The fifth round of the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) was held at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium today. It featured a thrilling race-long battle in the all-Dunlop shod LMGTE category. The Luzich Ferrari F488 GTE Evo shared by Alessandro Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and Fabien Lavergne edged the Dempsey-Proton Porsche 911 RSR team of Matteo Cairoli, Christian Ried and Riccardo Pera by less than three seconds after four hours of intense action.
Dempsey-Proton took pole before Lavergne surged past Ried at the start. Behind them, Sergio Pianezzola eased past Kessel Ferrari teammate Michelle Gatting to move into a third. He was then the man on the move, passing Ried to make it a Maranello one-two by lap eight. Gatting shadowed her teammate for a couple of laps before making a similar move to push the Porsche down to fourth.
However, in the first round of pit-stops, the Kessel cars slipped to fourth and sixth respectively. Pianezzola had to do it all over again and fought back to second by the 90-minute mark. The final third of the race saw a tight scrap between Pera and Nielsen, who handed over to Pier Guidi for the final stint with the Italian taking the flag and an extended championship lead for the Swiss-entered Luzich Ferrari team. A strong final stint from Matt Griffin put the Spirit of Race Ferrari team on the podium. All the LMGTE cars ran on the Dunlop ‘A’ specification slick tyres throughout the race.
In the LMP2 prototype category, G-Drive racing extended their championship lead after a fourth-place finish for Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne and Job van Uitret sharing the Aurus. Rusinov started from fifth and had a close battle with fellow Dunlop runner Bruno Senna (RLR M Sport Oreca) until Senna had a ten-minute pitstop for repairs after an incident. This provided a pit-stop opportunity under the safety car and G-Drive took the opportunity to switch Rusinvov for Job Van Uitret, dropping the car to twelfth place. After that stop, the 21-year-old Dutchman was flying, climbing into the top four thanks to a combination of great pace and slick pit work. Jean-Eric Vergne took over for the final stint of the race to consolidate fourth place and extend the team’s championship lead ahead of the final round at Portimao.
Other Dunlop drivers to show pace during the weekend were Will Stevens who took a front-row grid position. This was Panis-Barthez Competition’s best qualifying position since they chose to switch to Dunlop tyres after back to back testing at the beginning of 2019.
High Class Racing’s Anders Fjordbach was involved in a first-lap collision and dropped to last place but put in an impressive recovery drive to move back up to seventh in the 37 car field with a fastest lap that was comparable to the top-three at the time.
Konstantin Tereschenko was in impressive form in the opening stages. He was the fastest Ligier driver, charging from twelfth to eighth by lap ten after passing the championship leader, but then an electrical issue cruelly put him to the back of the LMP2 pack before an accident ended the team’s race.
David Meenan, Senior Track Support Engineer, said: “‘Congratulations to Luzich Ferrari for their third win of the season after a very close race. The Ferrari versus Porsche battle proves that Dunlop has been able to develop GT tyres that work well with two very different car designs. In the LMP2 class, it was a tough race but we congratulate G-Drive on a great strategy to extend their championship lead with one race to go.”
The final round of the 2019 European Le Mans Series takes place at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, Portimao, Portugal on October 27th.
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