STUNNING VICTORY & TRIPLE PODIUM SEES UNITED AUTOSPORTS END ELMS SEASON ON A HIGH
- Second consecutive outright race win for Hanson and Albuquerque
- Owen/de Sadeleer/Boyd score first ELMS podium of season
- Falb/Andrews score second LMP3 podium finish in a row
United Autosports brought the curtain down on its European Le Mans Series campaign in magnificent style today (28 Oct). Having won both the LMP2 and LMP3 categories at the previous race, the #22 Ligier of Phil Hanson (GB) and Filipe Albuquerque (POR) swept their Ligier to a second consecutive outright ELMS victory with the sister #32 of Will Owen (US)/Hugo de Sadeleer (CH)/Wayne Boyd (GB) claiming third place in Portugal. Meanwhile John Falb (US)/Scott Andrews (AUS) achieved their second straight LMP3 podium finish with third while Matt Bell (GB)/Tony Wells (GB)/Garett Grist (CAN) were classified seventh in the Four Hours of Portimão staged at the roller-coaster Algarve International Circuit. However, despite heading to the Algarve in contention of retaining the LMP3 championship title the Anglo-American team had won each year since entering ELMS in 2016, it missed out on this occasion, finishing third after scoring four podiums including two wins, the #2 and #3 combining to record 10 top-seven results in this year’s six races. It’s two-car LMP2 entry was frustrated with a variety of niggles robbing them of top results on numerous occasions this season, the majority of issues purely down to sheer bad luck. The #22 and #32 nevertheless posted eight top-six results during the six-race season that included four podiums and two wins .
The #22 (Hanson) and #32 (de Sadeleer) started from third and seventh places, Owen having achieved the #32’s best qualifying position of the season the previous day, #22 and #32, running fifth and sixth, made their scheduled stops on 47 minutes, keeping position but in reverse order. The pair continued fifth (#32) and sixth (#22) prior to the second scheduled stops for the LMP2 field, #22 pitting from second place on 92 minutes with the leading #32 making a full service to Boyd one lap later. #22 (Hanson) swept into the lead moments before mid-distance with #32 (Boyd) third before both cars stopped under Full Course Yellow conditions. #32 jumped the sister #22 for the lead at the re-start, United Autosports running 1-2 at the head of the field. With 90 minutes remaining, #32 led #22 by 5 seconds – 10 seconds ahead of the field. Under Safety Car conditions, both Ligiers pitted for full services with the #22 (Albuquerque) snatching the lead in the pit-lane with #32 (Owen) dropping to third after a slight delay taking off. With an hour remaining the top-four cars were covered by one second, #22 and #32 placed first and third but slipped to second (#22) and fourth (#32) three minutes later. With the final pit-stops completed and with 30 miniutes remaining, #22 led by 4 seconds with #32 fourth, on-track positions they retained to the chequered flag while a 10 seconds time penalty for the third-placed car elevated the #32 to the final podium place.
#2 (Andrews) started from fifth while the championship title contending #3 began from a disappointing 14th (Grist), Bell having endured an ill-handling #3 the previous day. #2 and #3 completed the first hour eighth and ninth, #2 pitting for fuel and a new front nose, damaged in opening laps, on 64 minutes with #3 making a full service scheduled stop five minutes later resuming eighth with Bell at the wheel. #3 and #2 ran fourth – despite being hit by an LMP2 car – and 10th at mid-distance while Wells and Falb took over #3 and #2 respectively at pit-stops during the mid-race FCY to run fourth and ninth. With 70 minutes to go, the #2 went ahead of #3 for fourth and ran second with #3 third before #2 received a 10 seconds penalty added to its last pit-stop for track limits. #2 and #3 lay third and fifth with 30 minutes left. Fifth-placed #3 was given a drive-through penalty for not respecting the FCY speed limit in the closing stages, dropping the car to an eventual seventh, with the #2 holding on to a well-deserved third-place.
“We won the previous race at Spa but this victory is super special – I feel very proud of this win. I drove a near quadruple stint and it was very hard. Filipe did a good job to qualify the car P3 which makes a big difference – starting in clean air doesn’t damage the tyres for example. I lost a couple of positions due to catching traffic at exactly the wrong time and had to do quite a lot of tyre management in terms of ‘saving’ the tyres. Filipe’s advice has helped me massively with that element. It’s been a great team effort to achieve this result. A podium at the Red Bull Ring plus a win at Spa and now here is a great way to head to the Asian series with United.”
“I’m very happy to finish my ELMS season with two victories. I had to use the traffic to my advantage to keep ahead of the G-Drive and Panis Barthez cars at times during my stints. Our strategy was great and I had pretty much everything under control although Will Stevens put me under pressure over the last two laps. Phil did an amazing job, not only today but throughout the season. He’s listened to the advice I’ve given him and has made big improvements during the season – I’m super proud of him.”
“My engineer told me the G-Drive car had a penalty and that I must finish the race within 10 seconds of him. So I was pushed super hard just like qualifying laps. I drove as fast as I could, the [tyre] degradation was pretty high but the car’s balance remained pretty good, and I managed to get that podium finish which is awesome. The Ligier today was probably the best race car I’ve had this season which is a highlight.”
Hugo de Sadeleer
“The race start was pretty hectic with lots of cars locking up. I managed to steer clear of trouble and focus on my own race. I made a small mistake which cost me some places but I ultimately worked my way back up. There was a lot of fuel and tyre management going on as we had decided on a conservative strategy and it all worked out positively.”
