PREVIEW: 2017 European Le Mans Series – 4 Hours of Portimão


Credit: ELMS/Jakob Ebrey Photography

The 2017 edition of the European Le Mans Series will draw to a close this weekend in Portugal, as the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve plays host to the season finale. Each class winner will be decided in the 4 Hours of Portimão, and plenty of action can be expected as the teams squabble and clamour to finish the season on a high.

LMP2: G-Drive Racing vs. United Autosports

Leading the standings by an impressive 18 points, the #22 G-Drive Racing squad is the hot favourite to claim the LMP2 title and mount a successful defense of its crown having won the category last year. G-Drive’s regular lineup of Memo Rojas, Léo Roussel and Ryo Hirakawa all remain behind the wheel of the team’s DragonSpeed-run Oreca.

Something of an outsider to the title is the #32 United Autosports Ligier, piloted by William Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer and home favourite Filipe Albuquerque. Although the Ligier runner has secured more victories this season, the sheer consistency of the G-Drive team has meant that its drivers have not strayed from the podium all year. United Autosports will need G-Drive to end its run of form to keep any championship aspirations burning.

Standing a further 19 points behind, the #40 Graff Oreca team could overhaul United Autosports in the championship should misfortune befall the Anglo-American squad. Graff’s team of Gustavo Yacaman, Richard Bradley and James Allen took victory in last month’s 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, and will be aiming to double its tally of wins this year.

In the #39 Graff, former GT Academy International champion Ricardo Sánchez links up with Enzo Guibbert and Paul Petit for the final round, and will be the Mexican driver’s first start in ELMS.

LMP3: United Autosports’ #2 aims to become one

With a hefty 19 point advantage, United Autosports has a considerable chance of retaining the LMP3 championship with its #2 duo of Sean Rayhall and John Falb. Winning at Silverstone and Le Castellet, the American pair will race in Portugal with the sole intention of adding a third victory en route to the title.

The #18 M.Racing-YMR team is the only other championship competitor going into the final race, although the all-French trio of Alexandre Cougnaud, Antoine Jung and Romano Ricci has yet to take victory in 2017. To have any hope of winning the LMP3 class, the #18 Ligier must break its duck at the Algarve.

AT Racing won its first LMP3 race at Spa-Francorchamps last time out, and retains its lineup of qualifier Mikkel Jensen and father-and-son duo Alexander Talkanitsa Sr. and Jr. in their #9 Ligier.

In M.Racing-YMR’s #19 Norma, Erwin Creed is expected to return to the lineup alongside Yann Ehrlacher, replacing Australian Neale Muston who crashed at Radillion in the previous race at Spa.

Further changes can be found in both Eurointernational cars, as James Dayson returns to the #12 in place of Andrea Dromedari, who swaps to the #11. By Speed Factory will also compete in Portugal with a revised lineup, adding a third driver to their #5 Ligier for the first time since Austria; Russia’s Timur Boguslavskiy joins Tim Müller and Jurgen Krebs at the Spanish team.

LMGTE: Five alive in championship hunt

Five teams’ championship aspirations in the LMGTE category remain alive going into the last race, with first-place occupiers TF Sport standing 24 points ahead of fifth-placed Beechdeen AMR.

TF Sport’s #90 Aston Martin Vantage crossed the line victorious at the Silverstone season opener, and the team’s consistency has kept it firmly in the championship hunt. A point behind, the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari continues into the final round with Will Stevens partnering Robert Smith and Jody Fannin, as the team looks to add to its Monza victory and 24 Hours of Le Mans success with the European Le Mans Series class title.

Spirit of Race’s #55 and #51 Ferrari 488 GTE cars occupy third and fourth respectively in the standings, having collected wins at the past three rounds between them. Gianluca Roda returns to the #51 after Rino Mastronardi took his place in the last round, contributing  to an excellent 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps victory.

The #99 Beechdeen AMR squad remains mathematically in the hunt for the GTE title, but requires the other four cars ahead in the standings to retire. Joining the presumed finger-crossing in the Beechdeen AMR camp is German Immanuel Vinke, who replaces Ross Gunn in the Aston Martin Vantage alongside Darren Turner and Andrew Howard.