The no22 United Autosports Oreca of Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson was the quickest car in free practice and claimed pole position for the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. The Anglo-Portuguese teammates went on to claim their first win of the 2019 season and maximum championship points at the end of a thrilling race in Belgium.
The no51 Luzich Racing Ferrari 488 GTE took the lead at the start of the race and held on to win the category in 14th overall, with Alessandro Pier Guidi taking the chequered flag just 2.7 seconds ahead of the no77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche. Fabien Lavergne, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessandro Pier Guidi stood on the top step of the Spa podium as 2019 ELMS LMGTE Champions with one race to go.
The LMP3 race was won on the final corner with the no11 Eurointernational Ligier of Jens Petersen and Mikkel Jensen taking the chequered flag. The American flagged team was lying in third place behind the no7 Nielsen Racing Norma of Tony Wells and the no13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier on the final lap. A slower car held up Wells and Nigel Moore was able to take the lead only to be held up in turn and was passed by Jensen’s Ligier at the final corner.
Perfect Weather at Spa-Francorchamps
The race started under blue skies, with warm temperatures and a strong breeze blowing across the circuit. The grid was bolstered by the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca and the no31 Algarve Pro Racing Oreca after both cars had been badly damaged in heavy crashes during free practice. Both cars had to start at the back of the LMP2 grid but the fact that they were there at all was testament to the hard work by the mechanics and engineers at the two teams. The no5 360 Racing Ligier was also on the grid after it had suffered damage following a trackside fire earlier in the weekend.
The 37 cars headed to the first corner behind the no22 United Autosports Oreca of Phil Hanson. The no20 High Class Racing Oreca of Anders Fjordback spun at T1 but the rest of the field got through the opening corner safely.
The no77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 of Christian Ried was passed by the no51 Luzich Racing Ferrari of Fabien Lavergne for the lead of LMGTE while the no9 Realteam Racing Norma of David Droux was being challenged by the no19 M Racing Norma of Lucas Legeret for the lead of LMP3, with Mikkel Jensen’s no11 Eurointernational Ligier in third.
The Safety Car was deployed after 35 minutes of racing when Bruno Senna went off into the tyre wall at T14 in the no43 RLR MSport Oreca, the Brazilian getting back on track and back to the pits to repair the front end damage with the assistance of the marshals.
Many of the front cars used the safety car as an opportunity to pit for fuel and tyres and when the race resumed the no30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca of Pierre Ragues was leading from Phil Hanson.
David Droux was still leading the LMP3 field but he had Lucas Legeret and the no7 Nielsen Racing Norma of Colin Noble challenging for the lead. Noble moved ahead of Legeret and then was challenging Droux only to clip the rear of the lead car on the Kemmel Straight causing some rear bodywork damage. Noble was given a Stop and Go penalty as a result but the no9 Realteam Racing Norma had to go into the garage later in the race to repair the resulting damage, dropping the pole sitters out of contention.
The no51 Ferrari was still leading the LMGTE category with Fabien Lavergne holding a 1 second lead over the no60 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Sergio Pianezzola, with the no77 Porsche in third.
Filipe Albuquerque was now at the wheel of the no22 United Autosports Oreca-Gibson, holding a 14 second advantage over the no30 Oreca of Richard Bradley, with Paul Loup Chatin in the no28 IDEC Sport Oreca in third after starting at the back of the LMP2 grid.
The no19 M Racing Norma of Lucas Legeret spun at T13, the Swiss drivers car becoming beached on the inside kerb with what appeared to be broken suspension. The Safety Car was once again deployed for nearly 15 minutes to recover the car.
The no7 Nielsen Racing Norma with Tony Wells at the wheel was in front of Richard Bradley’s Oreca, who was the overall leader after Albuquerque dived into the pits. This meant that Wells was waved past the Safety Car while his LMP3 rivals had to wait behind Bradley. This gave the English driver a two minute class lead when the race went back to green.
Filipe Albuquerque had to replace a punctured tyre under the safety car and was stopped at pit entry, meaning the no22 United Autosports Oreca rejoined in 9th place.
Nicolas Lapierre was now at the wheel of the no37 Cool Racing Oreca and after passing the no26 G Drive Racing Aurus of Job Van Uitert at Blanchimont the French driver set off after Bradley’s Duqueine Engineering Oreca. The two cars were side by side into the last corner with Bradley’s Oreca running wide allowing the no37 Oreca to take the lead with Tristan Gommendy’s no39 Graff Oreca right behind.
In LMP3 the large lead gifted to Tony Wells in the no7 Nielsen Racing Norma was being eroded by the no13 Euro Interpol Competition Ligier of Nigel Moore but he still had a 60 second advantage as a Full Course Yellow period was declared to remove the no24 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier which had stopped at T12.
The race went green with just under an hour remaining but within 15 minutes another Full Course Yellow was declared to collect the front left light pod of the no7 Nielsen Racing Norma came off the car at T1. Tony Wells brought the no7 Norma into the pits for repairs, which allowed the no13 Ligier of Nigel Moore into the lead.
Tristan Gommendy was leading in the no39 Graff Oreca, 12 seconds ahead of Phil Hanson, who was back at the wheel of the no22 Oreca.
However, the no39 Oreca was given a drive through penalty for not respecting the Full Course Yellow procedures. As Gommendy came into the pits to serve the penalty another Full Course Yellow was declared to recover a stranded car. This meant the gap between the leading no22 Oreca and the no39 Graff Oreca was just 7.7 seconds as the race went back to green, with 2 seconds between Gommendy and the charging Antonin Borga in the no37 Cool Racing Oreca-Gibson. Gommendy was struggling for grip but kept Borga at bay as the race entered the final 15 minutes.
The no13 Euro Interpol Competition Ligier of Nigel Moore came into the pits unexpectedly to replace a punctured tyre, dropping the British driver behind the no7 Norma of Tony Wells, with Mikkel Jensen’s no11 Ligier catching up in third.
The race entered the final lap with the no22 United Autosports Oreca of Phil Hansen heading to the chequered flag as the no39 Graff and no37 Cool Racing Orecas battled for the minor podium positions. At the final corner Borga dived down the outside of Gommendy, with the no39 Graff pushing the no37 Cool Racing car out onto the kerbs. Borga kept his foot in and muscled his way past and took the chequered flag just ahead of the no39 Oreca. The move was initially given a 10 second penalty but this was rescinded by the Stewards after the podium ceremony and the no37 Cool Racing Oreca was confirmed in second place.
The LMP3 battle also raged with Nigel Moore moving ahead of Tony Wells on the last lap with Mikkel Jensen taking second place at Stavelot. At the final corner Jensen passed the no13 Ligier to secure an impressive victory.
The no51 Luzich Racing Ferrari and the no77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche kept fighting until the chequered flag with Alessandro Pier Guidi holding on to claim the victory and the 2019 ELMS LMGTE Team and Driver titles. The no55 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Matt Griffin finished third just 16 seconds behind the no77 Porsche of Riccardo Pera.
CLICK HERE for the result of the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
CLICK HERE for the press winners press conference
CLICK HERE for the championship positions after Round 5, the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.