United Autosports have had a mixed weekend at Spa Francorchamps this weekend for the penultimate round of the 2021 European Le Mans Series, which included a podium finish for their LMP3 team and a full chassis rebuild overnight for their LMP2 team.
The #2 Ligier JS P320 crew of Wayne Boyd, Rob Wheldon and Edouard Cauhaupe finished third once again at the end of the four-hour race. Rob Wheldon started the race from third on the grid after qualifying the previous day for Wayne Boyd. Rob made his usual trademark good start and was leading the race by lap seven. After a double stint, Rob handed the car over to Edouard in second place, who also did a brilliant job to bring the car back in to hand over to Wayne Boyd for the final hour in third place. Wayne set about catching the second placed car, ultimately closing a 30 second gap and crossing the line third, just 1.341 seconds back from second place.
The #3 crew had some more misfortune with FCY’s and safety cars after gambling on an alternative strategy. Andrew Bentley started the AERO Ligier from eighth place and made up three places on the start. After his first pit stop, Andrew made it up to third place, running one spot behind Rob in the #2 Ligier, before pitting to hand the car over to Jim in fourth place. Jim drove a fantastic stint too, bringing the car into the pits at the half-way point to hand over to Duncan in P9. Duncan did a great job showing the car’s pace throughout his stint, but unfortunately had to pit for a final splash of fuel a lap before the final FCY was thrown. Duncan ended up bringing the car home in eighth place.
In LMP2, Phil Hanson started the race from the front row of the grid after an awesome qualifying session the previous day. Phil made a good start but was pushed wide heading into the first corner and was then hit from behind spinning him round and dropping him to the very back of the field. Phil managed to limp the car back to the pits to replace a punctured tyre but needed to stop a lap later to replace a broken rear end, damage which was also sustained in the opening corner hit. Once Phil rejoined the track, he began making his way through the field, albeit running a lap down on the rest of the grid. Phil handed the car over to Jonathan Aberdein for the middle part of the race, Jonathan making his way up to the back of the LMP2 pack, before handing over to Tom Gamble. Tom managed to get the #22 back on the lead lap and moved up to eighth place at the chequered flag.
The main story of the weekend was the full overnight chassis rebuild for the #32 crew. After a heavy crash in qualifying for Nico Jamin, the team had to strip and rebuild a spare chassis overnight, which was completed by 08:00am Sunday morning, in time to take the start of the race. Nico started the race from the back of the LMP2 grid and made up six places on the opening lap, brilliantly avoiding all the collisions and drama at the first corner. Running seventh, Nico showed the true pace of the newly built #32 Oreca 07 by picking off cars ahead to run fourth before being unfairly given a drive through penalty for what most would consider a racing incident. Despite this, Nico returned to the track and once again began to pass the cars in front of him, before having to pit again to replace a punctured tyre. Rejoining in 10th place, Nico managed to finish his stint running as high as third before handing the car over to Manuel Maldonado only 14 seconds behind the leading pair. Manuel took to the track in the lead of the race and brilliantly held off pressure from behind, before his tyres started going off. Holding onto a podium position, Manuel pitted the #32 to hand over to Job van Uitert, who left the pits just behind the second placed car. After a great battle running side by side with the #65 up Eau Rouge, Job had to concede due to his tyre degradation and was running fourth, before dropping to fifth at the chequered flag. A disappointing result for the #32 crew, however given the situation after qualifying yesterday, fifth place is a fantastic result.
The team now move onto the final round of the ELMS season at Portimao, Portugal on 23-24 October. The next event for United Autosports is the final round of the GT4 European Series at Barcelona, Spain on 9-10 October.
“The winning streak came to an end. Five wins in five races and today an eighth place. We started from second and I got spun round on the first corner. I tried to leave as much room as I could, but I think the WRT and IDEC cars went in too hot trying to fight for third and I was the casualty. It wasn’t just a spin. It was a spin, puncture and bodywork damage and that’s really what set us back. By the time we got back to the pits, the safety car was out, and we lost a lap. So, we were a lap down, we were able to pass the entire field to unlap ourselves and then continued to start passing the field again so it shows that we on paper should have won that race because we literally went from last to first but unfortunately we were a lap down when we did it. Potential is always there at Spa and I think it has been there all year at most of the tracks we have been to but we haven’t caught the break and the bad luck seems to continue happening.”
“Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on our side today, we got hit at turn one and went a lap and a half down. We were the quickest car on track but no result to really show for that. But all we can do is try to deliver at Portimao and end the season on a high.”
