A battling third position by American duo John Falb and Sean Rayhall in Belgium today (24 Sep) sees United Autosports travel to the European Le Mans Series finalé in Portugal next month with a healthy 19-points lead in the Team’s LMP3 standings as the Anglo-American team bids to successfully defend its crown. Meanwhile Filipe Albuquerque, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer achieved a hard-earned fourth position in the Four Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – just 17 seconds behind the winning car– and remain second in the standings – now 18 points down on the leaders but still in the championship battle. The sister LMP3 Ligier JS P3 of Wayne Boyd, Christian England and Mark Patterson at last had a break from ill fortune to finish fifth in a race that featured multiple caution periods. The final ELMS round is staged at Portimão on 22 October with United still in the battle for two championship titles.
Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports:
“Roll on Portimão! We’re looking good in terms of retaining the LMP3 title and there’s everything to play for in LMP2 so we’re in a very cool position. It just wasn’t our day at Spa which is a strange to say when we’ve got another P3 podium and just missed out in P2.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“Today’s race results for all three cars are a little frustrating taking into account where we qualified. But we’ve extended our championship lead in LMP3 while we’re still in the hunt for P2 honours. All the drivers and team members once again were on top of their game.”
United’s singleton LMP2 entry started fourth – the best-placed Ligier – its LMP3 duo lined-up in second and third class positions. De Sadeleer made a stunning start and sensationally grabbed the lead exiting La Source as the front row starting cars all ran wide. Boyd impressively led LMP3 prior to a Full Course Yellow while the #2 of Rayhall spectacularly recovered places after the American was forced to take evasive action to avoid spinning cars on two separate occasions in the opening phase of the race.
A Safety Car period occurred moments before one-quarter distance causing a flurry of pit-stop action. The #32 Ligier, which had also pitted for fuel on 40 minutes, ran third when the race resumed with Owen now behind the wheel (fuel and three new tyres) while Rayhall lay fifth (fuel only) with Patterson, taking over from Boyd, eighth – neither P3 cars taking on fresh tyres. Owen led when championship rival and erstwhile race leading #22 pitted under another Safety Car period, Will losing the lead seconds before the halfway mark, with Rayhall and Patterson fourth and eighth in LMP3.
Owen pitted for fuel while Falb and England took over the #2 & #3 Ligiers respectively, the United Autosports trio running third overall (#32) plus eighth (#2) and 10th (#3) in LMP3 following another FCY period with 96 minutes remaining. Albuquerque was at the helm of the #32 with 70 minutes left on the clock and led with 37 minutes remaining but with fuel stops out of phase with some of its rivals with Falb and England placed second and fourth in their class. Boyd was back in the #3 Ligier for the final 31 minutes prior to Albuquerque and then Falb making their final pit-stops.
LMP2: #32 Albuquerque/Owen/de Sadeleer.
Qualified: 4th (FA) 2m 03.330s. Race: 4th.
Filipe Albuquerque (P): Born/Lives: Coimbra, Portugal. Age: 32
“The first half of the race went really well. We led for most of it but in the end we just came up short. Anything is still possible in terms of the championship. The team did a great strategy in difficult circumstances with the FCYs and Safety Car periods. We always knew Spa would be hard for us. Our Ligier wasn’t the fastest over a single lap but I still managed to get onto the second row ahead of an Oreca.”
Will Owen (US): Born: Plano, Texas. Lives: Denver, Colorado. Age: 22
“Fourth place is not what we wanted but we go to Portugal still with a chance of winning the championship so it’s not the end of the world. We now focus on Portimão and with a little luck, could snatch the championship.”
Hugo de Sadeleer (CH): Born: Lausanne, Switzerland. Lives: Monaco. Age: 20
“It’s a shame we didn’t get what we deserved in terms of a podium finish. We all drove well and the team excelled. I didn’t expect to get in to the lead at the start so that was a nice surprise!”
LMP3: #2 Falb/Rayhall. Qualified: 3rd (SR) 2m 14.487s. Race: 3rd.
#3 Boyd/England/Patterson. Qualified: 2nd (WB) 2m 14.345s. Race: 5th.
John Falb (US). Born: Dallas, Texas. Lives: Las Vegas, Nevada. Age: 45
“The Safety Cars didn’t help us today. I had a great stint, the car worked really well and the team did a good job. We’ve collected more points and so looking forward to heading to Portugal.”
Sean Rayhall (US): Born/Lives: Atlanta, Georgia. Age: 22
“United has again given John and I an awesome car. But the cautions really didn’t help us at all today. But despite this, we’ve come home with a good points haul again. I was really pleased with how qualifying went.”
Wayne Boyd (GB): Born: Belfast, Northern Ireland. Lives: Templepatrick, Northern Ireland. Age: 26
“Our pace was really good this weekend despite only getting a P5. Our crew can take many positives to Portugal from here. I was happy with P2 in qualifying – the Car was fantastic. The pole-sitting car was extremely fast in the middle sector so P2 was the next best thing. We had a good test here a few months ago and that really helped us.”
Christian England (GB): Born: Barnsley, UK. Lives: Huddersfield, UK. Age: 35
“I’ve really enjoyed the weekend. I didn’t have any issues during my stint. We were unlucky with the Safety Car which cost us a lap and that meant that we just couldn’t come back from that time deficit.”
Mark Patterson (US): Born: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Lives: Montana, USA. Age: 65
“All three of us had good stints. There were many [FCY/Safety Car] interruptions when I was in the car. It was good to finally get a clean run with the #3 Ligier after recent woes. And how can you not enjoy racing in such a competitive championship as ELMS at one of the world’s most fantastic tracks!”
Source. United Autosports