Portimao ELMS: United Autosports wins tactical battle after red flag

With three out of four titles yet to be decided and invitations to the Le Mans 24 hours grid on the line, few were in doubt that the four hours of Portimao would prove critical to the teams contesting for the remaining honours and prizes.

After Cool Racing’s Charles Milesi converted his pole position into the lead and built a substantial gap over the chasing United Autosports, G-Drive Racing and Team WRT squads, the race was interrupted halfway through the first stint when Memo Rojas lost his left rear wheel while coming onto the main straight, and spun his Duqueine Engineering ORECA wildly across the track.

Andreas Laskaratos got caught up in the incident and, while trying to avoid Rojas and several other cars, hit the pitwall square on. This destroyed his 1 Aim Villorba Corse car and forced a red flag for an 30-minute track clear-up.

As the race progressed after the restart, United Autosports went off sequence with its pitstops, vaulting both British cars to first and second for the time being. Initially the G-Drive Racing Aurus squad were set to be its biggest rival until Franco Colapinto picked up a drivethrough penalty for track limits infringements.

This left the Russian-flagged team out of contention for the win and brought Team WRT into the fight. The team, who had already won the ELMS title, followed a more conventional tyre strategy and led mid-race before falling back again as United’s strategy ensured Tom Gamble jumped Louis Deletraz during the stops.

Deletraz tried to hunt down Gamble but the gap opened up to almost 20 seconds with the British doing conversing his tyre life to stretch out his stint to secure victory together with Jonathan Aberdein and Phil Hanson, United’s first ELMS win of the year.

Third would go to the Algarve Pro Racing car of Sophia Floersch, Richard Bradley and Fabian Habsburg after fighting back from a puncture.

LMP2 Pro-Am went to the dominant COOL Racing team of Milesi, Lapierre and Coigny, seeing off championship leaders G-Drive Racing but couldn’t do enough to take the title away from John Falb and Rui Andrade.

In LMP3 Team DKR’s Matthieu de Barbuat and Laurents Horr proved to be the class of the field but only after it fought off Rob Wheldon in the #2 United Autosports Ligier.

A drivethrough penalty for the United team gave the championship contenders even more breathing room as they fought with COOL Racing for the ELMS title and the Le Mans entry that comes with it.

COOL’s race went from bad to worse as the team tried to fight back from a lowly grid position before a slow stop effectively ended the title-aspirations for the championship leaders.

As United Autosports dropped back, Inter Europol Competition moved into second with the Polish team showing great pace to keep the DKR Duqueine in sight. It was not enough however to unseat Horr and De Barbuat from the lead as the team sealed the title in with their fourth consecutive win.

Third went to United Autosports, finishing an uncharacteristic tough year without a race win.

Iron Lynx’s Rino Mastronardi, Miguel Molina and Matteo Cressoni dominated the final GTE Race of the season, seeing off a spirited start from the Proton Competition Porsche to not only win their third race of the season but seal the title as well.

Second would go to the #93 Proton Competition Porsche of Felipe Laser, Michael Fassbender and Richard Lietz while Iron Lynx’s ‘Les Iron Dames’ Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting came in third.

ELMS – Portimao 4 Hours race results

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