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Two in a row for the G-Drive brand
G-Drive by DragonSpeed Racing are the 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP2 Champions. The title is the second in a row for the G-Drive name, having won last year with a Jota run Gibson. Full time drivers, Memo Rojas and Leo Roussel also took the LMP2 Drivers Championship
G-Drive entered the weekend with a seemingly comfortable 18 point lead, but the race was complicated by penalties and full course yellows. The multiple investigations made the title battle more tense than it otherwise would have been. Title rivals United Autosports fell foul of one of the investigations and a 55 second stop and go for pit lane speeding dented their title hopes.
The race victory went to the #40 Graff Oreca 07, who played the full course yellow situations to their advantage to put themselves in a comfortable position for the last hour. Graff also overcame a fuel tank issue, which prevented them from using the full capacity of the tank, requiring an extra stop compared to the rest of the field.
SMP put in another strong performance, but it could have been more. An odd strategy call not to put with the rest of the field under FCY dropped the Russian squad back early. The #27 recovered to second, but pitted with over 45 minutes until the end of the race. The fuel saving run dropped Isaakyan back into the clutches of local hero Filipe Albuquerque. With 5 minutes remaining, Albuquerque made a daring pass into the final corner to move United Autosports up to second. SMP were third, and champions G-Drive followed home in fourth.
Cetilar Villobra Corse equalled their best result of 2017 with 5th, whilst pole sitters Panis Barthez Competition finished a disappointing 6th. Front row starters DragonSpeed came home 9th, 2 laps down, after amateur driver Henrick Hedman beached the Oreca in the gravel during an incident with the #28 IDEC Sport Ligier.
Whilst United Autosports will be disappointed with the runner up spot, it is their first year of LMP2 competition. Their position will only strengthen in 2018, with the Ligier granted a joker update by the ACO. With SMP are set to move to the World Endurance Championship, it looks like the 2018 LMP2 fight will be between United Autosports, Graff, and G-Drive Racing, if Roman Rusinov continues the branding in Europe.
United Autosports Dominates LMP3
United Autosports made up for the disappointment of missing out on the LMP2 title with a dominant display in the LMP3 class. The #3 car took its first victory of the year and was followed home by the #2 in a convincing one-two finish, clinching the LMP3 Teams and Drivers Championships.
The comfortable 18 point gap that the #2 car entered the weekend with was almost lost completely. With qualifying being split by red flags, the #2 only managed 14th on the grid. To add insult to injury, the #2 spun the #12 Euro International car within the first 20 minutes. The #2 also made contact with #18 M.Racing YMR car, causing a spin. Fortunately, luck was on their side and the team avoided a penalty for contact on both occasions.
As problems begun to hamper the rest of the LMP3 field, the United Autosports pair made their way to the front. The #3 car crossed the line with the #2, a minute clear of the closest rival. M.Racing YMR rounded off the podium in third, securing second in the championship.
JMW Finish 2017 With a Championship
After a 2016 which could only be described as ‘character building’, JMW made amends in 2017 with Le Mans 24 Hours GTE-Am class victory, and the European Le Mans Series GTE-Am Championship.
TF Sport led the title race heading to Portimao, but the Aston Martin Vantage V8s struggled on the fast circuit. The Ferrari 488 looked much more at home, but retirements for the #51 and #55 Spirit of Race cars bumped the TF Sport Aston up the order. Unfortunately for Aston Martin, this wasn’t enough to overcome the Ferrari advantage. TF Sport finished one place behind JMW, giving the title to the #66 Ferrari.
The race victory went the way of the #77 Proton Competition Porsche, in what is expected to be the last outing of the previous generation Porsche GTE car. The #77 overcame an incident with the LMP3 Oregon Norma, which spun it out of the lead, and track limits warnings to come home around 10 seconds ahead of the JMW Ferrari.
After missing out on a 2016 Le Mans entry and the 2016 ELMS Championship, to claim both in 2017 is a significant achievement for Jim McWhirter and JMW Racing.