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Silverstone, 10 – 11 April, 2015

The European Le Mans Series kicked off with a double header event, in conjunction with the FIA World Endurance Championship inaugural round at Silverstone, with the ELMS race on the Saturday afternoon, and the FIA WEC one on the Sunday afternoon. They were supported by three European F3 Championship races, with all races in the programme featuring healthy grids. In 2013 the ELMS race fell foul of the vagaries of the British Spring weather, with heavy rain bringing it to a premature end, whilst in 2014 the race enjoyed fine weather, with the FIA WEC race on the Sunday getting the rain. This year, apart from some rain early on the Saturday morning, the weekend was mainly bright and sunny, although the FIA WEC competitors had to put up with a strong blustery wind on Sunday.

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The ELMS field comprised of 11 entries in the top LMP2 class, 5 in the new LMP3 class, 9 in the top GT class for GT2 specification cars, LMGTE, and 6 cars in the GTC class for GT3 specification cars. The entrants had two 90mins practice sessions on the Friday, with separate qualifying sessions for the sports prototypes anf GT Cars on the Saturday morning. The sports prototype qualifying session saw the # 41 Greaves Motorsport entered Gibson 0155-Nissan, driven by Hirsch / Wirdheim / Lancaster, take the overall pole position. Next quickest, almost half a second off the pole time, was the similar # 38 Jota Sport entry of Dolan / Alberquerque / Tincknell, fractions of a second ahead o the # 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05-Nissan of Thiriet / Bady / Gommendy, with less than 1sec covering the top five runners. In the LMP3 class it was the pair of Team LNT entries that topped the table, with the # 3 Ginetta-Nissan of Hoy/Robertson beating the sister # 2 car of Simpson/Paletou by just over half a second. It is interesting to note that in these two classes, all but the # 40 Krohn Racing Ligier JS P2 were Nissan powered, with the Ligier having a Judd engine.

In the GT groups, it was the # 81 AF Corse entered Ferrari 458 GT2 of Wyatt / Rugolo / Aguas that took the class pole in the LMGTE division, a fraction over 1/10sec ahead of the # 88 Proton Competition entered Porsche 911 RSR of Bachler / Qubaisi / Ried, with the # 56 AT Racing entered Ferrari 458 GT2 of Talkanitsa / Talkanitsa Jr. / Pierguidi third quickest. In this class there even more cars within 1sec of the pole time, with seven under that figure, whilst the remaining two were only fractions behind, so there was definitely going to be some fierce competition come the race. The GTC cars were headed by the colourful # 59 BMW Z4 GT3 of TDS Racing, driven by Perera / Lunardi / Dermont, followed by a trio of AF Corse entered Ferraris, in the order # 63, # 62 and # 64.

As the field rushed towards the green lights signalling the start of the race on the Saturday afternoon, the # 62 Ferrari of Flohr / Castellacci / Hall was muscled into the pit wall, and its race was run before it had even started. Meanwhile, at the head of the field there was more action as the field bunched up going into the first real corner after the start, Village, and round into The Loop, where the # 29 Pegasus Racing entered Morgan-Nissan was tapped into a spin and then speared across the track into one of the AF Corse entered LMP2 Oreca 05-Nissan’s, with both cars sustaining enough damage that meant a slow crawl back to the pits. However, both cars were repairable and reappeared later, although out of contention for any significant placings. Fortunately they were the only early race incidents, so after this hiccup the protagonists could to do battle without interruption, at least for a while.

Throughout the race the main lead battle was between the three quickest qualifiers, the # 41 and # 38 Gibson 015S- Nissans and the # 46 Oreca 05-Nissan, particularly when a safety car period with 90mins remaining closed the field up. This was occasioned by contact between the # 63 AF Corse Ferrari and the # 68 Massive Motorsport Aston Martin coming onto the pit straight, saw the Aston Martin go backwards into the pit wall, with no way of moving it without bringing a recovery vehicle onto the track.
When the safety car went in, it was the # 46 Oreca 05-Nissan in the lead, followed by the # 38 and # 41 Gibson 015S-Nissans, which were rapidly chasing it down, and swapping places in the process, with some “hard” moves along the way. As the race moved into the final minutes, the two Gibsons were hounding the Oreca, and the ~ 41 example driven by Jon Lancaster went for the lead coming out of The Loop, there was contact, and the Oreca driven by Tristan Gommendy spun, which dropped it down to 3rd place after he had collected it all together. The # 38 Gibson driven by Harry Tincknell set after the # 41 car, and although he closed right up to it he ran out of laps, and had to be content with 2nd place, 0.37sec in arrears at the chequered flag, the closest finish in ELMS history.

In the LMP3 class the # 3 Team LNT Ginetta-Nissan driven by Sir Chris Hoy and 18 year old rising star Charlie Robertson, took a comfortable class win by one lap, despite a couple of spins, from the sister # 2 team car of Simpson/Paletou. The final podium spot went to the # 7 University of Bolton entry, driven Garofall / Petersen. In the LMGTE class, it was the # 86 Gulf Racing UK entered Porsche 911 RSR of Wainwright / Carroll / King that ended up supreme, after the class pole sitting # 81 AF Corse Ferrari retired early in the race. The AF Corse team’s # 51car was a retirement shortly afterwards, but their # 55 car driven by Cameron / Griffin / Scott took the final class podium spot, behind the # 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari driven by Richardson / Smith / Tordoff. The debuting # 59 TDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3 driven by Perera / Lunardi / Dermont turned its class pole position into a class win, convincingly 2 laps ahead of the # 64 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3 of Rasmussen / Barreiros / Guedes. The final podium spot went to the # 85 Gulf Racing UK Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 GT3 driven by Goethe / Brown / Hamilton, although it was some way in arrears of the 2nd place car, after a problematic run.

ELMS        r# Model Chassis # Team Colour Drivers Position O/A Cl.

66 Ferrari 458 GT2 2808 JMW Motorsport Yellow-Red- Chrome G. Richardson/  R. Smith/  S. Tordoff 9th 2nd
55 Ferrari 458 GT2 2854 AF Corse Orange-White D. Cameron/ M. Griffin/  A. Scott 10th 3rd
60 Ferrari 458 GT2 2876 Formula Racing Red-White-Black J. Laursen/  M. Mac/  A. Rizzoli 13th 6th
56 Ferrari 458 GT2 2824 AT Racing Black-Red A. Talkanitsa/  A. Talkanitsa Jr./  A. Pier Guidi 15th 7th
51 Ferrari 458 GT2 2848 AF Corse Red-RWG St’s P. Mann/  R. Giammarea/ M. Cressoni DNF DNF
81 Ferrari 458 GT2 2846 AF Corse Red S. Wyatt/  R. Aguas /  M. Rugolo DNF DNF

Class GTC
64 Ferrari 458 GT3 3496 AF Corse Red-White M. Rasmussen/  F. Barreiros/  F. Guedes 18th 2nd
63 Ferrari 458 GT3 3492 AF Corse Red G. Roda/  I. Melnikov/  M. Cioci DNF DNF
62 Ferrari 458 GT3 3246 AF Corse Silver-Red Stripe T. Flohr/  E. Castellacci/  S. Hall DNF DNF

Keith Bluemel