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Last weekend offered another very interesting race, namely the ELMS finale in Portimao and we are here again with a race analysis to try to understand how each of the main characters in the show performed.
The race was pretty interesting, mainly because the title battle had still to be decided, although G-Drive had a pretty comfortable lead and only had to play safe to ensure the championship win. Anyway, we still had an exciting competition on track, with the car that won that started only in ninth position and had an issue with its fuel tank, which forced them to stop one time more than the other main competitors and with the car who lead most of the race (car n.32) and finished second in the championship standing having to serve a 55 seconds stop and go at the end of the race because of track limits infringements.
Beside this, the track itself offered a very nice scenario for LMP2 cars, with a lot of height changes, both relatively fast and slow corners and a very long straight, with pretty high top speeds. Beside this, the circuit is pretty bumpy and this poses a further challenge for the teams.
The race was won by Graff Racing, with their Oreca 07. Autosport Ligier JSP217 came to second while SMP Racing obtained another podium with their Dallara, closing in third position. For anybody interested in endurance racing and race engineering, it is always very nice to see such a variety, with three different chassis in the first three positions.
It was a pity that Dragon Speed, that started in second position, could not join the battle for the win because of an incident during the first few laps, that costed them a couple of laps.
Let’s start our analysis by looking at the time each team spent in the pit lane.
Car n.27 was the one spending less time in the pit, confirming the effectiveness that SMP pit crew showed already in the previous races. Anyway, the team opted not to stop during a FCY phase declared at lap 21 and that was used by nearly all the other teams to pit, saving some time at the end. On the other hand, it is interesting to see how SMP seems able to run longer on a full tank than other cars, most probably because they are able / brave enough to use their fuel to the very end (i doubt the car has a much lower fuel consumption than the competitors).
Car n.40 had to run one pit stop more because they apparently could not full the tank completely. This means, on the other end, they always run with a lighter car than the other crews at the start of each stint.
Car n.32 would have been also pretty good with their pit stop strategy, if they didn’t incur in the 55 seconds stop and go we already mentioned.
Car n.22 was not as efficient as SMP with their pit stops, but did only five stops, using the initial FCY at their advantage.
Car n.21 is included in this analysis as, even if closing the race only in ninth position, was indeed very quick, as we will see. The table above show pretty clearly how their race was completely decided by having to pit 7 times and by the issue they had at the beginning of the race, when Hedman went into contact with another car and lost two laps in the gravel.
Overall Lap Times
Anyway, if we look at the pure performance of each car, Dragonspeed had indeed an amazing pace, at least with Lapierre and Hanley at the wheel.
The following table, showing the best lap, the average of the best 20 and 50 laps and the average of all clean laps (with the fastest time in each column shown in red), tells us that car n.21 was indeed the one with the best performance potential and actually the fastest as long as the two professional drivers were driving.
Dragonspeed Oreca is the fastest car if we consider the best lap and the average of the best 20 and 50 laps, with a gap of more than 0.5 seconds on the second fastest car on the single lap and about 0.3 seconds for the average of the best 20. The gap to car n.40 becomes anyway very small if we look at the average of the best 50 laps, with car n.21 falling inexorably down in the all clean laps average, where it occupies the last position among the cars we consider (again because of the heavy influence of their third driver).
Car n.40 is clearly the second fastest car, as we will also see shortly in our best 20 and 50 laps plots, but we have to take in mind also that car n.22 strategy was clearly to avoid any risk and surely they didn’t push to the limit during the race. During the closing phases, Hirakawa was actually coasting before each braking, maybe to save fuel and avoid the risk of having to stop and this confirms that the team was not really aiming at signing super quick laps but was simply controlling the situation.
The relative performance of each car compared to the others can be well visualized looking at the following plots, depicting the best 20 and 50 lap times of each crew.
Both plots suggest how car n.21 and car n.40 were clearly the fastest on track, with car n.21 edging the rivals although Graff’s car was often running with fuel less in its tank.
