United Autosports kept up its remarkable record of claiming a top-six finish in the Le Mans 24 Hours since the team’s 2017 debut in the legendary endurance sportscar race when Alex Lynn/Oliver Jarvis/Josh Pierson (#23) recovered brilliantly in the 90th running of the French classic this weekend (11-12 Jun).
The UK-based team bravely overcame an extraordinarily unfortunate opening phase for both of its Oreca sportscars. Lynn/Jarvis/Pierson plus the “sister” car of Phil Hanson/Filipe Albuquerque/Will Owen (#22) suffered severe early delays but bounced back to finish sixth and 10th respectively – #22 clawing its way inside the top-10 on the very last lap.
Pierson, aged just 16-years-old, became the youngest-ever driver in history to compete in the annual race staged in dry and warm conditions throughout. United are now placed second (#23) and eighth (#22) in the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Teams standings after three races.
The US-flagged squad had looked set to challenge for victory having had at least one of its cars in the top-three in official testing, all four practice sessions and Hyperpole – topping the times in three sessions – but within seconds of the race start, disaster struck for the 2020 winning team.
#22 found itself sandwiched and was unceremoniously nerfed off into the gravel trap at the first corner on the opening lap by a rival LMP2 car which was given a 1min time penalty for causing the incident. Scant consolation for the #22 crew that lost two laps recovering back to the pits for a new nose and with it, any realistic hope of a top-six finish.
#23 fared little better when it was forced to make three unscheduled pit-stops in the opening three hours due to tyre delamination issues losing valuable time in the process. Despite these early setbacks, the entire team remained totally focussed on recovering and achieving the best possible results. #23 ran consistently fast and reliably after its early issues – as did #22 despite floor and sidepod damage from its first corner incident causing a straight-line speed deficit.
United are next in action for round 3 of the European Le Mans Series on 3 July at Monza – one-week before the high-speed Italian venue hosts the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
#22 Phil Hanson (GB)/Filipe Albuquerque (POR)/Will Owen (USA)
Qualified: 2nd (FA). Race: 10th
Phil: “It’s a tragedy that an entire year’s worth of hard work and preparation ends before we make it to the first corner. I want to say that’s racing but it wasn’t sadly – this race will leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. We showed good pace despite a very damaged car which had a significant impact on the straights. I’m already looking ahead to Monza where we’ll be fighting very hard because we have absolutely nothing to lose. I think that’s it for us in terms of the championship mathematically.”
Filipe: “What a hard race! Everything had looked good before the race; Phil, Will and I had a competitive car and were happy with the balance. Everything needs to be perfect, it needs to be clean with no mistakes. But within a few hundred metres after the start, everything changed after Will’s crash after others got too excited. From then on, the race was over so we had to minimise the damage. A top result was not to be – it’s a shame because the package was there. Bring on the next one.”
Will: “After a far from ideal start, we finished 10th! I was sandwiched with cars on either side but the one on my right turned left on the straight and crashed me into the car on my left. It took a long time to get out of the gravel and back to the pits which cost over two laps. I’m more annoyed about the situation than upset. Nevertheless, a good Le Mans and fightback. The team did such a good job.”
#23 Alex Lynn (GB)/Oliver Jarvis (GB)/Josh Pierson (USA)
Qualified: 6th (AL). Race: 6th
Alex: “Not the race we dreamed of but hats off to the crew who never gave up. We were always trying to bring ourselves back into play and salvaged sixth which isn’t a glamorous result but is vital for the championship. The car was fantastic. I just want to say thank you to United Autosports for giving us a fast car for 24 hours. We were always the hunter never the hunted so to be in that attack mode was great fun. This team is so much fun to be around, I’ve had a great time.”
Oliver: “It’s been a tough Le Mans. After such good preparation, to have two tyres delaminate in the first 90mins, set the tone for the race. It was always going to be tough after that but as a team we kept fighting, never gave up, pushed to the end and scored good points. You come to Le Mans to win so to finish sixth, is disappointing. Highlight for me was the cooling down lap, seeing all the fans back and the marshals on the track but also for Josh coming away with a P6 – he has a great future.”
Josh: “It was a good race, a long one with many twists and turns. Highlight was my first stint because that was when I officially made history and the most emotional moment was to finally get to race in the 24 hours! We had to overcome a lot after our tyre dramas early on and had seven or eight more pit stops than our main LMP2 rivals. A P6 finish was good as Olly and I are now 11-points behind the LMP2 championship leaders.”
“What a tremendous fightback by both cars after early race delays – massive credit goes to all six drivers and everyone in the team. Our sport can be cruel and the opening seconds certainly were for #22 while #23 suffered tyre setbacks. It’s not the results we were hoping for or deserved but I’m immensely proud of every single person in our team.”
“It was a tough race and looked like it could be over for us inside 24 seconds rather than 24 hours. It wasn’t the start we expected with unacceptable driving standards and the #22 in the gravel through no fault of Will’s which the stewards confirmed with the penalty issued. The ultimate penalty though was the innocent #22 car, last and two-laps down inside the opening minutes, but which fought back superbly.
“#23 was quick throughout but due to tyre issues early on, made eight more pit-stops than the ultimate winners. It was an incredible fightback by the team to get both cars inside the top-10 at the finish, both pushing on the very last lap after 24 hours, confirmed by Phil moving up a place with a couple of corners.”
Source. United Autosports