United Autosports duo Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque clinched the European Le Mans Series title with a round to spare with a third consecutive win at Monza.
Hanson and Albuquerque, who already sealed the LMP2 FIA World Endurance Championship crown with their Le Man 24 Hours victory last month, arrived at the penultimate round of the season with a 29-point lead at the head of the standings.
That became 30 points when Albuquerque took a sixth straight ELMS pole on Saturday, but there was drama at the start of the race, which began on a damp track, as Hanson outbraked himself into Turn 1, tried to make the turn and ended up in the gravel trap.
The Briton plummeted to 13th as a result, but an early safety car and an early pitstop to change to slicks helped him recover some of the lost ground.
By the time the LMP2 field had all made their first stops, Hanson was up to third behind the High Class Racing Oreca of Anders Fjordbach – who started on slicks – and the sister United Autosports Oreca of Will Owen.
A mistake for Owen put Hanson up to second before the English driver pitted to hand over to Albuquerque during a full-course yellow period midway through the second hour.
Albuquerque then made short work of the 40s buffer High Class had built at the head of the field, closing in on Fjordbach’s teammate Dennis Andersen and seizing the lead early in the third hour before handing back to Hanson for the final hour and 10 minutes.
From there, Hanson was able to nurse a 10-second advantage over the sister United car, shared by Owen, Job van Uitert and Alex Brundle, to the finish.
Victory for Hanson and Albuquerque give them an unassailable 37-point lead over Owen, van Uitert and Brundle with just next month’s Portimao finale to run.
DragonSpeed provisionally claimed the last spot on the podium with the Oreca shared by Ben Hanley, Henrik Hedman and newcomer Charles Milesi, with Hanley passing the High Class car of Fjordbach for third in the final hour.
However, the DragonSpeed crew was later disqualified for a technical infringement relating to the diffuser, promoting Danish pair Fjordbach and Andersen to third place.
Outside title contender G-Drive Racing suffered a disastrous race as Roman Rusinov was punted into a spin by the Graff Oreca of Alexandre Cognaud at Turn 1, with the Russian getting beached on a kerb and losing a lap while he was recovered.
Rusinov then brought the Aurus-branded Oreca into the garage, with he, Mikkel Jensen and Nyck de Vries failing to score as a result.
Victory in the LMP3 class for Inter Europol Competition pair Martin Hippe and Dino Lunardi keeps them in contention for title honours heading to Portimao, 10 points behind United Autosports trio Wayne Boyd, Tom Gamble and Rob Wheldon.
In GTE, Kessel Racing Ferrari drivers Michael Broniszewski, David Perel and Nicola Cadei won to open up a seven-point lead over Proton Competition Porsche rivals Michele Beretta, Alessio Picariello and Christian Ried ahead of the season finale.