United Autosports Win Rain-Shortened Race at Spa, G-Drive Secure Title


Phil Hanson & Filipe Albuquerque - United Autosports - Spa-Francorchamps
Credit: European Le Mans Series

The #22 United Autosports duo of Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque took their first victory of the 2018 European Le Mans Series season in a rain-shortened Four Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, while the title went the way of G-Drive Racing despite the #26 Oreca having its worst weekend of the year.

The race had been brought forward to a 10:45 start time following weather concerns, and G-Drive Racing led the field to the line with Andrea Pizzitola behind the wheel, while the #22 of Hanson dropped down the order in the early stages having started second on the grid.

Albuquerque took over the driving duties from Hanson before the end of the first hour and took over the lead when the safety car was deployed for a second time, a position he would hold on to until the race was red-flagged just after the two-hour mark.

Pizzitola survived two trips through the gravel trap in consecutive laps at Campus but fell down the order to ninth, and it was not long before he handed the car over to Jean-Eric Vergne.

Soon after, as he was battling with the #31 APR – Rebellion Racing Oreca of Ryan Cullen, Vergne tangled with the #77 Proton Competition Porsche of Christian Reid approaching the Bus Stop Chicane, pushing the LMGTE car off track and into a spin that resulted in the car hitting the #31, with the incident earning the #26 machine a two-minute stop and go penalty.

Vergne was unable to take the penalty before the race was red-flagged, with the resultant time penalty dropping the car out of the top ten, but with only half points being awarded and the #24 Racing Engineering Oreca trio of Norman Nato, Paul Petit and Olivier Pla finishing seventh, it ensured the #26 G-Drive Racing team took the Team’s Title.

Pizzitola and Roman Rusinov, the latter failing to get on track due to the red flag, clinched the Drivers’ Championship with a round to spare, although Vergne misses out thanks to missing the opening round of the season due to his commitments in the FIA Formula E championship.

Behind the race winning #22 United Autosports Oreca was the #21 DragonSpeed Oreca of Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and Nicholas Lapierre in second, with the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier of Timothé Buret, Julien Canal and Will Stevens completed the podium.

The podium finishers in LMP3 celebrate in Belgium - Spa-Francorchamps
United Autosports celebrate victory in LMP3 – Credit: European Le Mans Series

United Autosports were also celebrating in LMP3, with the #2 of John Falb and Scott Andrews in front when the red flag fell.  It was a first win for Andrews, who was only called up to replace the unwell Sean Rayhall earlier this week, while it was the first of the season for Falb.

The championship-leader #15 RLR MSport Ligier of Job van Uitert, Rob Garofell and John Farano were second when the result was declared, edging them closer to the title but the LMP3 battle will go down to the wire in the season finale at Portimao next month, particularly as the #6 360 Racing Ligier of Ross Kaiser, James Swift and Terrence Woodward claimed the final spot on the podium.

If proof was needed to how difficult the conditions were, the pole-sitting #17 Ultimate Norma spun into the barriers in the hands of Jean-Baptiste Lahaye at Pouhon, which brought out the safety car, which was extended when the #9 AT Racing Ligier stopped on the Kemmel Straight.

Likewise, the LMGTE title will also be decided in Portugal, but honours at Spa-Francorchamps went the way of the #80 EbiMotors Porsche of Riccardo Pera, Fabio Babini and Bret Curtis, who took the win thanks to staying out on track and not pitting just prior to the red flag.

The #88 Proton Competition Porsche of Matteo Cairoli, Gianluca Roda and Giorgio Roda was leading the race but pitted to hand the #80 the lead, with the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott also staying on track to inherit second.

Despite missing out on the win, the third-place finish helped extend the advantage of the #88 Porsche at the top of the LMGTE championship standings to eleven and a half points with only the Four Hours of Portimão to come.

Riccardo Pera, Fabio Babini & Bret Curtis - EbiMotors - Spa-Francorchamps
The #80 EbiMotors Porsche took the honours in LMGTE – Credit: European Le Mans Series