The only area of the above plots where car n.40 seems to be a bit quicker than car n.21 is on the very right side of the second graph.
Car n.32, which was contending G-Drive crew for the drivers title, was actually a bit slower than the Orecas of Graff and Dragonspeed, but seemed to be more consistent on the long run, with less performance degradation on the right side of the 50 best laps plot.
Car n.27 was more or less always off pace but still able to close third, helped by consistent drivers and, beside the strange decision of not pitting under FCY at the beginning of the race, by a very good strategy and quick pit stops.
Car n.22 was not really contending on the pace side, as the team didn’t really need it this time.
We can now look into more detail to each team lap performance, by analyzing the sector times.
The track was divided in three sectors, as usual, but on the contrary to many other races that we analyzed already, in Portimao there isn’t really a sector where a certain performance feature (like top speed or downforce or low speed handling) is dominating on the others, as each sector actually presents a good mix of low and medium-high speed corners, with sector one also including the main (and longest) straight.
The times registered for sector 1 are inline with the whole lap performances, with car 21 being always the fastest as long as either Hanley or Lapierre were at the wheel. Dragonspeed’s crew advantage on Graff n.40 car is about 0.15 seconds on the best sector 1 time and stay at about 0.1 seconds if we consider the average of the best 20 and 50 sector 1 times. Car n.40 is on top if we consider the “all clean laps” average sector 1 time, with car n.21 following closely.
Car n.32 stays relatively closed to the best two cars, getting closer in the average of the best 50 sector 1 times or the “all clean laps” average.
The plots relative to the best 20 and 50 sector 1 times gives even a clearer image of how car n.21 and car n.40 were in a class on their own in this track section, with the other three cars closer together but holding a sensible gap from the best two teams.
It is also interesting to notice how car n.21 line lies always below car n.40 one, if we exclude the laps following the 40 mark.
Among the “others”, car n.32 is the one staying closer to the two Orecas, while both car n.22 and car n.27 are sensibly slower.
Sector 1 analysis is particularly interesting also because the Speed Trap is located at the end of the main straight.
If we take a look to the top speeds, we see that, while car n.40 was, as in Spa, particularly fast, achieving the highest top speeds, car n.21 has actually pretty low top speeds, being actually also slightly slower of the sister car n.22.
This seems to suggest that, while part of the performance of car n.40 in sector 1 could depend on its top speed, car n.21 most probably was able to go quicker through turn 1 (a 4th gear corner), turn 2 (flat out), turn 3 (1st gear) and turn 4. This could mean that, once again, car n.40 went for a low drag setup, while car.21 worked more on the downforce and handling side. One thing to always keep in mind is also that car n.40 constantly had, at least at the beginning of each stint, less fuel on board than the other cars.
It is also interesting to notice how, while all the other teams had similar top speeds to each other, car n.40 seems to be on a different level with this regard.
Sector 2 showed a more balanced situation, with car n.21, car n.40 and car n.32 being closer to each other, in terms of performance, while car n.27 and car n.22 remain a bit behind.
Autosport Ligier is always among the quickest, leading the group if we consider the best sector 2 time and the average of the best 20 sector 2 times. Anyway, it stays extremely close to the top also in the best 50 sector 2 times average and in the “all clean laps” average.
This seems to confirm the goodness of Ligier Chassis on the most twisty sections, with this sector being a mix of low speed corners (turn 6 and turn 9), full throttle bends and a pretty quick right-hander (turn 8), all combined with very suggestive height changes that make some spots blind.
The following plots, relative to the best 20 and 50 sector 2 times, give even a better feeling of how close to each other car n.21, car n.40 and car n.32 were.
Car n.27 is sensibly off pace in this sector, while car n.22 seems to have potential (if we look at the best 7-8 sector 2 times it had a pretty good pace) but is not particularly fast on the long run, the main reason for this being probably that they didn’t need to take any risk.
