– Beechdean Aston Martin Racing takes GTE title in ELMS debut year
Another unpredictable European Le Mans Series (ELMS) finale saw LMP2 and LM GTE class titles being battled for and claimed by underdogs. Estoril hosted the sixth and final four-hour race of 2016 and drama began in the second hour when respective championship leaders Thiriet by TDS Racing and JMW Motorsport were hindered by electrical and gearbox issues respectively.
It fell to G-Drive Racing and the Beechdean Aston Martin Racing cars to score enough points to move to the top of the table when the flag dropped for the final time this year, after both front-runners succumbed to their problems. Conditions were cool and teams unanimously chose to race on Dunlop’s medium option.
Battling began from the start with the Jota-run G-Drive Racing Gibson-Nissan, in its final race before retirement, taking the lead in the hands of Giedo van der Garde ahead of the Dragonspeed Oreca. The Gibson led all but 30 laps of the 145. Thiriet by TDS Racing, strong championship contenders and favourites for the championship hit problems before the race mid-point when an electrical issue effectively ended their title hopes, their two points for ninth place not enough to combat G-Drive’s 25 point win, a role reversal of 2015 fortunes when the Jota squad started the race as championship favourites but lost out. Dragonspeed was a force to be reckoned, exchanging positions with Krohn Racing and the AF Corse run BR01, leading 29 laps and taking second place, their fourth podium of the year. The BR01 finished in third, followed by the Krohn Racing Ligier, to put four different manufacturers, all on Dunlop tyres, as the top four across the line.
Dunlop has had a strong year in the open-tyre competition LMP2 category:
5 out of 6 pole positions
5 out of 6 fastest race laps
6 out of 6 wins
18 out of 18 podium positions
597 out of 674 laps led
JMW Motorsport (Ferrari 458 Italia) had taken three wins and led over 350 laps and headed to Estoril with a significant points advantage and only one championship rival. The team’s second-hour gearbox issue led to the team’s retirement from the race and it was then down to the #99 Beechdean Aston Martin to win the race for the title. Andrew Howard’s squad did just that, leading all but a handful of laps, with the Vantage crossing the line a full lap ahead of the AT Racing Ferrari. The Aston Martin team has proved to be a consistent points scorer, including taking two pole positions and two wins.
Mike McGregor, Dunlop Manager Testing & Track Support : « Firstly commiserations to JMW and TDS it would have been nicer to decide the fight on track instead of in the garages but unfortunately that’s endurance racing. Massive congratulations to G-Drive, Jota, Sam Hignett and Tim Holloway for the 2016 ELMS title. We have a long relationship with the team and with both the Gibson chassis’ and Tim’s retirements it means a lot. Until last year the team’s Dunlop engineer was Tim Gibson who died last November, so Tim deserves a mention and the win makes this a special title for the Dunlop team. It’s also brilliant to have a title for Beechdean in their first year in the championship we’re very pleased for Andrew Howard and the rest of the team who have contributed to fantastic GTE racing again this year. »