United Autosports have won the Le Castellet 240 ELMS race after Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque brought their #22 Oreca 07 home in first place after a tough race in mixed weather conditions at Paul Ricard (Saturday 29 August). The pair started on pole after Filipe scored the team’s fifth consecutive ELMS pole position.
The #3 Ligier JS P320 of Duncan Tappy and Andrew Bentley finished second in the LMP3 class after a great race for the pair. Sadly, the #2 championship leading Ligier of Wayne Boyd, Tom Gamble and Rob Wheldon failed to finish the race after contact caused a broken radiator and damaged engine, which brought their race to a premature end.
The #32 Oreca 07 of Alex Brundle, Will Owen and Job van Uitert finished eighth after a hard race for the trio but an unlucky moment with a safety car dropped them down the order, making it difficult for them to recover.
The team now move on to their biggest race of the year – the Le Mans 24 Hours on 19-20 September, which also acts as round seven of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The #22 Oreca of Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta currently lead the LMP2 championship by 22 points. The LMP3 team will also be preparing for the Road to Le Mans race on 17-19 September.
Phil Hanson lined the #22 up on pole position for the third time this year after a fantastic qualifying from Filipe Albuquerque earlier in the day. Will Owen lined up fifth after Alex Brundle set the qualifying time for the #32 car. Due to the terrible weather conditions, the race began behind the safety car, but as the rain quickly subsided, the safety car came in and after five minutes we were racing. Phil pulled a nice gap to second place at the start, while Will was battling for positions behind moving up to P4 after 15 minutes. Unfortunately, a spin for Will while battling for third, dropped him back down to sixth. Once the track started to dry, the LMP2 grid began to pit to change tyres, mostly to intermediates – Phil in the #22 pitted and changed to slick tyres while Will also stopped and changed to slicks. Both Phil and Will struggled on slicks to begin with running 12th and 13th, but after one hour and 20 mins the safety car came out, closing the pack up again. With just over an hour and a half gone, the safety car came in and racing resumed. Phil stopped again with two hours and 10 minutes left on the clock, for tyres and fuel, and made his way back out on track. A lap later, Will pitted the #32 and handed the car over to Alex Brundle. After two and a half hours, the #22 pitted again, with Phil getting out and Filipe Albuquerque getting in. A lap later the #32 pitted and Alex switched to Job van Uitert. With just over an hour left to run another safety car was called out to clear an upside down LMP2 car. Once racing resumed Filipe and Job set about making up some places with 50 minutes left on the clock. With 31 minutes remaining, Filipe pitted the #22 for fuel and a front left tyre and went back out again. A lap later, Job pitted the #32 and re-joined to finish the race. With 26 minutes to go, Filipe passed the second placed car and began to hunt down the leader. With just under three minutes to go, Filipe passed the #26 to take the lead, bringing the #22 Oreca home for its second consecutive win of the season. Job brought the #32 car home in eighth place, while also scoring the fastest lap of the race.
The #22 crew now lead the championship by 29 points, while the #32 crew lie second, three points ahead of third place.
Andrew Bentley and Rob Wheldon lined up on the second row of the LMP3 grid in third and fourth respectively after Duncan Tappy and Wayne Boyd qualified the #3 and #2 Ligier JS P320s earlier in the day. The race began behind the safety car, but it wasn’t out for long as within five minutes we were racing. A fantastic start by Rob saw him overtake his team mate, Andrew, before picking off the next two cars in front of him to be leading the LMP3 class by lap four, with Andrew behind him in second. A great battle for Andrew was neutralised when the car he was battling with spun, leaving him free to stretch a gap over the rest of the LMP3 field. After the one-hour mark, both LMP3 cars pitted from first and second on track to refuel and change to slick tyres. Rob running in first place and Andrew running sixth before the safety car came out with two hours 40 minutes left to run. With night time having fallen over the track, and one hour 50 minutes left on the clock, Rob pitted the #2 Ligier and handed the car over to Tom Gamble from the lead. The team also decided to change the nose after contact for Rob earlier in the race caused some damage. One lap later, Andrew pitted the #3 Ligier to hand over to Duncan Tappy. Sadly, as Tom left the pits, he reported a problem with the #2 and immediately pitted with the team pushing the car back into the garage to repair the damage. Unfortunately, the damage was too extensive, and the team had to retire the car. With just over an hour to go, the safety car was brought out to recover an LMP2 car, while also clearing a broken down LMP3 car. As racing resumed and other cars around him pitted, Duncan took back the lead of the race before pitting once again himself with 33 minutes remaining and re-joining the track still in the lead of the race. Unfortunately, with 12 minutes remaining Duncan was passed and dropped to second, but held on to bring the #3 Ligier home for its first podium of the season.
The #2 Ligier remains in the lead of the championship, 14 points ahead of second place. The #3 crew now lie third in the championship, only four points behind second place.
Source. United Autosports