle stint from James Allen brought the #40 team into play at the front end of the field.

Assuming the lead with over two hours on the clock, the #40 was later embroiled in controversy, and subject to a pair of investigations by the stewards, adding to the pit-lane investigation having also gained an advantage in passing the #27 SMP Racing Dallara off-track at Les Combes.

With less than two minutes remaining, the #40 received a drive-through penalty for the latter indiscretion.

Richard Bradley – occupying the #40 for the final stint – emerged from the penalty just ahead of Ryo Hirakawa in the #22 G-Drive Racing Oreca, holding on from the Japanese driver to provisionally take victory.

The #22 seemed set for victory, but a late drive-through penalty for a procedural violation under the safety car put Hirakawa behind Bradley in the final half-hour, although the DragonSpeed-run team will leave Belgium having extended its championship advantage.

SMP Racing secured its second podium of the season, with Egor Orudzhev behind the wheel of the #27 Dallara for a lengthy three-hour stint before handing over to Matevos Isaakyan for the final quarter of the race.

Filipe Albuquerque crossed the line to take fourth for the #32 United Autosports Ligier, just a second behind the #27, while the #21 DragonSpeed recovered from a poor opening stint in the hands of Henrik Hedman to finish fifth.

The race was a chaotic affair, and included two safety car periods and myriad caution periods as the drivers struggled to tame the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Andrea Roda in the #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier hit the wall approaching Pouhon on lap 26, rolling over to bring out the first safety car at the hour mark.

A second safety car was called on lap 36 after a collision between the LMGTE’s #77 Proton Competition Porsche and the LMP3 Ligiers of the #11 Eurointernational and the #5 By Speed Factory teams – Christian Ried, late call-up Marco Jacoboni and Jurgen Krebs came together at Fagnes, throwing gravel across the road.

LMP3: AT Racing cruises to first class win

The #9 AT Racing team secured a convincing LMP3 class victory, converting the team’s pole position into its first ELMS class win by 44 seconds over the #7 Duqueine Engineering squad.

Mikkel Jensen endured a difficult start to the race, but an impressive opening stint at the wheel ensured that the Dane emerged from the #9 Ligier with it in the lead.

The #9 team had been awarded a penalty having failed to turn its engine off during a scheduled stop, but Alexander Talkanitsa Sr maintained a significant advantage over the second-placed #17 Ultimate of Francois Heriau to stay at the front of the pack.

After Alexander Talkanitsa Jr assumed control of AT Racing’s car, he maintained a significant advantage over David Droux in the #7 to clinch the win, as the #7 Norma secured its best result of the season with second place.

The #2 United Autosports team of John Falb and Sean Rayhall extended its lead atop the LMP3 championship, occupying third place ahead of the #13 Inter Europol Ligier.

M.Racing-YMR endured a poor day, with the #18 Ligier losing ground to the #2 in the title battle, while debutant Neale Muston crashed at Raidillon in the #19 Norma.

LMGTE: #51 Spirit of Race springs to Spa victory

The #51 Spirit of Race squad streaked to victory in the LMGTE class, with Rino Mastronardi starring in his late call-up to the Ferrari 488.

Mastronardi produced an assured first stint in his series debut, overcoming the caution periods to hand Andrea Bertolini the keys with a strong lead. Bertolini and Giorgio Roda continued to display impressive pace to secure the #51’s first class victory of the year.

JMW Motorsport took advantage of a difficult race for rivals TF Sport to close up the LMGTE championship battle, as the #66 Ferrari 488 secured second after the team welcomed former Manor F1 driver Will Stevens into its line-up.

Beechdeen AMR’s #99 Aston Martin rounded out the podium placings, finishing fifteen seconds ahead of the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari.

Bodywork damage on TF Sport’s #90 Aston Martin ensured that the team could only manage fifth, while the pole-sitting #77 Proton Porsche was embroiled in the lap 36 skirmish with the #11 and #5 LMP3 cars, returning to the circuit multiple laps adrift.

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