Zak Brown and Richard Dean’s LMP2 team, United Autosports, delivered yet again today, continuing their dominance in World Endurance Championship (and European Le Mans Series) competition in 2020 by winning the hotly contested LMP2 class at the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The category was dominated by the team’s No. 22 ORECA. Arguably the favorites going in, Paul di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque showed just what they are capable of during this race. The No. 22 spent the entire second half of this one in the lead, edging away as the other contenders either faltered or struggled to stay consistent. With the victory, United Autosports has won the FIA Endurance Trophy for LMP2 Teams while Hanson and Albuquerque have clinched the Drivers’ Trophy.
It looked at times like it might be a 1-2 finish for the team as the sister No. 32 ORECA of Alex Brundle, Job van Uitert and Will Owen also showed race-winning pace and consistency early in the race, before a fractured solid engine oil line required a 45-minute fix in the garage.
It was, unusually for the current generation of LMP2 cars, a race of attrition. So many contending cars hit trouble, with either faults or incidents. The list of casualties was added to all the way to the end of the race, with even the final hour including further incidents.
Racing Team Nederland’s ORECA, the Signatech Alpine, United’s No. 32 ORECA, both DragonSpeed’s ORECAs, the High Class Racing 07, both of the G-Drive Racing Aurus entries, Eurointernational and Inter Europol’s Ligier, Nielsen’s ORECA, the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA and the Cool Racing ORECA all suffered notable failures. There were so many issues that no lead or strong position felt safe.
— WEC (@FIAWEC) September 20, 2020
Despite the No. 22 making it to the end without any major dramas, a late safety car period in the final hour bunched up the field, and a late splash of fuel for the Hanson meant JOTA’s Goodyear-shod ORECA looked in with a shout at snatching the victory. There were just a few seconds between Hanson and Davidson after he took fuel, but the young Asian Le Mans champion stayed calm and called JOTA’s bluff. JOTA too needed a splash, Davidson unable to save enough fuel during the safety car, relieving the pressure on Hanson with five minutes to go.
“I was nervous, because I wasn’t in control,” Albuquerque said after the race. “But I knew Phil could pull it off. We kept him posted on what was going on, but we didn’t know whether JOTA needed to pit or not. But in the end Phil did a mega job — Phil was flawless.”
— WEC (@FIAWEC) September 20, 2020
“It feels like such a relief as I thought we had thrown it away in the last 30 minutes with everything kicking off with the safety car and the slow zones,” said Hanson, “so it’s so rewarding to get it done and to win the championship as well. These are the two goals we set out to achieve at the start of the year and you are never 100% confident that you can achieve them as the grid is so competitive and anything can go wrong at Le Mans, especially in the style we did it in too — pitting right at the end and not knowing if we would make it out in the lead again of if the other car had to pit. It makes it even more of a rewarding feeling.”
JOTA would have to settle for second, after a really strong run for both it and Goodyear in its return to La Sarthe as a tire supplier. Antonio Felix da Costa, Roberto Gonzalez and Anthony Davidson earned their trophies in this one.
The same can’t be said for JOTA’s other car, the Jackie Chan DC 07, which underwent a loom change after Gabriel Aubry suffered an electrical issue which caused the car to stop on track for an extended period. After lengthy repairs the car was then disqualified shortly after returning to the action for using “outside assistance” to repair the car.
Panis Racing, meanwhile, may well be the big surprise podium finisher of the race, its No. 31 ORECA taking a surprise third place after G-Drive Racing’s No. 26 Aurus suffered a suspension failure in the penultimate hour.
Jean-Eric Vergne looked on course for third, having spent hours along with his teammates Mikkel Jensen and Roman Rusinov fighting back from an electrical issue overnight which caused the No. 26 Aurus to grind to a halt and require multiple resets to get back to the pits.
But the Frenchman would go straight on at Indianapolis and had to limp back to the pits. The failure cost the team two places, and it finished fifth behind the Signatech Alpine, which fought back after water pressure issues on the opening lap that dropped the defending double Le Mans champions off the lead lap.
It all meant Panis Racing would make it two Goodyear runners on the podium, and saw Matthieu Vaxiviere, Julien Canal and Nicolas Jamin rewarded for their efforts.