G-Drive Racing emerged as the overall winner after an exciting opening round to the 2016 European Le Mans Series at Silverstone.
The #38 Gibson 015S, driven by Harry Tincknell, Simon Dolan and ex-Caterham F1 driver Giedo van der Garde, led almost from the start and controlled the race from the front throughout much of the four hours.
In second place was SMP Racing’s #32 BR 01 Nissan driven by Stefan Colleti, Julian Leal Covelli and Andreas Wirth. Taking the last podium position in LMP2 was So24! By Lombard Racing’s #22 Judd-engined Ligier JS P2 driven by Vincent Capillaire, Olivier Lombard and Jonathan Coleman.
The LMP3 category saw a huge entry of 20 cars, the majority of which were Nissan-engined Ligier JS P3s.
U.S.-entered but Leeds-based United Autosports took a 1-2 in the class, the #2 car driven by Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England beating the the sister #3 car driven by Mark Patterson, Matthew Bell and Wayne Boyd.
The Graff #9 Ligier JS P3 driven by Enzo Guibbert, Paul Petit and Eric Trouillet rounded out the top three places in the class.
GTE saw exceptionally close racing with the final podium slot being decided in the lasts second of the race. The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia of Robert Smith, Rory Butcher and Andrea Bertolini beat strong competition from the #99 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage of Andrew Howard, Darren Turner and Alex MacDowall. The #96 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage of Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall and Richie Stanaway took the final podium position.
Although the race had been declared wet immediately prior to the start, giving teams the opportunity to choose wet or intermediate tyres, the track was drying as the lights went out. Chaos ensued at the start as the #19 Duqueine Engineering Ligier JS P3 spun and the #29 Pegasus Racing Morgan-Nissan collided with the pit wall.
The #32 SMP Racing BR 01, driven by Andreas Wirth, briefly took the lead but was shortly overtaken by the #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S driven by Harry Tincknell after which he stretched out his advantage. Tincknell was pushed hard by Paul-Loup Chatin in the #23 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P2 but maintained his lead. The positions were reversed after driver changes but Simon Dolan in the #38 car put in a magnificent stint to retake the lead after which it was never lost.
After concern as rain threatened in the final hour, Giedo Van Der Garde took over the #38 car for the final stint and continued to push hard, putting in his best time in his final lap of the race.
Sir Chris Hoy’s debut in LMP2 was not all plain sailing when his #25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 ended up in the gravel at the beginning of the Hanger Straight. The car was snatched back on track during a Full Course Yellow and Hoy eventually finished tenth overall.
Alex Brundle, in the #2 United Autosports Ligier JS P3, took the lead in the LMP3 class before handing over the car to ‘Molecule Mike’ Guasch. Guasch pushed hard and handed the car over to Christian England who brought it home for the win. The #3 United Autosports car was running second but a malfunctioning door meant that Matthew Bell had to pit for repairs. Mark Patterson and Wayne Boyd worked hard to bring the car back into contention with Boyd overtaking the #9 Graff Racing Ligier of Enzo Guiberrt for second place with 30 minutes left to race.
In GTE, Stuart Hall drove the #96 Aston Martin V8 Vantage into the class lead and battled with the #99 sister car of Alex MacDowall. At the halfway point MacDowall had the advantage. As the four hour mark approached the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Rory Butcher led the #99 Aston Martin driven by Andrew Howard.
The battle for the final podium spot was fierce and ended with contact between the #56 AT Racing Aston Martin V8 Vantage driven by Pier Guidi and the #96 Aston Martin driven by Ritchie Stanaway with the outcome that Stanaway took the position.
There was clearly some very enthusiastic driving amongst the large LMP3 field which may raise some questions before the next round of the European Le Mans Series which will be held at Imola on May 15.