- Brilliant race start and traffic control for 16-year-old Pierson
- Lynn proved faultless, setting blistering pace despite treacherous wet weather conditions
- Double podium up for grabs after Albuquerque’s top three qualifying performance on Friday in #22
2019-2020 LMP2 FIA World Endurance Teams’ Trophy winners United Autosports head to the Le Mans 24 Hours next month with the #23 placed second – #22 sixth – in this year’s standings, aiming to repeat its magnificent triumph in the French “classic” from two years ago.
The UK-based squad, winners of the opening WEC race at Sebring (USA) two months ago, unluckily placed fifth (#22, Phil Hanson (GB)/Filipe Albuquerque (POR)/Will Owen (USA)) and sixth (#23, Alex Lynn (GB)/Oliver Jarvis (GB)/Josh Pierson (USA)) in the latest six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps after late race dramas. Josh and Olly are the highest-placed United drivers in the Driver’s title race in second, with the #22 trio seventh.
United’s two Oreca-07’s began the six-hour race around the slightly revised 4.35-mile Belgian track in dry conditions placed third (#22) and an unrepresentative 14th (#23), the latter completing just one “push” lap in quali in the 15-car LMP2 field, the day before.
Both cars were inside the top-five with an hour gone then second (#23) and third (#22) – fifth and sixth overall – at mid-distance following numerous Safety Car periods plus two Red Flag race stoppages caused by on-track incidents and heavy rain.
The stop-start nature of the race continued into the second half of the race with further Safety Car periods and another Red Flag stoppage due to heavy rain. Both cars went on to slicks with 80mins remaining, still placed second and third, the #22 having leap-frogged #23 at the pit-stop. The #23’s driver’s door malfunctioned preventing the intended driver change, the swap successfully undertaken by using the “passenger” door a few laps later.
#22 diced for second in the final hour but suffered a half spin, taking fifth at the chequered flag, one place ahead of the unfortunate #23 which was often the fastest LMP2 in the closing stages. A double podium certainly on the cards, thwarted by unpredictable racing incidents.
The team’s next FIA World Endurance Championship duty is The 90th 24 Hours of Le Mans which takes place on 11–12 June, where they will make history yet again with Josh Pierson who is set to become the youngest Le Mans driver entrant.
#22 Phil Hanson (GB)/Filipe Albuquerque (POR)/Will Owen (USA)
Qualified: 3rd (FA). Race: 5th
Phil: “I spun on a damp patch under braking trying to overtake the Toyota which was slow. It’s a shame that trying to get ahead, which wasn’t an easy task because of the Toyotas power on other parts of the track, affected our race. I gave it everything trying to get back fourth but it just too difficult to overtake offline on slicks. I’m just sorry for the team.”
Filipe: “It was really tricky with Red Flags, FCYs, many incidents and a lot of rain. It was one hell of a race. We remained in the top-three, I don’t believe we had the pace for the win but the closing stages were really frustrating with the Toyota costing us a place on the podium when Phil spun having to go offline attempting to pass. It’s super frustrating.”
Will: “It was a very eventful to say the least with the Red Flags and rain. I drove at the beginning when it was dry, lost a couple of positions at the start but recovered one during the stint and fought hard, so that was rewarding. It's unfortunate for us that another class interfered with our race which is never what you want. It's disappointing but we now focus on Le Mans.”
#23 Alex Lynn (GB)/Oliver Jarvis (GB)/Josh Pierson (USA)
Qualified: 14th (OJ). Race: 6th
Alex: “Our car was incredibly good while the team were faultless on a very typical day at Spa weatherwise. It was a fun race to compete in and I’m sure the fans enjoyed it. Unfortunately a problem with the door cost us a likely podium. We’re looking for revenge at Le Mans.”
Oliver: “Josh and Alex did awesome jobs. Our car had great pace and the team were exceptional. We were in a commanding podium position but were just unlucky. The door failed costing us time but I’d rather that happen at Spa than next month at Le Mans!”
Josh: “We all had a great car. It’s unfortunate how things turned out with the door issue losing us time. Considering those circumstances, to salvage a sixth-place finish and score valuable points on my European car race debut was quite pleasing. I’m very confident looking ahead to my maiden Le Mans.”
Richard: “Fifth and sixth doesn't feel like the right result for the pace that we had in both cars, it’s tough to take, but I’d rather problems hit us here than at Le Mans. The #23 drivers were faultless. It was a perfect race from Josh to go from 14th to take us in to contention. Alex was the quickest driver in the pouring rain, he was flying and didn’t put a foot wrong. Olly got into the car in very difficult conditions, on slicks on a drying track, and matched the LMP2 winning car’s lap times. We lost a combined 100secs with the door issue which put us out of podium contention. The #22 was in the podium battle throughout. Will did a good job staying in touch, then Filipe in the rain kept us in the hunt before Phil, who was driving well and aggressively, suffered a couple of spins which lost him track position in the second-place fight.”
Zak: “If we’re gonna suffer niggling problems, let it be at Spa rather than at Le Mans next month when double points are up for grabs. Both cars were looking good for podium positions but motor racing can be a cruel sport sometimes. We’ll regroup and be stronger