G-Drive Racing by DragonSpeed followed up its podium finish at the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone with a win at the 4 Hours of Monza with the #22 ORECA 07. This second race of the season marks the first one-two for the ORECA 07 joined by DragonSpeed’s #21 claiming the second step on the podium.
The ORECA 07 dominates
The 4 Hours of Monza will remain a significant addition to the ORECA 07’s record. For its second race in the European Le Mans Series, the car achieved a one-two after a highly competitive race. Four ORECA 07s were entered at the Monza circuit. DragonSpeed’s #21 (Lapierre/Hanley/Hedman), G-Drive Racing’s #22 (Rojas/Hirakawa/Roussel), Graff Racing’s #39 (Trouillet/Petit/Guibbert) and the #40 also entered by the French team (Allen/Matelli/Bradley). The first positive indication came Friday when Henrik Hedman and the #21 dominated the Bronze driver collective test. That was followed by a one-two for the #22 and #21 at the first free practice session punctuated by a solid performance for Ryo Hyrakawa. At the second session, G-Drive took control with the best time in 1’37.258. At qualifying, Enzo Guibbert (#39 ORECA 07) led the charge and the sessions wrapped up with an ORECA one-two-three: pole position for the #39, second position for Nicolas Lapierre with the #21 and third for Ryo Hirakawa with the #22! The #40 took the start in fourth position.
Breakdown of the race
The race quickly turned exciting in the very first laps. Enzo Guibbert (ORECA 07 #39) almost immediately took the lead, followed by Nicolas Lapierre and the #21. At the same time, Richard Bradley managed a stunning climb at the wheel of the #40 and consequently clocked the best in-race lap in 1’38.673. After 30 minutes, Bradley was halted by an engine breakdown and fell back to ninth position. Guibbert relinquished the lead to Lapierre who took control of the race before giving the wheel over to Henrik Hedman, and Rojas climbed to second position before switching out with Roussel. The French driver challenged Hedman’s #21, took the lead and kept it through the checkered flag. Going into the third hour, Roussel gave the wheel to Hyrakawa who did an exemplary stint without succumbing to the pressure from such fierce competitors. It was then Hanley’s turn to take the wheel of the #21, achieving a remarkable climb. Graff Racing continued its impressive performance: the #39 was still in the running for a podium finish and the #40 was clearly able to keep up with the top cars.
In the last laps, the #22 was penalized with a drive-through, causing it to lose its significant advantage. After a detour in the pits for the drive-through, despite everything Ryo Hyrakawa regained control and narrowly retained his lead until the finish line. Meanwhile, Ben Hanley continued his incredible effort and finished on the heels of the winning car after taking second position just a few minutes from the checkered flag. After a breathtaking and strategic race, Graff and the #39 finished fourth and the sister car eighth.
Léo Roussel – G-Drive Racing’s #22 ORECA 07: ”This is my first win in ELMS. The team did incredible work throughout the race. We incurred a drive-through near the end, it was very intense up until the final moments. In the end, we got the win, it’s fantastic.”
Ben Hanley – DragonSpeed’s #21 ORECA 07: ”The whole team did wonderful work. It is a real pleasure to be back on the podium. The race was intense, the competition was fierce. To finish in second place is a very encouraging result.”
With 43 points in the overall standings, G-Drive Racing is currently leader in the championship with a 10-point lead. After the victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship last weekend, this one-two comes at a perfect time for the ORECA 07 which will be very well-represented at Le Mans by no less than 14 chassis.