Kent-based G-Drive Racing took a convincing victory at Circuito do Estoril in Portugal to win the 2016 LMP2 Teams Classification. Giedo van der Garde, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell controlled the race from the front for much of the four hours. The win was especially poignant as it was the last competitive outing for the venerable Gibson 015S, the same chassis that won the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014.
The #46 Thiriet by TDS ORECA 05, driven by Mathias Beche, Pierre Thiriet and Ryo Hirakawa, led the standings going into the final round but encountered a problem with the car failing to start after a pit stop with less than two hours of the race run. The subsequent repairs dropped the #46 back by some 24 laps from which it was unable to recover.
Second across the line in the LMP2 class was the #21 DragonSpeed ORECA 05 piloted by Nicolas Lapierre, Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley, Lapierre taking the final stint. Taking the final podium spot was the #32 SMP Racing BR 01, driven by Stefano Coletti, Andreas Wirth and Vitaly Petrov, Coletti taking the car across the line.
Victory for G-Drive Racing put it on 103 points for the championship with Thiriet by TDS Racing on 94 points, having scored two points for its eventual ninth place finish.
Full race review with reports on LMP3 and LMGTE to follow.
G-Drive Racing, managed by Kent-based JOTA Sport, has announced that Alex Brundle will join the team to partner Roman Rusinov and René Rast for the remaining rounds of the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season.
Currently leading the LMP3 class in the 2016 European Le Mans Series driving for United Autosports, Brundle tested for G-Drive Racing at the Le Mans Test Weekend in June to allow him to be eligible as the team’s official reserve driver for the French classic. Continue reading Alex Brundle Joins G-Drive Racing For WEC
The #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid with Neel Jani at the wheel took provisional pole with a 3:19.733 in a two-hour qualifying practice that took on extra significance because of the weather.
In a week that has seen torrential downpours at some stage every day and with more bad weather forecast, many teams were looking to put in a ‘banker lap’ in the first qualifying session on the basis that better opportunities may not be available.
The #1 Porsche was second quickest with a 3:20.203 lap time set by Timo Bernhard. The #6 Toyota Gazoo racing Toyota TS050 – Hybrid was third quickest with a 3:30.737 set by Stephane Sarazin. Although some of the Toyota drivers made it plain that they were using the session to establish a race balance and were not looking to make headlines, clearly the issue of the weather was on everyone’s mind.
In LMP2 the #26 G-Drive Racing Nissan-powered ORECA 05 set an early provisional class pole time of 3:36.605 with René Rast driving and that was never bettered throughout the rest of the session. Nelson Panciatici was second quickest in the #35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460 with a 3:37.225. Rounding out the top three in LMP2 was the second Alpine A460, this time the #36 Signatech Alpine where Nicolas Lapierre set a 3:37.225.
The #68 and #69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GTs were quickest in LMGTE Pro. Dirk Muller in #68 car set a 3:51.185 whilst Ryan Briscoe was less than half a second behind with a 3:51.497. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE in the hands of Gianmaria Bruni was third quickest with a 3:51.568.
In LM GTE Am Clearwater Racing with the #61 Ferrari 458 Italia took provisional class pole with Rob Bell driving with a 3:56.827. Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage was second quickest with a 37.198. Closing out the top three in class was the #55 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia which set a 3:57.596 with Matt Griffin driving.
Although Thursday morning’s forecast was for light rain with the risk of thunderstorms, there were deluges in various areas close to the circuit so many teams must be looking nervously at the two two-hour qualifying sessions this evening, the first of which starts at 19:00.
In a sudden and surprising turn of events, G-Drive Racing, run by JOTA Sport of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, has announced a change of drivers for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Nathanaël Berthon, who joined the team at the start of year, will no longer drive for the team. Will Stevens, currently driving for Manor WEC, will instead share the driving duties for the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Roman Rusinov and René Rast in its #26 Nissan-powered ORECA 05 LM P2.
No reasons have currently been provided for the switch.
“I would like to thank Nathanaël for his efforts with the team in 2016,” said David Clark of G-Drive Racing. “We achieved two solid results at Silverstone and Spa and he showed he can be part of a front running team and we wish him every success in the future.”
24 year-old Stevens is being loaned to G-Drive Racing by Manor for Le Mans only. Stevens is understandably delighted at the opportunity.
“The offer to join G-Drive specifically for Le Mans and share the car with Rene and Roman was compelling,” said Stevens. “My partnership with René at WRT Audi is working well and with his and Roman’s experience in this race, it offered me a race winning opportunity which I’m pleased to accept. I’m grateful to the Manor WEC Team for releasing me for this occasion and we will continue to work together for the remainder of their first season in endurance racing.”
“We are very happy to welcome Will to the team,” said Alexander Krylov, G-Drive Racing General Manager and PJSC Gazprom Neft Regional Sales Director. “We know that Will is an excellent professional who can add a great deal to our already impressive line-up of Roman (Rusanov) and René (Rast).
Subsequent to these announcements, it has been revealed that Roberto Merhi will replace Stevens in the #44 Manor ORECA 05 for the 24 Hours of Le Mans