Strakka victorious in LMP2 whitewash at the Hungaroring
After the dismal failure at Le Mans, mechanical reliability is once again Oreca's undoing in Hungary. LMP1 and LMP2 titles still to be decided at Silverstone.
The amazing pole for the Strakka LMP2 and the strong showing by the Rebellion Lolas was soon forgotten as the Oreca team surged into an early lead. The Peugeot 908 as well as the two Rebellions left the LMP2s standing and led the early part of the race. One of the two Swiss Lolas then suffered transmission problems and was passed by the rest of the field, though the sister coupé managed to keep up with the leading group until the halfway mark.
The big surprise was then served up by the LMP2 outfits as they mastered the meandering circuit far better. Strakka, Quifel ASM and Oak Racing were all taking it in turns to assert themselves against the Aston Martin of Signature and the Zytek driven by the Mansells. Following the first ever pole for an LMP2 car, it gradually became clear that we were about to witness the first outright win for one of the smaller class.
Just before halftime, Carlo van Dam crashed his Atlas Saleen S7, taking one of the two GT1 entrants out of the race at the same time and necessitating the deployment of the safety car. The two coupés of Oreca and Signature also got into trouble as the daylight faded. The Peugeot had to spend a long time in the garage having its differential repaired while the former Aston Martin works car had to make an extended pit stop for a fan belt replacement. By around 8pm, the only LMP1 still in the leading group was the Beechdean Mansell. In the confusion, Quifel took the lead, followed by Strakka and Oak. The Mansell Zytek then lost four laps through a puncture and a drive-through penalty.
At 10pm, Strakka wrote their name into the record books with the first ever LMP2 overall victory in Europe. But that wasn't all, as the next five cars following Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis across the finish line were from the same category: Quifel ASM, Oak Racing, RML, Bruichladdich and Racing Box. The Mansell family claimed victory in the somewhat humbled LMP1 class, seventh place overall ahead of the Rebellion driven by Neel Jani and Nicolas Prost.
In the GT2 category, there was also a closely fought battle as AF Corse failed to exploit their pole and Porsche came back strongly from what had otherwise been a mediocre weekend. The CRS Ferrari led the pack ahead of the Felbermayr 911 of Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz and the identical model belonging to IMSA Performance, with the two F430s of AF Corse in close pursuit. Until the last hour of the race, the leading group were all within one lap of each other. The order kept changing as the cars dipped in and out of the pit lane until eventually the Lieb/Lietz duo crystallised as GT2 race leaders. This victory in the GT2 class also sealed the championship for Felbermayr, their second title in successive seasons.
The outcome of the GT championship is the climax of an incredibly thrilling season, but the grand finale at Silverstone will see the LMP1 and LMP2 titles decided, with Audi and Peugeot sending their works vehicles onto the grid. And what's more, the race represents the start of the international Le Mans Cup (ILMC).