United Autosports remains sixth in the LMP2 Team’s rankings but importantly closed the gap after the British team claimed its second consecutive third-place FIA World Endurance Championship race finish today (10 Nov). The #22 Oreca of Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta missed out on second place by less than five seconds in the 4 Hours of Shanghai – a repeat of last month’s Fuji result – and eighth overall after a dramatic recovery from an issue that almost certainly cost the British team its maiden WEC triumph.
Albuquerque and Hanson combined to qualify third fastest in LMP2 the previous day around the abrasive 3.39-mile Shanghai International Circuit. The Portuguese started the race but almost immediately dropped to eighth, his Oreca losing power – and precious time each lap until pitting with 16 minutes gone – after debris on lap one entered the engine’s roof air intake. Filipe was immediately back up to speed, setting impressively fast lap times, following a 45 second stop but crucially now over 80 seconds off the class lead.
Hanson took over from Albuquerque at one-quarter-distance, #22 now on a different pit-stop strategy compared to all of its class rivals due to its early issue, resuming seventh. The young British driver’s fast pace earned him sixth position almost immediately, running as high as second due to pit-stops being out of sequence, and lay a “true” fourth at mid-distance – one minute off the LMP2 podium.
Di Resta was behind the wheel of the fourth-placed Oreca with 86 minutes remaining, incredibly setting a faster lap time than the leading LMP1 class top-three overall, the “Flying Scotsman” slicing up to third, then second place due to a rival’s scheduled pit-stop, prior to the race’s only Full Course Yellow. With one-hour to run and back to green light racing, Di Resta lay 11 seconds behind the LMP2 leader, pitting with 37 minutes left, for fuel and two new left side tyres, re-joining fourth. He re-took third with 23 minutes remaining and narrowly missed out on second place after a fantastic recovery by the United Oreca which was the best-placed Michelin-shod LMP2 finisher.
The fourth round of the 2019-20 FIA WEC is the 8 Hours of Bahrain staged on 14 December, a weekend that also sees United competing in the Gulf 12 Hours in Abu Dhabi (13-14 Dec).
Phil Hanson (GB), driver car #22, United Autosports:
Born/Lives: London, UK. Age: 20
“Fantastic to get another podium but also feeling disappointed as we could have won here. I got in the car and we were nowhere because of the issue at the beginning. My first stint was good and we opted to change just one tyre for my second, the tyre degradation was massive and I really struggled. In the end a great recovery and we’ll come back stronger again for Bahrain.”
Filipe Albuquerque (POR), driver car #22, United Autosports:
Born/Lives: Coimbra, Portugal. Age: 34
“This was round three and we’re still looking for a trouble-free race! Our pace was good but for the third race in a row, we get a problem, nothing to do with a technical issue this time, just plain bad luck. Debris went in to the air intake on the opening lap and I lost power. We took the right decision in deciding to wait rather than for me to immediately pit in terms of strategy and we still ended up putting in a fight for the win.”
Paul Di Resta (GB), driver car #22, United Autosports:
Born: Scotland, UK Lives: Monaco. Age: 33
“My stints at the end were decent. We were on the back foot after losing so much time at the start and with no Safety Car periods, to bunch up the field, we’d little chance to claw back all of the lost time. With a little bit more luck it would have been a bit better outcome but our pace was strong and it’s good to get on the podium. We can head to Bahrain knowing we’ll be right in the ballpark.”
Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports:
“After a tough break early on, an awesome recovery by Filipe, Phil and Paul, who each showed fantastic pace during the race, combined with brilliant team strategy, earned us a second WEC podium finish in a row. Another top-finish in Bahrain next month would put us right in title contention which would be a great way to end 2019.”
Richard Dean, Team Owner and Managing Director, United Autosports:
“We lost over 40 seconds in the opening nine laps when debris found its way into the engine air intake, Filipe losing over 20kph down the straights, and finished 21 seconds behind the LMP2 winner at the finish. After that unscheduled pit-stop, the car ran perfectly, all three drivers were incredible and the strategy to recover what we could was excellent. Of course it’s disappointing but not as bad as at Silverstone or when we had a few problems at Fuji. Everyone has worked very hard to get on top of those issues. I will definitely be happy to have some luck in the longer distance races where more points are on offer. The drivers and I feel like we are due a bit of a break but at least we were on the podium again today.”
Source. United Autosports