Former Formula 1 driver Giedo van der Garde, along with Harry Tincknell and Simon Dolan, clinched the European Le Mans Series title with victory in the season finale at Estoril.
The trio, driving for the G-Drive backed Jota Sport team, led for the vast majority of the four-hour race on the final outing for the squad’s venerable Gibson-Nissan 015S and overturned a 13-point deficit to the TDS Racing Ligier.
The TDS car hit technical trouble at its second pitstop with Ryo Hirakawa at the wheel and dropped to the back of the field, eventually finishing 29th overall after a lengthy delay.
Starting from third, Van der Garde briefly jumped the pole-sitting DragonSpeed ORECA of Nicolas Lapierre before the Frenchman reclaimed the lead on lap two. Despite a clash with the GTE Ferrari of Rui Aguas, Van der Garde got back into the lead at the exit of Turn 1 when Lapierre was balked by an LMP3 car.
DragonSpeed then sent Henrik Hedman out without a tire change to gain track position on the Jota car, which had been taken over by Simon Dolan. But that advantage was eradicated when Hedman ran through the gravel trap on his out-lap, allowing Dolan to close and then sweep around the outside at Turn 4 a lap later. The Dragonspeed car eventually finished second, 51 seconds down, after Lapierre’s charging final stint.
Lapierre passed Stefano Coletti’s SMP Racing BRE-Nissan BR01 and the Krohn Racing Ligier-Nissan JSP2 of Olivier Pla to recover the position.
“The guys did a good job, the whole team did a good job,” said Van der Garde, who switched to sportscars this year. “To have my first season in the ELMS and win it straight away, I’m very pleased.”
Coletti put up a stern defense during the final hour to hold off Ford factory driver Pla, but was only certain of a podium finish when the Frenchman got a little too close at the chicane and spun with five minutes to go.
ASTON MARTIN GRABS GTE CROWN
The Beechdean Aston Martin Racing entry of Andrew Howard, Alex MacDowall and Darren Turner capitalized on a disastrous day for the JMW Motorsport Ferrari to take the GTE championship.
JMW crew Rory Butcher, Rob Smith and Andrea Bertolini were leading when the Ferrari developed gearbox problems, then hit by the out-of-control United Autosport LMP3 Ligier of Mike Guasch after rejoining having lost time with the glitch still not solved.
With the Ferrari out of the way, the Aston Martin crew closed out victory ahead of the AT Racing Ferrari, which had earlier caught fire, and the #56 AF Corse Ferrari, which suffered two punctures.
In LMP3, Yvan Muller Racing took its first victory despite a spin for Thomas Laurent. The all-French line-up, completed by Yann Ehrlacher and Alexandre Cougnaud, finished two laps ahead of the lead United Autosport entry driven by Wayne Boyd, Matt Bell and Mark Patterson.