The #26 G-Drive Racing trio of Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Eric Vergne secured their third consecutive European Le Mans Series race victory when they won the 4 Hours of Silverstone on Saturday.
United Autosports took the honours in LMP3 with their trio of Matt Bell, Anthony Wells and Garett Grist, while JMW Motorsport were victorious in LMGTE after a strong last string from Miguel Molina ensured they took the win despite a ten-second time penalty.
The race began with the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier holding the lead from pole position, with Frenchman Julien Canal given the task of the first stint, and despite some good defensive manoeuvres against Rusinov, the G-Drive Racing Oreca was in the lead in the second hour, one it was not to get close to giving up thereafter.
Rusinov handed the car over to Pizzitola, who was able to consolidate their lead, while Vergne brought the car home, with their final advantage more than a lap to their closest rivals, which ultimately was the #21 DragonSpeed Oreca of Ben Hanley, Nicolas Lapierre and Henrik Hedman.
The DragonSpeed machine was able to take second after a late splash and dash stop for the #28 IDEC Sport Oreca of Paul Lafargue, Paul-Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas, although they were able to maintain their place on the podium in third after Lafargue made a last-gasp pass on APR-Rebellion Racing’s Gustavo Menezes, who also fell behind Graff’s Tristan Gommendy on the final lap to finish fifth. The pole-sitting Panis Barthez Competition Ligier of Canal, Will Stevens and Timothe Buret could only finish sixth.
The win saw G-Drive Racing extend their advantage in the championship standings after the late retirement of the #24 Racing Engineering Oreca of Norman Nato, who went straight on at Vale and crashed into the barriers.
There were a few incidents early on affecting the LMP2 entries, with the #22 United Autosports Ligier of Phil Hanson retiring due to a mechanical issue, with the #35 SMP Racing Dallara of Victor Shaitar spinning off at the same turn as where Hanson had stopped and hit the barrier, and although he was able to return the car to the pits, the damage was too much for the car to resume.
The first lap also saw a spin for the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara of Giorgio Sernagiotto at turn one, with the car spending significant time in the pits before re-joining at the back of the pack.
The #3 United Autosports took victory in LMP3, although the team could not take the one-two finish they were hoping for, as the #2 suffered a power issue in their final pit stop that lost them significant time.
Despite a first lap spin by Sean Rayhall, the #2 moved up to second place behind the sister car only for the Ligier to suffer that delay in the pits, which relegated the car Rayhall shared with John Falb to seventh in class at the chequered flag.
The #3 of Bell, Wells and Grist were too strong for the rest of the field, despite a late charge from the Ecurie Ecosse/Neilson Ligier of Colin Noble, Alex Kapadia and Christian Stubbe Olsen.
The #17 Ultimate Norma of Matthieu Lahaye, Jean-Baptiste Lahaye and François Hériau completed the podium after a late collision between the #15 RLR MSport and #6 360 Racing Ligiers at Vale, when Rob Garofall in the #15 made an optimistic move on James Swift in the #6 that ultimately did not pay off for either car.
The #6 of Swift, Ross Kaiser and Terrence Woodward managed to finish fourth, while the #15 of Garofell, Job Van Uitert and John Farano dropped to sixth behind the #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier of Jakub Smiechowski and Martin Hippe.
When both the #66 JMW Motorsport and #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari’s were handed ten-second penalties, it appeared that the #88 Proton Competition Porsche was on course for victory in LMGTE, but somehow a brilliantly managed stint from Miguel Molina, coupled with an incident between the #55 and #88 on the final lap, ensure the #66 took the victory by just 0.126 seconds.
Track limits played its part in the race, with both the #66 of Molina, Liam Griffin and Alex MacDowell and the #55 of Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott were handed penalties for exceeding the limits too often during the race, but it ensured a terrific end to the race.
Porsche can only have themselves to blame, with a slow stop seeing the #88 of Matteo Cairoli, Gianluca Roda and Giorgio Roda fall twenty-seconds behind. Cairoli would have needed to make up just ten of those with the #66’s penalty to be applied, but he came up just short after the #88 and #55 battled on track on the final lap. Both cars went off and it was the #88 that came out on top, but the #66 had done enough by just over a tenth of a second as a result.
The #77 Proton Competition Porsche of Christian Ried, Marvin Dienst and Dennis Olsen finished fourth in class, while the #86 Gulf Racing UK Porsche of Michael Wainwright, Ben Barker and Alex Davison were fifth.