“It was a difficult race. The first corner was the turning point with Phil getting hit from behind and us dropping a lap down. Another race of what could have been and we are struggling to catch a break. Our pace looked good but fingers crossed we can finish the season on a high at Portimao. A big thanks as always to the team for giving us a really fast car again and full credit to the team for repairing the #32 car like they did. Hopefully we can get a win in at the last round.”
“It is easy to be sad seeing where we were at one point in the race and the car was working really, really well so we were hoping for even more. But at the end we can’t thank the mechanics of the #32 enough as well as the #22 who also helped get us on the grid today, but not only to get us on the grid, but also give us a car capable of fighting for the win today, which was unbelievable. The car felt so good to drive, we were really quick. Of course having less tyres to use in the race set us back as one set was dead from the crash and I think that was the main thing that put us back, but there was nothing we could do about it. I think we should be proud of a top-five after what happened.”
“Fifth place isn’t a bad result and we have to thank everyone for staying up all night to get the car ready so we could race today. It’s a shame because we were in a position where we could fight for the win but we were always in a deficit because of the tyre situation. We had a puncture too and it wasn’t the smoothest of races but we showed what we can do. I have to thank the team for an amazing job.”
Job van Uitert:
“I think that from qualifying onwards we were on the back foot, especially given the tyre situation. Of course, that was secondary to actually getting the car ready. I think in the end the mechanics are the winners of today. No matter where we finished it was already a win to get us on track today and that’s what we need to take away for them. Without them we wouldn’t have raced today. Regarding the race itself I think it’s obvious we wanted more. Starting from the back is never easy, but Nico did a great job. I had to drive on tyres with a lot of degradation and I fought as hard as I could with Will Stevens. I don’t think I could have done anymore. We need to regroup now and make sure the car is perfect for Portimao and we will aim to get our win there.”
“Another podium. I had a good stint at the end behind the COOL Racing car. We started the stint 30 seconds behind and we closed it to just over a second crossing the line so I think without a few FCY’s we should have been second on pace alone. We didn’t quite have it against the car that won today, but when we go to Portimao it can swing back to our favour so fingers crossed to finish the season on a high. Again, huge thanks to the team. Everything went smoothly, great pit stops and great strategy.”
“Another podium but no victory. The DKR car was too fast to beat them. We had good pace and we were unlucky with FCY’s but we did a good race and I can’t wait for Portimao to hopefully win a race. A big thank you to the team for all their hard work as usual.”
“The team did a mega job setting the car up as always and gave us the tools to challenge, certainly for second place. The DKR car seems to have something over us one way or another, but we gave it our best shot. Ed’s stint in traffic hurt us a bit, but another podium isn’t too shabby.”
“I’m super pleased with a top-10 finish at Spa. Spa is a merciless track which has never quite been kind so it’s good to finish in the top-10 with Duncan and Andrew. I think we all put in a good effort and the crew were great as usual, so I’m really pleased with the result. The big take away from the week for me was how the #32 crew got together to build a brand new LMP2 car overnight. It was mind blowing, which speaks volumes to the quality of the team members here so bravo guys, that was amazing.”
“It was a fun stint for me. The pace was good and the car felt good. All in all I think everyone drove well. We had a bit of a struggle earlier in the week but all credit to the team we had a strong car in the race and got unlucky with safety cars and FCY’s. A bit of luck needs to fall our way really in Portimao to hopefully finish the season on a high.”
“It was an interesting stint for me. Normally I’m only in the car for the first hour, but with the safety cars and FCY’s I ended up being in for a lot longer. I had really good pace at the start and I had some good battles, it was good fun actually. Then once the tyres started to go off I started to struggle and it was just a case of bringing the car back to hand it over to Jim, who did exactly what was needed. Yet again, we didn’t have FCY’s and safety cars falling in our favour so that’s that. Can’t wait to hopefully finish the year with a good result at Portimao.”
“What an effort by the #32 crew to rebuild a full car overnight to get the guys out on track. Huge well done to them. The race could have been better for all four of our cars, but we still came away with a podium for the LMP3 team.”
“To think that we had to rebuild one of our LMP2 cars overnight and then came away with a fifth place finish is fantastic, never mind actually leading the race with that car at certain points. Huge well done and thank you to the team who didn’t go back to the hotel and worked right through the night to get the car back on track. The #22 car was unlucky with getting hit at the start of the race. I’m struggling to understand why no penalty was given for that but then Nico picked up a penalty for essentially nothing. Our LMP3 team did well bringing home another podium but we are now looking forward to Portimao to get back on the top step of the podium to end the year well.”
Source. United Autosports
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