Victories in both LMP2 and LMP3 for United Autosports in the latest round of the European Le Mans Series today (23 Jul) has reinforced the Anglo-American team’s quest for twin title honours this year. Filipe Albuquerque, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer swept their Ligier JS P217 home to overall victory in the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring while John Falb and Sean Rayhall claimed LMP3 honours in the Austrian race.
At the halfway stage in the six-race series, United Autosports remains second in the LMP2 standings but now only four-points adrift of the leaders while reigning ELMS LMP3 champions now lead the P3 standings courtesy of the #2 crew. Unfortunately it was not such a good day for the Wayne Boyd, Christian England and Mark Patterson Ligier JS P3 which retired on lap two. The fourth round of the series is at Paul Ricard (F) on 27 August.
Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports:
“I was very proud to be present in Austria and to hear the American National anthem played out twice during the podium ceremonies – what a day! The #32 and #2 driver crews did an awesome job but it should also be noted how hard the entire team worked for these victories. All of our pit-stops were flawless and quick which helped with our success today. It was a shame for the #3 car but they’ll come back stronger for our next race at Paul Ricard.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“It’s a great double win but a shame for the #3 car today because they would have been in there fighting for a rostrum finish. I could never have dared to dream about achieving two outright race wins by mid-season in our maiden LMP2 season and scoring another two P3 class wins after our amazing ELMS debut season last year. We have everything to fight for in terms of championship titles during the season half of the season.”
LMP2: #32 Albuquerque/Owen/de Sadeleer.
Qualified: 3rd, 1m 18.834s (FA). Race: 1st.
LMP3: #2 Falb/Rayhall. Qualified: 6th, 1m 26.400 (SR). Race: 1st.
#3 Boyd/England/Patterson. Qualified: 4th, 1m 26.079 (WB). Race: Retired
Albuquerque qualified the #32 third fastest in LMP2 yesterday – the quickest Ligier – with #3 Boyd and #2 Rayhall third and sixth fastest respectively in LMP3 with de Sadeleer (#32), Wayne (#3) and Sean (#2) taking the start in the four-hour race on the 36-car, multi-class grid. Hugo impressively forced his way in to second place on the opening lap, a stunning start from Rayhall saw him up to second in LMP3 but Boyd spun exiting Turn 1 on lap two and subsequently retired.
De Sadeleer pitted for fuel at 41 minutes, having taken the outright lead moments earlier as the opening scheduled pit-stops began. The Swiss, in his first season of sports-prototype racing, resumed at the front of the field and resisted intense pressure from the highly-experienced sportscar veteran Nicolas Lapierre throughout his stint. Rayhall, running fourth in class, stopped for fuel after an hour, the American returning to the race placed second in LMP3 after a quick and efficient pit-stop from the United crew.
Owen took over the leading #32 Ligier at 86 minutes with new tyres and fuel replenished, another great pit-stop earning the American an extended six-seconds advantage. He pitted for fuel shortly after mid-distance then handed the car over to Albuquerque with 66 minutes to run after a very competent double stint on his Red Bull Ring debut. During the final pit-stop phase and with just 17 minutes remaining, Filipe leapfrogged the championship and erstwhile race leading #22 car, the Portuguese duly taking the chequered flag with a superb 4.544 seconds victory.
Falb had taken over the #2 Ligier with just under two hours to run, continuing third but moving up to second place 30 minutes later, the American using the opportunity of the FCY with an hour remaining to pit for fuel. He duly snatched the LMP3 class lead with 20mins left on the clock after a great battle and despite serving a drive through penalty with less than four minutes remaining for track limits abuse, Falb held on by 1.784 seconds for a sensational victory. The #32 and #2 Ligiers consequently repeated their opening Silverstone race wins with United also taking their second consecutive Red Bull Ring P3 triumph – the day witnessed by United Autosports Team Owner & Chairman Zak Brown, Executive Director of McLaren Technology Group Ltd.
Filipe Albuquerque (P): Born/Lives: Coimbra, Portugal. Age: 31
“Big, big thanks to the United crew for a great final pit-stop. The young boys [Hugo and Will] both did a great job. I had to push hard in my stint – I had nothing left. I probably went too hard at the beginning of my stint as my front left tyre didn’t have a huge amount of grip in the closing stages. I know the Red Bull Ring very well having previously raced here in DTM and ELMS before. Last year was the only year I’d missed since my first race here in 2011.”
Will Owen (US): Born: Plano, Texas. Lives: Denver, Colorado. Age: 22
“This was my first-ever visit to the Red Bull Ring and I had a really good run. I took over from Hugo who had done an amazing job and had the #22 behind me until he got through. I had a close call avoiding a spinning LMP3 car. The Ligier was really good but it wasn’t easy as I needed to push all of the time. I’m very proud of the United team who killed it today.”
Hugo de Sadeleer (CH): Born: Lausanne, Switzerland. Lives: Monaco. Age: 20
“I arrived here with previous experience of the track from Formula Renault since 2014. I started the race as normal. I managed the gap to Nicolas [Lapierre] and apart from the traffic, I felt comfortable but couldn’t relax at any point. The team did a fantastic job all weekend and I can’t wait for the second half of the season to begin at Paul Ricard.”
John Falb (US). Born: Dallas, Texas. Lives: Las Vegas, Nevada. Age: 45
“It was a great race and great result for us. Getting a drive-through penalty just minutes from the checker was a heart-stopper. I don’t recall any warnings before I got the penalty which I think came about due to me dealing with traffic and making an evasive manoeuvre.”
Sean Rayhall (US): Born/Lives: Atlanta, Georgia. Age: 22
“This victory is a great boost after our mishap at Monza. It’s a relief. This is a tough track for a two-hour stint. Dealing with GT traffic was particularly difficult. I actually had a GT crash in front of me and I flat spotted a tyre avoiding the wreck. I raced here for the first time last year [ELMS] finishing seventh. Now we lead the [LMP3] championship and so can’t wait for the next race to come around.”
Wayne Boyd (GB): Born: Belfast, Northern Ireland. Lives: Templepatrick, Northern Ireland. Age: 26
“It was a very short second Red Bull Ring race for me. It had been one of my favourite tracks – proper old ‘school’ – but after spinning and retiring so early, I’m not so sure now! I made a really good start but was squeezed off the track at the first corner. Then at Turn 1 on lap two, I lost the rear, the car spun and I possibly broke a driveshaft spinning up the rears [tyres].”
Christian England (GB): Born: Barnsley, UK. Lives: Huddersfield, UK. Age: 35
“All three of us were in high spirits and quietly confident of claiming our first win of the season having shown really good pace in FP1. I damaged the car entering the pits during FP2 which cost us set-up time but we were back on track for qually after the guys did an incredible job of getting the car back together. ‘Lady Luck’ was not on our side in the race but we will keep our chins up and bounce back at Paul Ricard.”
Mark Patterson (US): Born: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Lives: Montana, USA. Age: 65
“It was going to be probably my fourth race here having previously raced both LMP2 and LMP3 sportscars. We were unlucky to start only P4 with a very good car after an incredible job by Wayne. Then we suffered another tough call when Wayne was bumped into the inside apex grass at the first corner. It’s a shame as we had high hopes for a strong podium finish.”