Job van Uitert winner ELMS season opener
Job van Uitert and his United Autosports teammates Will Owen and Alex Brundle have won the first European Le Mans Series race of the season at Paul Ricard, France. In a four-hour race controlled from start to finish by the British team's two cars, managing the conditions correctly and preserving the tires was the key to victory for the young Dutchman.
The race, which was held on the French Grand Prix circuit, looked after qualifying to turn into a battle between the two United Autosports Oreca LMP2s and the G-Drive Racing team. After Alex Brundle qualified the car in third place on Saturday afternoon, it was up to Wil Owen to drive the opening stage. A strong start resulted in a nice battle with teammate Phil Hanson in the other blue-red United Oreca, a fight in which Owen took the lead after XNUMX laps.
In the ensuing two-and-a-half hours of racing, the difference between the two United Autosports machines never exceeded two seconds while target championship contenders G-Drive Racing fell sharply behind a mis-timed stop. With eighty minutes to go, Van Uitert was allowed to finish the caraway but was immediately told that he had to save his car and especially the tires. “All weekend, thanks to a new asphalt layer, everyone has been struggling to keep the tires upright and we have seen flat tires on all the fast teams,” said Van Uitert, who had to follow a conservative strategy. “We couldn't take any chances and I had to get the speed out of the car and drive as safely as possible. Especially towards the end of the race the left front tire felt like a ticking time bomb.”
How critical the tire wear was in the warm conditions on the southern French circuit was evident in the other United Autosports Oreca of Phil Hanson and Felipe Albequerque, who maintained a faster pace but suffered a flat tire in the final phase and fell back to third place.
That fate was spared Van Uitert and his teammates and despite the conservative strategy at the end of the race, the #32 machine proved more than fast enough to win the first four-hour race of the European Le Mans Series season. “It is so important in this special but short season to perform to the maximum in every race. In any case, we succeeded with this victory!”
The next European Le Mans Series race will take place at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit on 9 August. A week later, the Dutchman again races in the Belgian Ardennes in the World Endurance Championship together with Frits van Eerd and Giedo van der Garde aboard the Racing team Nederland LMP2.
Result 4 hours by Paul Ricard
- Van Uitert/Owen/Brundle | United Autosports | 132 laps
- DeVries/Rusinov/Jensen | G-Drive Racing | +21.146
- Hanson/Albequerque | United Autosports | +34.073
- Lapierre/Coigny/Borga | COOL Racing | +50.418
- Negaro/Calderon | Richard Mille Racing | +1.26.960