G-Drive Racing’s Ferdinand Habsburg, Yifei Ye and Rene Binder took a commanding victory in the opening round of the 2020-21 Asian Le Mans Series at Dubai Autodrome.
The drivers of the No. 26 Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson moved into an early points lead after putting on a faultless performance in their Algarve Pro Racing-prepared prototype.
Habsburg took the checkered flag almost two minutes ahead of Sean Gelael, who shared the second-placed No. 28 JOTA Oreca 07 Gibson with Stoffel Vandoorne.
Phoenix Racing completed the podium with its Oreca driven by Matthias Kaiser, Simon Trummer and reigning FIA World Endurance GT champion Nicki Thiim.
Habsburg, Ye and Binder won after benefiting from a mixture of their own collective pace and issues for the other entries in the seven-car LMP2 field.
A chaotic start saw Gelael make a lunge for the lead into the opening right-hander, only for the Indonesian driver to slip wide and drop in behind Trummer, who had swept around the pair of G-Drive cars that had locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying.
The JOTA and Phoenix Orecas then collided after around 20 minutes when Gelael clipped the rear of Trummer’s car, before being collected by the spinning vehicle beside him.
This prompted emergency repair pit stops for JOTA and Phoenix, enabling Binder to sail through into a lead that the No. 26 G-Drive car would maintain until the end.
Race-long technical niggles for the No. 25 G-Drive Aurus dropped John Falb, Rui Andrade and Franco Colapinto to fourth behind JOTA and Phoenix.
A solo spin for Gelael approaching the end of the first hour put Trummer ahead in the JOTA-Phoenix battle, before another positional swap saw Vandoorne extend a gap over Kaiser and get to within 40 seconds of race leader Ye.
However, the timing of a Full Course Yellow period at the end of the second hour for a stranded LMP3 car added a minute to G-Drive’s advantage because the off-sequence JOTA and Phoenix cars had pitted just before the stewards’ intervention.
Colapinto closed the gap to Thiim during the final stint, but the G-Drive pilot needed to make a lot stop which confirmed Phoenix on the podium for its maiden LMP2 race.
The new Racing Team India operation placed fifth on its competition debut, ahead of the JOTA-supported Era Motorsport Oreca which claimed LMP2 Pro-Am honors.
In LMP3, United Autosports dominated with its No. 23 Ligier JS P320 Nissan driven by Rory Penttinen, Wayne Boyd and Manuel Maldonado.
The trio ran largely unopposed to a 1m 13s victory margin over defending class champions Colin Noble and Tony Wells of Nielsen Racing.
Nielsen prevailed in an entertaining second-half involving RLR MSport, Phoenix Racing and the two other United Autosports machines.
Strong closing stints from Duncan Tappy and Andy Meyrick put United’s No. 3 and No. 2 Ligiers third and fourth at the end.
Herberth Snatches GT Win after Late Drama
A late spin for the dominant GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R handed class honors in the GT category to the No. 99 Precote Herberth Motorsport Porsche crew.
After leading the entire way through stints from Julien Andlauer and Axcil Jefferies, Alain Ferte’s spin with four minutes remaining let Alfred Renauer through to capture the win with his Herberth co-drivers Robert Renauer and Ralf Bohn.
Experienced Le Mans driver Ferte recovered to cross the line second, over a minute behind Renauer. A reported drive-through for Ferte means the result is provisional.
The costly rotation prevented GPX from providing a follow-up result to its 24 Hours of Dubai win last month.
Ben Barnicoat, Ollie Millroy and Brendan Iribe finished third in the Inception Racing by Optimum McLaren 720S GT3.
The McLaren moved into the podium places with an hour and 20 minutes remaining, at a time when Millroy was on the tail of HubAuto Racing driver Marcos Gomes.
A touch between Gomes and the rear of Thomas Flohr’s Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 gave Millroy an opening to seize third, while defending champion HubAuto retired its new Mercedes-AMG shortly before the end with suspension damage from that incident.
Walkenhorst Motorsport’s No. 34 BMW M6 GT3 driven by Nicky Catsburg, Chandler Hull and Jon Miller crossed the line in fourth while Maxime Martin, Alexander West and Valentin Hasse-Clot placed fifth in the No. 88 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
The second part of this weekend’s Asian LMS double-header at Dubai Autodrome is due to get underway at 12:45 p.m. local time (3:45 a.m. ET, 8:45 a.m. GMT) tomorrow.
RESULTS: 4H Dubai Race 1