For the second round of the 2021 European Le Mans Series season, competitors hit the track at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, northern Austria. Team WRT from Belgium claimed the top step on the podium for the second time in a row thanks to Yifei Ye, Robert Kubica and Louis Delétraz after a solid and strategic showing in a rather unpredictable race. The drivers in the #41 ORECA 07 are now two-time winners in this year’s championship and have reinforced their lead in the classification. This marks the 20th win for the ORECA 07 in the ELMS.
The first free practice on Friday saw Phil Hanson clock the fastest time of 1:22.051 at the wheel of United Autosports’ #22 ORECA 07. The Brit topped the timesheet ahead of G-Drive Racing’s #26 at 0.056 seconds, DragonSpeed’s #21 at 0.058 seconds (first in Pro/Am), then COOL Racing’s #37 at Team WRT’s #41. By the end of the session, 12 LMP2s found themselves within the same second! On Saturday morning, in temperamental weather, Ferdinand Habsburg in Algarve Pro Racing’s #24 ORECA 07 nabbed the top spot with a time of 1:21.741, trailed by G-Drive Racing’s #25 (first in Pro/Am) and United Autosports’ #22.
Qualifying got underway a few hours later at 15:30, with rookie Logan Sargeant placing the #34 ORECA 07 in pole position in a remarkable 1:20.596. Hired by Racing Team Turkey to replace Harry Tincknell for the race in Austria, Sargeant scored the outfit’s first pole and the number one spot in the Pro/Am class. He qualified ahead of Austrian driver Ferdinand Habsburg in Algarve Pro Racing’s #24 by 0.157 seconds. The top 3 was rounded out by Nicolas Jamin in United Autosports’ #32 ORECA 07.
The start of the race was given on Sunday under clear, blue skies. Though Jamin in the #32 and John Falb in G-Drive Racing’s #25 both had excellent starts, the euphoria was short-lived as the Safety Car was quickly deployed following contact between LMP3s. Shortly thereafter on the heels of pit stops and penalties, Yifei Ye held second position behind Roman Rusinov who had started in the seventh spot.
Around mid-race, heavy rain cloaked the circuit, causing a succession of gravel trap incidents at turn 7 and a second appearance by the Safety Car.
Soon after the restart, Kubica gave the wheel to Delétraz for the final stint as Franco Colapinto in G-Drive Racing’s #26 boasted a 50-second lead on the Swiss driver in Team WRT’s #41. However, after a pit stop for the leader and with 20 minutes to go, Delétraz went on the attack! The two men fought relentlessly, with Team WRT triumphing at the chequered flag.
Delétraz finished the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring with a stunning 21-second lead on his closest adversary. Reliable and effective, G-Drive Racing took second and third places, and won the Pro-Am class with the #25 Aurus also designed by ORECA Technology.
Fourth place, second in Pro-Am, went to Racing Team Turkey thanks to a solid and promising performance and the driver line-up Sargeant/Yoluc/Eastwood. Fifth place was nabbed by Ultimate’s #29 ORECA 07, after starting in 12th position, followed by IDEC Sport’s #28 and United Autosports’ #22 which held the lead for a time and clocked the fastest in-race lap.
The third round of the 2021 ELMS season is set for 6 June at the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet, France.