- + #22 scores 11th ELMS overall victory – fourth series LMP2 win at Spa
- + #3 leads LMP3 multiple times having started from best grid position of season
- + Birthday boy Finn Gehrsitz retires podium contender #2 after strong showing
United Autosports scored its first European Le Mans Series outright race victory of the season when Phil Hanson/Tom Gamble/Duncan Tappy steered their #22 Oreca to a magnificent 23 second win in the latest four-hour race in Belgium today (25 Sep).
The dominant victory at Spa-Francorchamps marked United’s 11th outright ELMS race victory – its fourth at Spa – and 23rd LMP2 podium since its 2017 series debut in the category covering 34 races.
#22 will head to the penultimate race of the season at Portimão next month (16 Oct) still placed third in the Team’s standings, the title now unfortunately out of reach but fighting for the runners-up spot, just three points behind the second-placed car and with 26 points up for grabs in Portugal. #3 and #2 lie sixth and ninth respectively in the LMP3 Teams’ division after the former finished fifth while #2 cruelly retired with a possible podium on the cards.
The four-hour race began under partial blue skies, the track still damp and even wet in places from overnight rain with the United trio all on slick tyres. #22 (Tappy) started from the second row of the 39-car grid but immediately snatched second, superbly maintaining that position despite intense pressure during the opening hour.
Contact from behind resulted in #22 dropping to third after a half spin over the kerb before Hanson took over and brilliantly seized the lead approaching mid-distance following an FCY. Gamble took over #22 and lay over 37 seconds ahead with an hour remaining.
In LMP3, #3 (Bentley) started from its class “front row” with the #2 Ligier (Caygill) in fifth spot, #3 leading on 23 minutes, United’s LMP3 duo briefly running 1-2 in the first hour. #3 (Van Berlo) led again momentarily before pitting to McGuire (106 minutes) with Voisin now in the #2, the duo running P5 (#3) and P6 (#2) at the halfway marks.
With 80mins remaining, #2 (Voisin) lay second while Van Berlo was back in the #3 placed ninth – Gehrsitz took over the #2 with just over an hour to run but his fourth-placed Ligier suffered a transmission issue and retired (53mins) – a podium having looked likely – the #3 coming home fifth in the sunshine.
#22 Phil Hanson (GB)/Tom Gamble (GB)/Duncan Tappy (GB)
Qualified (LMP2): 4th (PH). Race (LMP2): 1st
Duncan: “The first couple of hours were always going to be tricky after overnight rain, the track drying slowly in the cool conditions. The opening 20mins were extremely difficult just to keep the car in a straight-line. The team have done an incredible job this weekend.”
Phil: “Car has been mega since we arrived on Wednesday. My stints were strong, catching the leader and passing him then hitting my fuel numbers. It was a very controlled race for us while United provided us with everything and more allowing us to score a dominant win.”
Tom: “I’m really happy. Our car has been super strong. Duncan did a good job in very difficult conditions. After taking over from Phil who got us into the lead, it was just a case of me bringing it home safely. Hopefully we can end the year on a high in Portimão.”
#2 Josh Caygill (GB)/Bailey Voisin (GB)/Finn Gehrsitz (DE)
Qualified (LMP3): 5th (FG). Race (LMP3): DNF
Josh: “‘There was plenty going on at the start and I enjoyed my stints. We were looking good for a solid result so it’s especially unfortunate and frustrating we suffered the clutch issue. We showed good pace which hopefully we carry through to Portugal.”
Bailey: “My stint was straightforward and enjoyable. I focussed on being consistent and keeping it clean. We were in a strong position, fighting for what could have been a good result so the retirement is a real shame but we re-group and re-set for Portimão.”
Finn: “I was so motivated getting into the car for my stint, our position looked good and heading for a podium. But immediately after taking over, I felt something was wrong. The clutch was slipping every time I shifted. With every lap it got worse so I stopped.”
#3 Jim McGuire (USA)/Kay Van Berlo (NED)/Andrew Bentley (GB)
Qualified (LMP3): 2nd (KvB). Race (LMP3): 5th
Andrew: “Really challenging first stint. 30mins before the race start, we were debating whether to start on wets or slicks but we chose the latter which turned out to be the right call. It was a case of being brave and exploring the grip while keeping everything clean.”
Kay: “My first stint only lasted 30mins or so on double-stinted tyres which went pretty well and was then back in for around 90mins after Jim’s stint, making up a couple of positions. The pace was good, car was great, pit-stops flawless – the team doing an awesome job.”
Jim: “Really pleased with today’s result, finishing P5 at Spa is fantastic. We had a great car and Andrew gets a lifetime achievement award for his stint in those conditions. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any luck with our strategy finishing up nine seconds off P4.”
Max Gregory, Managing Director:
“Fantastic job by the LMP2 crew and drivers, bringing home another dominant win here in Spa. It’s great to continue our impressive run of results of four wins in five years. The points we’ve scored are crucial in helping us close the gap to second in the championship.
For the #3 car, after a great qualifying performance from Kay, Andrew had a brilliant start to the race, taking the lead and handing the car over to Jim and Kay who were able to stay out of trouble and bring the car home in a very credible fifth place.
Car #2 were unlucky, missing out on what looked like a sure podium finish after developing a technical problem in the last stint of the race. I really feel for the drivers and the crew. We need to understand the cause of the issue, then we will be aiming to finish the championship on a high at Portimao.”