Michelin Le Mans Cup Portimao Resources
The dramatic final race of the 2017 season saw wins for DKR Engineering in LMP3 and a debut win for Gulf Racing UK. 4th place was good enough to secure the GT3 title for Ebimotors and Fabio Babini and Emanuele Busnelli.
The no46 Ebimotors Lamborghini of Emanuele Busnelli took advantage of his pole position to lead the GT3 category early on. However with 10 minutes of the race run the Lamborghini went off at T1 in a cloud of smoke and narrowly missed the gravel trap, allowing the no7 Mercedes to close the gap. On the next lap the front right tyre exploded under braking and the Italian driver was forced to return to the pits for a new tyre.
Lee Mowle took the GT3 lead but a safety car was deployed due to the debris left on the track by the no46 Lamborghini. Busnelli rejoined with a new tyre but missing bodywork one lap behind the rest of the GT3 field.
The race went green for just three minutes when the no5 RAM Racing Mercedes spun off into the gravel at T5 and Andrew Baker spun in a separate incident in the no20 Gulf Racing UK Porsche. Baker recovered quickly as the safety car was deployed for the second time to recover the no5 Mercedes.
At the restart the no8 SVC Sport Management Lamborghini of Cedric Mezard passed the no7 Lee Mowle Mercedes to take the lead of the GT3 class while Alex Toril in the no3 DKR Engineering Norma was coming under pressure from the no14 RLR M Sport Ligier of Alex Kapadia. Kapadia made his move 20 minutes before the half way point of the race and then started to open a gap to the no3 Norma.
The pitstops started at the top of the hour with Alex Kapadia staying out on track as long as possible before handing over the no14 Ligier to Ross Warburton. The no46 Ebimotors Lamborghini had to stop for seven minutes to replaced the damaged front right wing, dropping Fabio Babini down to a distant 5th place.
Ben Barker, now at the wheel of the no20 Porsche, started to move up through the field passing the no7 Mercedes of Phil Keen and the no8 Lamborghini of Steeve Hiesse to take the lead. With the no7 Mercedes in 3rd the no46 Lamborghini was on course to win the title. However the no8 Lamborghini started to slow and the no7 Mercedes went back up to second, which would give them the title.
It all looked on course for a championship title for the no7 Lee Mowle Mercedes but then in another dramatic twist the no8 Lamborghini pitted with a problem which sidelined the Austrian team and promoted the no46 Lamborghini in 4th place, enough for them to be crowned as 2017 Champions.
In LMP3 Jean Glorieux was coming under pressure in the no3 DKR Engineering Norma from Colin Noble in the no79 Nielsen Racing Ligier. For several laps the hard charging Noble looked like he was going to take the lead but he was pushing too hard and was given a penalty for exceeding track limits, relieving the pressure from the leader.
Glorieux still had to contend with a fresh challenge from the no98 Motorsport98 Ligier of Andy Meyrick in the closing stages, but the champion elect held on to take the chequered flag to claim the team’s fifth victory in a row.
In GT3 it was the no20 Porsche of Ben Barker which saw the chequered flag first, with the no7 Mercedes of Phil Keen in second place ahead of the no93 Kessel Racing Ferrari. The no46 Ebimotors Lamborghini of Fabio Babini crossed the line in 4th place, giving the Italian team and drivers the 2017 Michelin Le Mans Cup titles by just two points.