“I had a brilliant stint taking over from Hugo who had put the #32 in a good position. I felt my pace was strong and it was a case of managing the traffic and trying to catch Phil in the #22. It’s so nice to finish off the season on a high having been able to show our true pace in the last two races.”
“It was a crazy race going up and down the order during the entire four hours. I made a mistake early in my stint which I had to come back from. But I put my head down, dug deep and kept pushing forward. So to take third here, having won the previous race as Spa, is a great way to finish the season.”
“I made a safe and solid start despite a lot going on around me and settled into a good rhythm. Unfortunately, early in my first stint, an LMP2 chopped across my front when overtaking which ripped a dive plane off which screwed us big time. We had to change the nose at our scheduled pit-stop. The wind made things difficult and I flat-spotted both of my front tyres. But our engineer Gary did a great job setting up the car for John and I.”
“Track conditions, mainly due to the headwind, had changed massively for qualifying which caught us out, but in the race my pace was good and went forward. Unfortunately I was rammed up the back by an LMP2 car, while overtaking for position, causing substantial floor damage at the back. That was extremely disappointing as was some of the driver standards in other LMP2 cars who were lapping at our LMP3 pace."
“The car initially wasn’t too bad but then a braking problem prevented me from attacking. I also had to keep the same tyres for my second stint and I struggled with the front left which was completely shot – causing massive understeer at the last corner. I plugged away but that was as quick as I could go today. It’s been an up and down season but to achieve a class race win this season and get third place in the final standings is pretty good.”
“We’d dug ourselves into a big hole starting back in 14th in terms of our championship deciding weekend. My pace was good and I moved up through the field. We picked up some penalties but also the third-placed silverware so it wasn’t too bad in the end.”
Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports:
“What an awesome way to finish off the ELMS season with our two cars on the LMP2 podium for the first time in our first year of running two cars in that class and picking up another LMP3 podium and more silverware with third in the LMP3 standings having won the title for the past two years. We’ll come back bigger, better and stronger to ELMS next year but now we focus on our first campaign in the Asian Le Mans Series.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“Very proud to ultimately achieve 1-3 overall, having ran 1-2 for much of the race, combined with a LMP3 class podium. Phil did an incredible job to pass the #22 to Filipe in a winning position. I’m happy for Hugo, Wayne and Will to finish on a high and prove to everyone what they’re capable of achieving. We had the pace to win LMP3 and despite picking up time penalties with both cars, we achieved a class podium and third place in the final standings. The entire team did a fantastic job this weekend and I’m delighted for everyone at Onroak and Ligier.”
UNITED AUTOSPORTS SCORES THIRD MICHELIN LE MANS CUP PODIUM OF SEASON
Earlier today in bright sunshine but very cold, windy and dry weather conditions, the curtain came down on the Michelin Le Mans Cup with United recording its fourth top-five finish – third podium – in the seven-race series with two United cars placed inside the top-six. #32 (Husain), #23 (Meins) and #22 (McGuire) started from 10th, 14th and 17th places on the 18-car LMP3 grid – #23 and #22 making up numerous places on the opening lap. #23, ninth after 15 minutes, slipped behind #32 with 30 minutes gone, the pair running impressively 10th and 11th, while #22 had dropped to 16th after a couple of spins. With 55 minutes run, the three United cars pitted together from 11th (#32), 14th (#23) and 17th (#22) with “pro” drivers Braun (#32), England (#23) and Bell (#22) taking over from their respective “sporting” co-drivers. With all compulsory pit-stops completed and with 52 minutes remaining, #32, #23 and #22 lay ninth, 12th and 15th respectively. At the chequered flag after two hours, Braun had brilliantly charged through to second (#32) – a mere 0.731 seconds behind the winning car to score its best finish of the season – with the #23 and #22 placed sixth and 12th respectively after strong performances.
“I had a fun start to the race, moving up to 12th, before I spun under braking at Turn 6, sat there and watched the field go by. I re-started at the back and just plugged away until handing the car over to Matt. P12 at the chequer wasn’t a bad recovery.”
“It’s got windier and cooler each day which have combined to making track conditions very challenging. I’ve had a load of fun driving with Jim again this season and we were just a little unlucky today when he got caught out by the car, which was a bit lively to drive, on a couple of occasions.”
"Very happy and pleased with sixth place although we could have done a bit better. I made a really great start, making up places in the opening eight laps, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t feel comfortable with the car for the second half of my stint and dropped positions."
“An entertaining race. I was able to pick some cars off, thoroughly enjoyed myself and am pleased to finish the season with a second consecutive top-six finish. Richard did really well considering his lack of laps in FP2 which resulted in a frustrating qualifying for him. But he kept it clean in the race as usual, completed a steady stint and handed me a car in good shape.”
“It’s great to get our first podium of the season. I love this track but the wind made things a little tricky. A fantastic experience. Colin drove brilliantly and the team have done a great job all season.”
“Naj did a nice job at the start and we had a good, clean pit-stop. I just put my head down which resulted in me making up places. It would have been nice to have had a Safety Car as opposed to a Full Course Yellow during my stint but it was really close in the end anyway, grabbing second while also defending from behind, which I had to ‘manage’. A lot of fun and one more lap could have seen us take the win but I’m still very happy.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“A great podium plus a sixth place is a perfect way to end our MLMC season. Colin was the real star of the race and Naj and him finally got the result they’ve been threatening to achieve all season. Christian drove exceptionally well as did all of our drivers today.”