United Autosports completes stunning P2/P3 sweep in ELMS opener
United Autosports has completed a stunning double victory on the U.K./U.S. team’s U.K. home race in England, winning in both LMP2 and LMP3 at the European Le Mans Series’ season-opening 4 Hours of Silverstone.
Overall and in LMP2, the trio of Filipe Albuquerque, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer took the team’s No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson to a surprise victory following a last-hour rally from Albuquerque, who was nearly half a minute behind but began closing at a rapid rate once Ryo Hirakawa lost time in his DragonSpeed-run No. 22 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07.
Hirakawa’s tires appeared to fall off in the last stint and he was also hassled by traffic, both trying to overtake slower GTE and LMP3 cars in front of him, while also trying to hold back an aggressive Timothe Buret in his No. 23 Panis-Barthez Ligier who was trying to get a lap back.
Albuquerque carved through the traffic best as he could, then making a key pass of the primary DragonSpeed entry driven by Nicolas Lapierre going into Vale and Club to get just behind Hirakawa. He made it past at Arena on the next lap and pulled away to the victory.
“Brilliant! I am so so happy. We had a drive-through,” Albuquerque told the ELMS live stream. “They were like 45 seconds ahead. I managed my tires. I think I had to gain 15 seconds within 10 laps, but then I could see he was struggling, and I grabbed the overtake as soon as I could. The last lap I think I enjoyed! Straightaway with a win was great. But we have to stay realistic.”
Hirakawa, Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel were left to take an unfortunate second place despite the Elton Julian-led team dominating the race, and after the sister No. 21 car Lapierre co-drove with Ben Hanley and Henrik Hedman fell down the order owing to a gear selection issue.
Series debutantes High Class Racing finished third in LMP2 and overall with its No. 49 Dallara P217, thus making it three different chassis of the four 2017 LMP2 chassis constructors on the podium with drivers Dennis Andersen and Anders Fjordbach.
United Autosports had an easier time of it in LMP3, with Sean Rayhall controlling the pace early before John Falb brought the team’s No. 2 Ligier JS P3 Nissan home to the flag. Falb survived a quick spin with no damage and got it back going to deliver the all-American driver lineup a popular victory.
The No. 6 360 Racing and No. 17 Ultimate Ligiers completed the podium runners, the latter just ahead of the second United Autosports LMP3 car finished by Wayne Boyd.
TF Sport took a debut victory in GTE with the No. 90 Aston Martin Vantage V8 driven by Euan Hankey, Salih Yuloc and Nicki Thiim, ahead of the No. 77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR and No. 99 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin.
A couple other Americans of note; Matt McMurry was running well in the No. 25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier before the car he shared with Andrea Pizzitola and Andrea Roda hit gearbox troubles, while the No. 12 Eurointernational Ligier JS P3 that included Mazda Road to Indy veteran Max Hanratty was 12th in LMP3. Hanratty and McMurry both ran in IMSA’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring last month.
The series’ next race is at Monza on May 14.