Albuquerque & Hanson Give United Autosports Portimao Victory

by Paul Hensby
Filipe Albuquerque & Phil Hanson - United Autosports - Four Hours of Portimao

Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson combined to give United Autosports their second consecutive European Le Mans Series victory in the Four Hours of Portimao on Sunday, with Ligier runners locking out the podium positions.

The championship had already been decided in the LMP2 class in favour of the #26 G-Drive Racing outfit, but the season finale saw the LMP3 and LM GTE titles decided, with the #15 RLR MSport Ligier and the #88 Proton Competition Porsche claiming the respective crowns despite not winning in Portugal.

LMP2

Filipe Albuquerque took the chequered flag in his home race for the #22 United Autosports despite a late charge from Will Stevens in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier, with the two cars crossing the line just half a second apart.

Stevens, who was sharing the Ligier with Frenchmen Julien Canal and Timothe Buret, drove strongly in the final stint to pass the #32 United Autosports Ligier of Will Owen for fourth and then the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca of Andrea Pizzitola for third, but the Briton ran out of time to make a move on Albuquerque, who was able to deliver a second consecutive win for the #22 after coming out on top of the rain-shortened Four Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

The #26 of Pizzitola, Roman Rusinov and Jean-Eric Vergne finished third on the road, but a ten-second time penalty, handed out when Vergne was penalised for passing a LMGTE machine off-track, relegated them to fourth behind the #32 Ligier of Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer and Wayne Boyd, who completed the first-ever all-Ligier ELMS podium.

The #24 Racing Engineering Oreca of Norman Nato, Paul Petit and Olivier Pla completed the top five to cement their position in second place in the championship standings behind the #26, with their closest rivals in the #28 IDEC Sport Oreca of Paul-Loup Chatin, Memo Rojas and Gabriel Aubry finishing a lap down in sixth after a drive-through penalty for a collision with the #26.

The pole-sitting #29 Duqueine Engineering Oreca of Pierre Ragues, Nico Jamin and Nelson Panciatici ran well in the early stages but saw their challenge unravel due to a suspension issue, while Felipe Nasr took the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara to the front of the field only for a drive-through penalty for an incident with the #77 Proton Competition Porsche LMGTE car, before the car dropped out of contention completely when was taken into the garage for repairs.

LMP3

The #13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier of Martin Hippe and Jakub Smiechowski took their first victory of the season in Portimao, but a fifth-place finish for the #15 RLR Msport Ligier of John Farano, Rob Garofell and Job van Uitert was enough for them to clinch the championship.

The #15 was aided by a retirement for the #6 360 Racing Ligier of Ross Kaiser, James Swift and Terrence Woodward following a gearbox failure and a drive-through for the #3 United Autosports Ligier of Tony Wells, Matt Bell and Garett Grist, which came when Wells exceeded Full Course Yellow speeds.

The #13 was able to take the chequered flag first ahead of the #7 Ecurie Ecosse/Nielson Ligier of Alex Kapadia, Colin Noble and Christian Stubbe Olsen, while the #2 United Autosports Ligier of John Falb and Scott Andrews completed the podium.

The #5 NEFIS by Speed Factory Ligier of Alexey Chuklin, Daniil Pronenko and Timur Boguslavskiy finished just off the podium in fourth, but despite only finishing fifth, the celebrations took place in the #15 RLR MSport garage thanks to their fifth-place result.

Fifth place was enough for the #15 RLR MSport Ligier crew to take the LMP3 title – Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

LMGTE

The #77 Proton Competition Porsche of Christian Ried, Marvin Dienst and Dennis Olsen took victory in the LMGTE class, and there was further celebration as the sister #88 of Giorgio and Gianluca Roda finished third to secure themselves the championship.

It was a historic day as the two Roda’s became the first father and son pairing to win a championship in ELMS, with the duo sharing the car with Matteo Cairoli for the fifth time in 2018.  Unfortunately for Cairoli, the race he missed at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza meant he was not able to share their title triumph, but he was still able to clinch third place in the final standings for himself thanks to the strong results the #88 has had in 2018.

The #77 were comfortable winners in Portimao, with the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Liam Griffin, Alex MacDowall and Miguel Molina well behind in second place, although the team were able to secure themselves a place on the grid for the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Behind the championship-winning #77 was the #55 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Aaron Scott, while the #83 Krohn Racing Ferrari of Tracy Krohn, Niclas Jönsson and Andrea Bertolini completed the top five despite Jönsson taking the class lead on the opening lap despite having started last in class!

The #80 EbiMotors Porsche of Fabio Babini, Riccardo Pera and Bret Curtis was a strong competitor in the opening laps and was ahead of the #77 when a collision with a LMP3 car stranded on track with a broken suspension, resulting in a safety car period while the car was recovered to safety.

The #77 Proton Competition Porsche took their first win of 2018 – Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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