Late puncture gives IDEC Sport Silverstone ELMS victory

A late puncture for G-Drive Racing gave IDEC Sport its first victory of the 2019 European Le Mans Series season at the 4 Hours of Silverstone.

The action-packed race was non-stop from start to end with an early rain shower shaking up the order - and the pit strategy. That meant the order was fluid throughout with a number of teams that stuck it out on slicks initially making up time on the teams that elected to dive into the pits for wet weather rubber. However, with fuel loads and strategy varying slightly it ended up being a sprint finish. Initially that sprint finish appeared to favour DragonSpeed which, at the hands of Ben Hanley, powered up the field and made a great move on the G-Drive Aurus 01 to inherit the top spot with just 30 minutes remaining. However, the team needed to make a late splash and dash which dropped them down to fourth despite Hanley’s best efforts at powering back up the order. At this point it seemed no-one wanted to win. Graff inherited the lead, but were slapped with a drive-through penalty for checking up the field after the second safety car restart - causing Aaron Scott’s Spirit of Race Ferrari to almost go into the back of Hanley. That penalty promoted G-Drive’s Jean-Eric Vergne to a lead he seemed sure to convert into a win, but a puncture just five minutes from the end meant the Frenchman had to make a quick stop to replace the wheel. Such was his lead though, he crossed the line in second, 9.955sec down on race winner Memo Rojas. The Mexican had come out of his final stop in third, but such was the misfortune for those ahead, he quickly gained places. Third went to Graff having served their penalty with minimal timeloss. Tristan Gommendy did have to weather a late storm from Hanley, eventually finishing with an advantage of just 1.408sec.

The race was disrupted by two safety car periods in the second-half. The first was for a crash involving Mike Guasch in the United Autosports Ligier JSP3, he was clipped by one of the Panis Barthez cars going into Maggotts which caused him to lose control and hit the concrete barrier on drivers’ left. He was reported to be speaking to the team on the radio. After 20 minutes, the safety car came back in, but was immediately called for again following a crash at Brooklands. Cool Racing’s Alexandre Coigny was clipped by an LMP3 he was lapping and he spun across the track exiting Brooklands. An unsighted Nico Jamin in the Duqueine Engineering Oreca then t-boned Coigny. The pair got out of their respective cars but a lot of clean-up work was required by the marshals.

Outside of that LMP3-related drama, the class came down to a late penalty for erstwhile leaders Eurointernational which held a once commanding lead until a spin for Jens Petersen handed the balance of power to Nigel Moore in the Inter Europol Competition Ligier. From a lead once nearly two-minutes, Moore cut down his disadvantage lap-after-lap but seemed to be too far away to make a move for the lead as the chequered flag came out. However, a post-race penalty of 30seconds in lieu of a drive-through relegated Petersen - and teammate Mikkel Jensen - down to second. That gave Moore and co-driver Martin Hippe their second consecutive win after success in Barcelona. Third in class went to the #3 United Autosports car, salvaging some good news for the team after Guasch’s crash and Phil Hanson’s early exit in the #32 LMP2 car after he beached the car in the gravel at Luffield.

GTE went the way of polesitters Proton Competition, but the #88 crew - which only had Gianluca Giraudi and Ricardo Sanchez confirmed alongside Thomas Preining on Thursday - didn’t have an easy route to victory. That’s because the Porsche 911 RSR trio were put under pressure by both the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GTE Evos throughout the 240-minute race. Being harried throughout by the two Ferraris Proton hardly had it easy, but with Kessel’s pair under pressure from the Luzich Racing Ferrari, Preining had enough time in hand to make a late stop for fuel and come back out in the lead with less than ten minutes remaining. He crossed the line with 27 seconds in hand over Rahel Frey in the all-female #83. Frey herself opened up a comfortable margin over the sister car thanks to a rapid final stint which left Giacomo Piccini struggling to keep pace. The Italian finished on the podium though, as Luzich’s Alessandro Pier Guidi faded towards the end of the race to finish fourth - a lap ahead of the Spirit of Race team.