2014 ELMS runners-up snatch championship lead with two races remaining.
Jota Sport scored its first European Le Mans Series race victory of the season today (12 July). The British team that was denied the 2014 championship title by a mere four-points now lead this year’s standings by 2pts with two races remaining having placed second and third in earlier ELMS races.
Simon Dolan, Filipe Albuquerque and Harry Tincknell swept their Jota Gibson-Nissan to glory in the Four Hours of Red Bull Ring – the “Mighty 38” taking the chequered flag 27.478-seconds ahead of its closest challenger having completed 151-laps at an average speed of 114.27mph.
Albuquerque started the race from pole-position on the 29-car grid, Tincknell having set the fastest time in qualifying around the fast and sweeping 2.688-mile Austrian circuit for the second consecutive year to earn Jota a third ELMS pole in Austria. A Safety Car period after 11mins nullified a 6secs lead advantage then another cruelly wiped out the Portuguese’s 10secs advantage on 37mins.
I believe it was my best drive to date.
The Audi Sport “factory” loaned sportscar driver pitted the lead Jota Gibson on 58mins after a great stint who set the race’s fastest lap. Simon resumed third, 12secs off the lead, but immediately snatched second place after an impressive overtaking manoeuvre. A series of consistently quick lap times saw “sportsman” driver Dolan take the lead on 83mins – Simon notably setting the seventh fastest race lap time.
He pitted for fuel approaching mid-distance and returned to the action with a 13secs lead. Despite struggling with a lack of grip in the 30°C heat, Simon did an outstanding job under intense pressure to keep his Gibson ahead which ultimately decided the race before Tincknell took the wheel under Safety Car conditions with 88mins to run.
With an hour remaining, the Jota Gibson had a seven seconds lead, Harry comfortably extending the advantage to almost 19secs before making his final stop for fuel with just 23mins remaining. Tincknell resumed second, 20secs down, but was almost immediately back in front when the leader was summoned by the race organisers to serve a stop-go penalty for a pit-lane exit infringement.
While the victory marked Jota’s first in the ELMS since last May, the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours LM P2 class winning team which finished runners-up in this year’s twice-around-the-clock race, Jota Sport had won its class in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s Spa-Francorchamps race. The penultimate round of the five-race ELMS is staged at Paul Ricard in Southern France on 6 September.
Simon Dolan (GB). Age 46. Born: Chelmsford, Essex. Lives: Monaco (MC): “It was a fantastic race for the team and for me personally, I believe it was my best drive to date. I’m very happy to have been able to retain the lead during my two middle stints and give the car to Harry in P1. It was also a very stressful race with our lead constantly being slashed due to the high number of Safety Car periods.”
Filipe Albuquerque (P). Age 30. Born & Lives: Coimbra (P): “I’m really happy with achieving Jota’s first ELMS win of 2015. We were the car to beat over both days and ultimately achieved pole, the win and fastest lap. I pushed hard immediately from the start but lost my lead advantage because of the first Safety Car. Then the same thing happened again – I was going nuts inside the car! There were so many Safety Car phases that made the race much more thrilling. But Jota Sport made no mistakes and that got us the win.”
Harry Tincknell (GB). Age: 23. Born: Exeter, Devon. Lives: Sidmouth, Devon (GB): “It was an amazing race that was constantly changing. Filipe twice had his lead eroded due to the Safety Car. Simon did a fantastic job in the middle stints to maintain our advantage. When I was in the car, I was pushing very hard. I thought it looked like a pretty comfortably victory but another couple of Safety Cars changed all of that. The Jota Sport team did an amazing job.”
Sam Hignett. Partner, Jota Group: “All three drivers did a great job but we didn’t get the strategy totally right. We lost a lot of time with the Safety Cars. It was a good win and a lesson learnt. The entire team have worked incredibly hard this year. We’ve won at Spa and now here plus second places at Le Mans and Silverstone, and a third at Imola this year. We now lead ELMS for the first time this season so we have everything to fight for in the last two races to grab the title that narrowly escaped us last year.”