Pierson Stars as United claim victory on Saturday – but maximum points for Nielsen sees No.4 Oreca claim title
An outstanding performance from 16-year-old Josh Pierson guided the #23 United Autosports Oreca to victory in the opening 4 Hours of Abu Dhabi, round three of the 2022 Asian Le Mans Series.
A 30-minute red-flag break after a fire for the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier of Vyacheslav Gutak, the driver emerging unscathed, did not cause Pierson to lose pace, the undisputed young American apart from an assist for pulling away from Ben Hanley in the No. 4 Nielsen Racing Oreca after the race returned to the green flag.
Pierson handed the car over to Paul di Resta in the final hour to complete the job, with the Scotsman setting the fastest lap of the race in the closing stages, with the reconfiguration proving around 15 seconds per lap faster than the iteration before 2022!
The United team would not take full points for the race, however, after opting to forgo a points finish after testing earlier in the race week to allow Pierson, who turned 16, the age at which he can obtain the relevant international racing license, only on the Monday of the racing week.
The 25 points for the win, plus the point for pole position, therefore went to second place #4 Nielsen Racing Oreca of Rodrigo Sales, Matt Bell and Ben Hanley, enough to secure the championship win with one race still to come. On Sunday, the Nielsen team is the first this season to have a confirmed automatic invitation to the 2022 24 Hours of Le Mans based on season results.
There was spirited action in the LMP2 Am race once again with David Droux performing a star turn to catch and overtake Anders Fjordbach for the class win and another overall podium finish for the #39 Graff Racing Oreca which he shares with Eric Troulliet and Sebastien Page.
The High Class Racing car would return to second in LMP2 Am with the #44 Ligier ARC Bratislava completing the class podium despite a late-race assault at the chicane from a McLaren Garage 59.
After a difficult start to the season in Dubai with two retirements following a series of electrical problems, the #2 DKR Engineering Duqueine M30 D08 Nissan of Laurents Horr, Sebastian Alvarez and Mathieu de Barbuat lead from pole position to claim a dominating victory, all all three drivers putting in a solid performance that will give the team a boost as they prepare not only for the season finale later today, but also for the defense of their 2022 ELMS LMP3 title.
They were followed home by #22 Rinaldi Racing Duqueine of Leonard Weiss, Torsten Kratz and Hendrik Still in a much better performance from the German team, a Duqueine one-two quite a double-header turnaround at Dubai!
The podium would be completed by the #27 CD Sport Ligier JS P320, still the Championship leader. by Christophe Cresp, Antoine Doquin and Steven Palette, the latter winning a duel at the end of the race with the #8 Nielsen Racing Ligier of Colin Noble and Tony Wells challenging for the title, Noble overtaking the CD Sport car before being stuck in traffic through the resort and losing the place again to the CD Sport driver .
The CD Sport team will enter the season finale tonight with a double in the points standings with their #3 car returning to fifth place.
The biggest drama of the race happened to the #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier, a pair of laps at T14 and T15 saw liquid spill out and a safety car rushed in to clean it up before the car sped away. ignites during the descent to T9, under the safety car – Vyacheslav Gutak escaped unscathed from the fire which took a long time to bring under control.
The firefighting effort and subsequent track clearing made a red flag inevitable and the race was neutralized, but as the clock continued to tick the cars lined up on the pit straight for about 30 minutes before a reboot is ordered. Meanwhile, the Graff Racing team was preparing for an overnight rebuild of the entire rear of the car.
The red flag outage saw a number of teams winning and losing in the strategic stakes, as their non-Pro drivers’ driving time was burned with the field neutralized, and the element of luck whether the teams had filled up with fuel or nits before the Red flag also came into play.
One of the big winners was reigning GT champion Herberth Motorsport, their No. 91 Porsche 911 GT3 R for Alfred Renauer, Robert Renauer and Ralf Bohn emerging as a contender with late race pit work allowing Robert Renauer to win. still emerge in the lead ahead of a Ben Barnicoat charge in the Championship No7 McLaren he shares with Brendan Iribe and Ollie Millroy. The McLaren team took an increased points lead in the season finale after the #55 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari could do no better than seventh, they had started the day just one point behind the McLaren in the standings.
Behind the #7, there was a strong scent of deja vu as the #17 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 of Louis Prette, Vincent Abril and Conrad Grunewald held on for a while. a third consecutive third place finish after recovering from contact with the #77 D’Station Racing Aston Martin early in the race and a passing penalty for contact with the #20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes AMG.
The Ferrari was chased home again by Joe Osborne’s #42 Optimum Motorsport `Mclaren after another strong performance from the team, the orange and blue 720S GT3 shared with Nick Moss and Andrew Watson.
Bad luck for the Mercedes-AMG #6 HRT after a contact for Hubert Haupt from a blind Francesco Piovanetti who saw a delay for the car during a strong race.
Piovanetti’s Ferrari #51 required significant amounts of racing tape to carry out an ongoing body repair after the incident, another red flag car repair saw the #51 one of three cars to be penalized (along with the #6 HRT AMG and #96 Attempto Audi) with a drive-thru for work on their car in Parc Fermé conditions.
All three Aston Martins ran strong until the final stages of the race, with the red flag interruption not helping their race strategies, a common factor with Garage 59 Mclarens, one of which would finish with extensive damage up front after the clash with the #44 Ligier at the chicane in the final 10 minutes
The #99 Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Jurgen Haring, Tim Muller and Marco Seefried looked set to win GT Am, before a 3min45s penalty was imposed on the German team late in the race for violating overtaking procedure . This gave the lead to the #57 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Roman Ziemian, Francesco Zollo and Axcil Jefferies, ahead of Valentin Pierburg, Ian Loggie and Mikael Grenier in the #20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes AMG GT3.
The action continues tomorrow with Race 4 at 4.30pm local time (GMT+4) from Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi.
Yas Marina Race 1 Result