The 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps was drama-filled yesterday (Sunday 24th September) with a post-race podium for the #21 Pro/Am team who navigated a field of crashes, incidents and a grand total of 94 minutes spent behind the Safety Car to take third place.
It was a good start for the #21 Pro/Am with Daniel Schneider maintaining P7 until a traffic-induced spin in the final laps of his otherwise strong stint. The team reacted quickly in the erratic race conditions, gaining time with last-minute dives into the pit and fighting to the very end with an overtake in the final minutes courtesy of Nelson Piquet Jr. At the checkered flag, the #21 took P4 in class and P5 overall, with a post-race ruling promoting them to P3 - their second Pro/Am podium in succession (read more).
In the LMP2 Pro/Am class, the #22 started on the front row courtesy of Phil Hanson, who qualified the ORECA 07 in second place. Marino Sato took the start but within seconds was torpedoed into the gravel at La Source by the #65 Panis, suffering a puncture and tail damage.
The team fixed the issues and fought on … until the crash reared its head again, effectively ending our race just before the three-hour mark when a piece of gravel from the Lap 1 incident jammed the throttle pedal. The #22 spent six minutes in the garage and re-joined the race three laps down – the team managing to salvage a P5 class finish in the final hour (P13 overall).
The final of the 2023 European Le Mans Series is a Portuguese double-header on the 21-22nd October - the 4 Hours of Portimão and the 4 Hours of the Algarve. In the meantime, stay up to date with the team on social @unitedautosports.
Quali P7 | Race P3 (in class) | Champ P5
Daniel Schneider: “Back-to-back podiums! I’m happy with the final result but what matters most is the performance. And that was the first race of the year that I felt confident and comfortable in the car. So we are heading to Portimao with a lot of positives from Spa. I made a silly mistake in traffic but United Autosports worked brilliantly and put us back on track. Hats off to the whole United crew. Looking forward to the double header in Portugal!”
Andy Meyrick: “Absolutely crazy race … so many crashes, so many Safety Cars. With everything that was thrown at us, a podium is just fantastic. Now we go for the big one in Portimao.”
Nelson Piquet Jr: “Really happy with a podium. It was a tough race … there were so many Safety Cars, it was a gamble knowing whether to come in to the pits or not. Daniel had a bit of an off but the car didn’t get much damage, but I felt it was difficult to overtake when were all bunched together at the end after the Safety Cars … I managed to gain one place in the final minutes. We want a win so we’ll look forward to Portimao. We tested there and the car seemed really strong, so we’re eyeing for a good end to the season.”
Quali P2 | Race P5 (in class) | Champ P6
Marino Sato: “The incident at Turn 1 was … I don’t know how to describe it. I was stuck in the gravel trap so I thought we would immediately be a lap down having to wait for the rescue, but then one of the LMP3s drove straight into the back of me and bounced me out of the gravel, so we managed to keep going … with a bit more damage, but we managed to stay on the lead lap. The pace was decent … we were catching the leaders, but the Safety Car came out at the wrong time. Then more problems followed in Phil’s stint … we definitely weren’t one of the lucky ones on track.”
Phil Hanson: “Unfortunate race. We had a positive Quali with P2, just narrowly missing out on pole. But in the race, everything that could have possibly gone wrong did. We were crashed into the gravel at T1 on the first lap, and then later had to deal with a stone that was lodged behind the throttle pedal, not allowing me to go full throttle. We had a couple of emergency service stops when the strategy didn’t work out with Safety Cars and FCYs … and taking all that into consideration, it’s amazing that we finished fifth in class. But we don’t come here to finish fifth in class, we come here to win, so all in all a very frustrating day.”
Olly Jarvis: “That was absolutely horrendous … from starting on the front row, to getting taken out by a ridiculous move at T1 on the first lap. It destroyed our whole race. Marino did incredibly well to come back from that but unfortunately, after going through the gravel, it cost us later in the race when a stone got caught under the throttle. Couldn’t be more disappointed, the team have done a great job all weekend.”
Max Gregory: “The #21 team are continuing to build momentum in a highly competitive field, with another podium in our debut season in the LMP2 Pro/Am class - congratulations to Daniel, Andy and Nelson. It was Daniel's best race so far, so looking forward to see what they can do in Portimao. The #22 should have been fighting at the front too, the win was very achievable ... but a reckless move by Panis on the opening lap took that away. We fought back to the top once, but a stray piece of gravel from that incident ended the fight with an hour to go. A hard-fought race from both crews ... mixed feelings at the end of it all, but good to come home with another ELMS trophy.”