G-Drive Keep Title Hopes Alive At Spa
26th September 2016
G-Drive Racing kept their European Le Mans Series title hopes alive with a fifth place finish at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday (September 25).
Giedo van der Garde, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell had led the four-hour race until the final 90 minutes, but two Safety Cars in quick succession during the middle stint disrupted their strategy and cost the #38 Gibson 015S-Nissan a chance of repeating their famous success at Spa in the FIA World Endurance Championship last year.
After Tincknell qualified the car third, Van der Garde moved up one position at the start and consolidated his position before making an early stop for fuel under a Full Course Yellow (FCY). The time saved in the pits ensured the Dutchman moved into the lead by the end of his stint, before Dolan took over in second position.
After a few laps to get up to speed on his new tyres, the Briton shrugged off the challenge of Andreas Wirth’s SMP Racing BR01-Nissan and quickly set about catching the race leader when the first of two Safety Cars appeared to repair barrier damage on lap 37. Having only recently pitted, Dolan stayed out and duly took the lead when the four-hour event restarted.
The race had only been green for a further twelve minutes when the Safety Car reappeared with just over two hours remaining. Dolan was unable to come to the pits in time, so G-Drive decided to stay out and delay their third stop until shortly before the return to green, thereby stretching their fuel window.
Unfortunately the Safety Car was withdrawn earlier than expected, which required Dolan and several other like-minded rivals to pit under green, costing them valuable time to the cars which had already pitted.
Having decided not to change tyres in a bid to protect track position, Dolan put up a strong fight against the professional drivers around him who were on much fresher rubber, but pitted in eighth place as he handed over to Tincknell on lap 65.
With a fresh set of Dunlop tyres underneath him, Tincknell was now the fastest man on track and had risen to fifth spot before making his final stop with twenty minutes to go. The 24-year-old re-joined sixth, but gained a further position in the dying minutes after Andrea Pizzitola’s Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2-Nissan lodged itself in the gravel, which caused the race to end under Full Course Yellow.
Although the overriding emotion was disappointment due to the poorly timed Safety Cars, G-Drive Racing are still in the hunt for the championship with only one round to go at Estoril in Portugal on 23 October, where they will push hard to overturn a 13-point deficit to championship leaders TDS by Thiriet Racing.
Giedo van der Garde
“My opening stint was good and the car felt nice to drive and we were in a comfortable second place. We made the call to come in early on the first Safety Car and it put us out of synch with most of the field and when the other Safety Cars came it hurt us unfortunately.
“We head to the last round at Estoril which is a circuit I really enjoy. Lets us see what happens there. 13 points is a lot but we just have to do our best and try and win it. The rest will take care of itself. We need some luck but we also need to make sure we are in the best position to capitalise on any misfortune for the TDS team.”
“We had great pace for qualifying even though we are aware of the straight-line speed deficit to the newer cars. Third place was a good team effort and a place where we could build a fine race.
Giedo and Simon drove really well in their stints. We strategy call with the early stop didn’t quite go our way and when I got in the car there was some damage to the front splitter which limited my pace but I still managed to get passed Coletti for third place.
“It is disappointing to finish 5th as I think we could have at last challenged for the win but we have nothing to lose at Estoril.”
Simon Dolan, Partner/Driver JOTA Sport
“In hindsight it was unfortunate that we came in for the early stop as it hurt us later when the other Safety Car period came. It is unusual to have so much SC time in a race at Spa.
“It is doubly frustrating when we knew that we could have fought for the win. The car was well suited to sector two in particular and we were quick throughout the stints. The result leaves us with a lot to in Portugal and we have to count on some bad luck for the TDS guys. But together we will be battling all the way so we can give this great car a send-off it deserves.”
Gary Holland – Team Manager
“In the race our strategy was compromised by the length of the second safety car. We had to have a ‘splash and dash’ at some point during the race and the first safety car was a very good opportunity to get this done but it didn’t work out as we wished.
“We think that at least P2 was possible last weekend as the pace in the car and our tyre management was very good. All three drivers drove very strong races; especially Simon battling with Beche (TDS) whilst on much older tyres.
“We now need to analyse our race in detail to learn lessons before Estoril next month but we will keep fighting to the last corner.”
LMP2/Overall Race Result – Spa-Francorchamps
1 Lapierre/Hedman/Hanley Dragonspeed ORECA 05-Nissan
2 Stevens/ D Vanthoor/ L Vanthoor Team WRT Ligier-Judd
3 Thiriet/Beche/Hirakawa Thiriet by TDS ORECA 05-Nissan
4 Rojas/Canal/Berthon Greaves Motorsport Ligier-Nissan
5 Dolan/Tincknell/van der Garde G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S-Nissan
6 Leal/Wirth/Coletti SMP Racing BR01-Nissan
2016 European Le Mans Series for LMP2 drivers
1 Thiriet//Beche 91
2 Tincknell/Dolan/Van der Garde 78
3 Wirth/Coletti 69
4 Hirakawa 65
5 Leal 61
6 Lapierre/Hedman/Hanley 57
European Le Mans Series LMP2 Teams’ Championship
1 Thiriet by TDS Racing 91
2 G-Drive Racing 78
3 SMP Racing 68
4 Dragonspeed 57
5 Eurasia Motorsport 40
6 Greaves Motorsport 36