Action and Drama in Opening Race of 2016

Photo: ELMS

The 4 Hours of Silverstone has set the scene for a season of dramatic racing in the 2016 European Le Mans Series. The typically English weather also played its part after snow in the morning and a wet qualifying session, the race started dry but rain showers threatened to cause an upset.

However in the end the no38 G Drive Racing Gibson-Nissan of Harry Tincknell, Simon Dolan and Giedo Van Der Garde was victorious at the end of a thrilling four hour encounter.

It was all smiles in the United Autosports garage as the Anglo-American team took a 1-2 finish on their LMP3 debut, with the no2 Ligier JS P3 of Alex Brundle, Michael Guasch and Christian England.

The start saw the no19 Duqueine Engineering Ligier JS P3 spin at the start and in a separate incident the no29 Pegasus Racing Morgan speared to the right into the pitwall causing damage to the front of the car.

The no 32 SMP Racing BR01 Andreas Wirth went into the lead as Pierre Thiriet, in the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca, fell back down the field from pole position. Wirth led for half a lap and then was overtaken by the no38 G Drive Racing Gibson of Harry Tincknell who then opened up a big gap to the following pack.

Thiriet fought his way back up the field but went off the track later in race, hitting the wall and ending in retirement for the Frenchman. This, and a separate incident when Tristen Gommendy parked the no33 Eurasia Motorsport Oreca, brought out the Full Course Yellow.

Tincknell continued to lead but Paul Loup Chatin in the no23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier started to close the gap, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 19. When the driver changes came, the two cars were reversed with Fabien Barthez in the lead of the race with Simon Dolan trying to close the 15 second gap at the half way stage of the race. However technical issues forced the no23 Ligier to stop and Timothe Buret lost a lot of time resetting the car and rejoining only for the car to stop again later in the race.

This allowed the no32 SMP Racing BR01 to come back to take second place but they were never able to get on terms with the rapid G-Drive Racing Gibson. Despite some tribulation for Simon Dolan as rain came down at the end of his stint, the English driver handed the car over to Giedo Van Der Garde and the Dutchman brought the car home to start 2016 off with a good haul of points. The no22 SO24! By Lombard Racing Ligier-Judd was third with Vincent Capillaire, Olivier Lombard and Jonathan Coleman celebrating a welcome podium finish at the end of a very hard weekend for the team.

In P3 the no2 United Autosports Ligier of Alex Brundle came up to the front of the class and then held onto the lead until he ended his stint to hand over the car to Michael Guasch. Guasch pushed hard and handed the car to Christian England to bring it home to secure the win.

The no3 United Autosports Ligier was running second behind their teammates but Mark Patterson had to pit when his left hand door wouldn’t stay closed, dropping the American down to 4th place. Mark Patterson and Wayne Boyd fought back and Boyd moved the car back into a podium position before taking second place with a superb move on the no9 Graff Ligier of Enzo Guibbert with 30 minutes left on the clock. The French team secured the final podium position behind the United Autosports 1-2

Sir Chris Hoy’s debut in LMP2 didn’t go to plan when his no25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier got sideways and ended in the gravel at the start of Hanger Straight. A Full Course Yellow was declared to snatch the car back on track and the Scot rejoined the race. The Algarve Pro Racing team eventually finishing in 10th overall at the chequered flag.

In LMGTE Stuart Hall pushed his way to the front of the grid in the no96 Aston Martin Racing Vantage and this began a thrilling two hour battle with his teammate Alex MacDowall for the class lead. At the two hour point it was MacDowall who held the upperhand but it was still a hard fought battle between the two Aston Martins and the two Ferraris from JMW Motorsport and AT Racing.

As the race drew to a close it was the JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Rory Butcher who held the advantage over Andrew Howard in the Beechdean liveried Aston Martin Vantage with a great battle for the final podium spot happening between Alessandro Pier Guidi in the AT Racing Ferrari and Richie Stanaway in the no96 Aston Martin.

On the final lap there was contact between the two car at the end of the Vale with Pier Guidi sliding off the track and Stanaway taking the chequered flag in third place but then pulling to the side of the track after the finish line with damage to the front right of the car. The no96 Aston Martin finished in 3rd place behind the winning JMW Motorsport Ferrari and the no99 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin but Stanaway was handed a 4-minute time penalty by the stewards for unsporting conduct which put the no96 car behind the no56 Ferrari and promoting AT Racing into the final podium position.

In post race scrutineering the no66 Ferrari was found to be in breach of article 2.2.1a of the ELMS LMGTE Am Technical Regulations, which means it didn’t conform to the homologation papers. The front splitter was found to be incorrect and the JMW Motorsport Ferrari was excluded from the results. The no99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage was promoted to the race win, with the no56 AT Racing Ferrari in second and the no65 Aston Martin Racing Vantage in third.

Round 2 of the European Le Mans Series will be in Italy when the large grid of cars will take part in the 4 Hours of Imola on the 13-15 May.