After finishing in the top 5 (fourth in LM P2) on their first outing in the Le Mans 24 Hours last June, United Autosports repeated this feat on their debut in the Daytona 24 Hours. The #32 Ligier JS P217 entered by the Anglo-American team crossed the finishing line in fourth place after a stunning race in which the car covered 804 laps.
United Autosports’ first Daytona 24-Hours race was crowned by a superb fourth place. The #32 Ligier JS P217 started in 15th place in the hands of Will Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer, Paul Di Resta and Bruno Senna who was the only one of the four to have already raced in the Florida classic. They fought their way back up the field into the top 10 first of all, and then into the top 5. A podium finish looked on the cards until the car was delayed by a clutch problem; and finally they took the chequered flag in fourth place behind the winning Cadillacs #5 and #31 and the #54 Oreca LM P2.
The team entrusted its second car to an experienced trio, Phil Hanson, Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso who were all Daytona 24-Hour rookies. Alonso made a great start to the race and fought his way up into the top 5 before taking the provisional lead in the race in what was his first drive in a sports prototype. But in the following hours the #23 Ligier JS P217 ran into different technical problems, in particular a puncture, a broken master brake cylinder, an accelerator issue, etc. The #23 Ligier JS P217 confirmed its potential by setting the fastest lap in the race in LM P2. In the closing stages the team quite logically opted for safety and kept the car in the pits for the final laps of the event. It then went out to take the chequered flag and ensured that the two Ligier JS P217s were classified finishers in their first Daytona 24 Hours!
Tequila Patron ESM, which won the 2016 event with the Ligier JS P2, did not enjoy such a successful race this year. The American team’s two Nissan DPis were able to match the pace of the front-runners and looked like they could score a good result until both fell out of contention in the space of a few hours during the night.
The #2 Nissan DPi, 4th in the 2017 event in its first race, went on to win the Petit Le Mans, the final round of that year’s championship. At Daytona it suffered a gearbox problem and retired shortly after half-distance. The car driven by Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Olivier Pla was in 20th place on the grid, the last in the prototype category as it didn’t take part in qualifying due to an engine change, and was among the 10 front-runners getting as high as the top 3.
A few hours later engine problems forced the #22 Nissan DPi to throw in the towel. Victorious at Road America a few months earlier the second car run by the Extreme Speed Motorsports team was driven by Johannes van Overbeek, Pipo Derani and Nicolas Lapierre this weekend. It made a great start to the race and was then the victim of two punctures, which dropped the Nissan DPi down the time sheets, but it fought its way back into the top 5 and set the provisional fastest lap in the race 156th time round, which was improved by only one other car later on.
The AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports team, the result of a merger between AFS Racing and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports during the winter break, finished the Daytona 24 Hours in 12th place in the prototype category. The team opted for consistency despite an off in the middle of the night with the #52 Ligier JS P217 driven by Sebastian Saavedra, Gustavo Yacaman, Roberto Gonzalez and Nicholas Boulle this weekend.
The second round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will again take place in Florida with the Sebring 12 Hours on 14 – 17 March.
Jacques Nicolet: “Of course we were dreaming of repeating the 2016 result with the victory of the Ligier JS P2, but we’ll have to get down to analysing this race and draw the appropriate conclusions from it. The Nissan DPis entered by Extreme Speed Motorsports were in with a good chance. They were on the pace with first-class driver line-ups and they could have scored a good result. Unfortunately, mechanical issues decided otherwise. The Ligier JS P217s run by United Autosports were also potential podium finishers even though the team and almost all the drivers were having their first outing in the event. The cars put on great performances in the race itself. I hope that we’ll be on the podium at the next race with the Nissan DPi or the Ligier JS P217 – why not both! But the competition’s really tough and we’re up against teams and cars that are very, very competitive.”
Source. Onroak Automotive/Photo. United Autosports