Sector 3 offers some interesting discussion points too.
As sector 2, also sector 3 is a good mix of slow and fast corners, with some very big height changes. It also include the very long and very quick last corner (turn 16), which puts a lot of load on the outside tires.
Car n.21 has again the best pace potential and signs the quickest time overall, remaining also on top if we consider the average of the best 20 and 50 best sector 3 times. As usual, its average pace drops dramatically if we consider the “all clean laps” average, because of the influence of their third driver’s performance.
It is also interesting to notice how close to each other the two title contenders were in this sector, with pretty much the same result in the 20 and 50 best sector 3 times metrics.
Car n.27, on the other hand, gets very close to them on the long run, namely if we look at the “all clean laps” average.
Again, the plots give us a better feeling about the performance of each car relative to the others and they confirm car n.21 as the quickest, above all if we look at the best 20-30 sector 3 times, falling back a bit after the 30 mark.
Car n.40 is also very fast and follows car n.21 very closely, with its line actually lying below Dragonspeed one after the 30 mark.
It is interesting to notice how close to each other car n.32 and car n.22 are and how car n.27 gets on their performance levels after the 15th mark.
We could also speculate about the reason why car n.21 has a very strong pace if we consider the best 20-25 sector 3 times, but slows down a bit on the right side of the 25 mark. Since the car fell behind after the initial accident with Idec’s Ligier, a reason could be having to deal with traffic more than the other competitors, but this is really only a speculation. I am saying this, because they didn’t seem to have more tyre degradation than the other cars and were pretty much in line with car n.40 performance also at the end of the race.
We can get a feeling about this, by looking at the plot showing all race laps for each car. As usual, it is a very messy plot, but we can still extract some useful info out of it:
- car n.21 is extremely slow at the beginning of the race, with Hedman at the wheel
- car n.21 is clearly the fastest car on track between lap 76 and 101, which are a big part of Ben Hanley’s stints and the beginning of Lapierre ones.
- car n.32 was particularly competitive at the end of the race, compared to the other crews
If we analyze the plot comparing each car “race history” to the one of the winning team, we can extract even some more interesting information.
We start with car n.32.
This plots shows again how car n.32 was slower than car n.40 pretty much for the whole race duration, with the exclusion of the last 15-20 laps.
This plot also shows how much closer to each other car n.40 pit stops had to be compared to the competition, because of the fuel tank issue and the additional pit stop of car n.32 because of the stop and go penalty.
Let’s now look at car n.27.
As we saw already, car n.27 was in general slower and this is confirmed by its line lying the most of the time above car n.40 one.
We also identify SMP first pit stop happening out of the FCY window, around lap 29.
It is also interesting to notice how much car n.27 performance degrades between lap 40 and 55, before they stopped for their second pit stop: we could think they didn’t change the tires in their first stop and they suffered their degradation.
Another interesting point is that it looks like SMP crew was able to let their lap times to fluctuate less than the car n.40 ones, remaining pretty consistent on their pace, no matter how quick it was.
There is not too much to say about the comparison between car n.40 and car n.22, beside what we told already about the different pit stop strategy. Car n.22 was in general a bit slower, as most probably they crew never really “looked for trouble” during the race.
Finally, a comparison between the two fastest cars, Dragonspeed and Graff.
As we mentioned already when looking at all the cars together, the first very evident point is how much slower car n.21 was at the very beginning of the race, up to about lap 50. When Ben Hanley jumped in the car, the pace increased drastically and get immediately close to car n.40 one. As we also mentioned, car n.21 was clearly the fastest machine on track between lap 76 and 101 and was very close to car n.40 pace in the last stint.
Indeed, car n.21 situation is always pretty interesting, as the potential it expresses is often extremely high, but is compromised by the non-professional driver who, most probably, is also the best business case for the team.
In general, among the three ELMS race we analyzed, car n.21 was the fastest car (or at least the car potentially faster than all the others) in two of them and was not on the best players level only in Spa.