The team continued their run of podiums in 2016 when Alex Lynn, Shaun Lynn and Richard Meins brought their Gulf Marine liveried #23 Ligier JS P3 home in second place after 12 hours of racing round the Yas Marina circuit. Finishing in third place were Jim McGuire, Matt Keegan, Nico Rondet and former Formula One driver Stefan Johansson in the #22 Ligier JS P3.
After qualifying on Friday, where the average time of three of the qualifying drivers determined the grid positions, our two Ligier JS P3s lined up sixth and seventh with a number of cars ahead filled with all-pro driver line ups. Alex set the fastest lap of the whole weekend with a 2:06:250 during his qualifying session. Richard and Shaun then completed their qualifying laps, with the average time for all three drivers putting the #23 Ligier seventh on the grid for the start of the race. The #22 Ligier qualified sixth after times were set by Stefan Johansson, Nico Rondet and Matt Keegan, with Stefan setting the fastest LMP3 bronze driver time by almost a second with a 2:09:018.
The race began early on Saturday morning, with Alex Lynn taking the start for the #23 Ligier. Alex soon made his way through the pack to take the overall lead, but pitted after an hour so Shaun could take the wheel. As per the race regulations, Alex was limited to only two hours of driving over the whole 12-hour race, meaning Shaun and Richard had to split 10 hours of driving between them. There was a lengthy safety car period shortly after Shaun began his first stint, caused by a Lamborghini crashing heavily into the barriers on the entry into turn eight, which required extensive barrier repairs. Once racing resumed, both Shaun and Richard maintained consistent times to keep their position, ultimately finishing third in class at the end of the first half of the race. Unfortunately, the race regulations stated that the LMP3 cars had to make two extra mandatory timed pit stops compared to the GT3 cars, meaning it was almost impossible for an LMP3 car to win outright.
Stefan Johansson took the start for the #22 Ligier JS P3 from sixth place overall, maintaining his position as he got accustomed to the car and racing after a four year break. Towards the end of his first stint, Stefan reported that he’d had contact with a slower car, forcing the team the pit the car for repairs to the front suspension mounting and front nose section. The team managed to complete the extensive repairs in great time, meaning only 16 minutes were lost while the car was stationary in the garage. All four drivers were experiencing their first taste of the Ligier JS P3, but all improved their times over the first six hours of racing, ultimately finishing fourth at the end of the first half.
The second half of the race began as the sun began to set, with Alex once again taking the start in the #23 Ligier JS P3 from 11th overall. Alex drove a stunning hour-long stint, setting fastest lap after fastest lap while overtaking all 10 cars in front of him. Nico Rondet took the start of the second half for the #22 car crew from 16th position. The second half of the race was calmer than the first as both driver crews maintained their good pace and positions of second and third in class – car 22 having made a good recovery after their early delays in the first half of the race. However, with around an hour left to run, car 22 had contact with another car, causing damage the left-hand exhaust, meaning a further pit-stop to rectify the problem. After swift repairs, Nico made his way back out for the final stint of the 12 hours.
Richard brought the #23 Ligier JS P3 home in second place, while Nico brought the #22 Ligier JS P3 across the line in third.
The Gulf 12 Hours marks the final race of the year for the 2016 European Le Mans Series LMP3 champions. Over the course of the year the team have won three races and scored a podium in every race they have entered. In 2017 United Autosports will enter the Le Mans 24 Hours and the LMP2 class of the European Le Mans Series with their Ligier JS P217. They will also focus on retaining their LMP3 championship in the ELMS with their two Ligier JS P3s.
Alex Lynn, driver, #23 United Autosports:
“I think we’ve all had a really great race. It was great to take the lead at the start and I felt the car was handling really well but it was just a shame I had to pass so much GT traffic but once we got into the lead I could maintain a good pace. I passed the car over to my dad and I think from there on we just kept a consistent race. Unfortunately we went a couple of laps down at the end of the first part of the race, which took us out of position. I then started the second race and had another good start, passing both Graff Ligiers straight away and then tried to build as much of a gap as I could. From there it was all about bringing it home to the finish. I think we will all go home quite happy with a second place.”
Shaun Lynn, driver, #23 United Autosports:
“My race was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I think I improved a lot too. The car was amazing, the team was amazing and it couldn’t be better. It was really nice to be back in the LMP3 car too and really find out what the car can do. It was amazing to race it round such a beautiful track. It was fantastic to race with Alex too – it’s been a dream of mine for a long time to race with my son, it was quite emotional in some parts. Given that Alex could only do two hours of the race, it was tough for Richard and I to race the other 10! We only had around 40 minutes between each of our stints, which was tough. We came home with a podium and fell more in love with the car, so what more can you want.”
Richard Meins, driver, #23 United Autosports:
“It’s the first time I’ve raced an LMP3 car but what was great was that we arrived on Tuesday and have been on track since Wednesday so I’ve had a lot of time in the car. It is an amazing car, its different to anything I’ve raced before so I had a lot to learn. It was fantastic to have Alex around too, it advances you much quicker as he’s not just fast, he’s exceptional. I struggled in the first half of the race, but the second half I really enjoyed. We had a fantastic result and we couldn’t have asked for more.”
Jim McGuire, driver, #22 United Autosports:
“I’ve had a fantastic weekend, I’ve enjoyed every part of it. The car was fantastic, the team were fantastic and it was an incredible experience – I never thought I’d be racing around Yas Marina! I was learning the car more than anything and trying to get comfortable with it – it’s a big step from what I’ve been driving, but it’s an incredible car. The whole experience has been great.”
Stefan Johansson, driver, #22 United Autosports:
“I had a good race. I didn’t feel completely on top of it when we started as I haven’t been in a racing car for nearly four years but the last half of the race was great, I really enjoyed it. I felt like I got a bit of my mojo back, which is nice. The Ligier JS P3 is a great car, really fun to drive, quite challenging but brilliant. It was nice to be racing a Ligier again too – very special. It’s 28 years since I last drove one and it was great. I loved racing for United again too, everyone is great, it’s a super tight team. Everyone’s still here whom I remember from last time. It’s always a pleasure to drive with this team.”
Matt Keegan, driver, #22 United Autosports:
“What a fantastic race and what a great team. You always want to go faster but I was happy with my overall pace. The car was great and we got a good set up for the car. I think the last stints were the best of the whole weekend. I’d love to race in LMP3 again – I love the car.”
Nico Rondet, driver, #22 United Autosports:
“It was a fantastic experience to race in the Gulf 12 Hours with United Autosports – and having Stefan Johansson as a team mate! It was great fun too I might add. We learned a lot as a group of drivers and got more comfortable with the Ligier as well as the team. We are looking forward to doing more races with United Autosports soon hopefully.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“I’m really pleased with both teams and the results we will go back home with. It was great having Alex bring his experience and speed to the team – he did some stunning lap times over the whole week, not only in qualifying but during the race too. Welcoming Shaun, Richard and Stefan back to the team was a pleasure too, and having Jim, Matt and Nico join us as newcomers. I was pleased that both cars got to the end of the race too, and even more proud to maintain our podium record in 2016. It’s a testament to the guys at Onroak Automotive who have produced such a stunning car in the Ligier JS P3. It’s not easy getting to the end of any endurance race, but I’m really happy with the outcome of our final race of the year. Now onto 2017 and see what we can do there.”
Source. United Autosports