Jota Sport made the perfect start to their European Le Mans Series title assault at Silverstone yesterday (13 April) by clinching pole position and overall victory at the British Grand Prix venue.
The team’s pairing of Simon Dolan and new recruit Oliver Turvey were at the sharp end throughout the weekend with their Nissan-powered Zytek LMP2 proving quick in Friday’s initial practice sessions. Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 Test Driver Turvey then made the perfect start to his Jota career by securing pole position for Saturday’s race with a lap of 1m48.032s, beating the team’s closest challengers by 0.8s.
But it became clear that their path to victory would not be a simple one when rain began to fall shortly before the three-hour event’s start, making for challenging conditions when the race got underway. Pitting early for wet tyres, Turvey suffered an unfortunate delay that dropped him down the order.
However he soon began to regain lost ground, quickly climbing back into the top five and keeping his cool as the weather worsened. Through a combination of on-track passes and shrewd driving Turvey was able to hand over to Dolan in P1 shortly after the hour.
The changeover dropped Dolan to third but he had moved back into second spot by the time deteriorating conditions necessitated a safety car at half-race distance. He would then re-take the lead when the rival Thiriet by TDS squad made their driver change. The race would remain neutralised for a further 50 minutes before officials elected to call a halt to proceedings early, securing a season-opening victory for the Jota outfit.
And though they will naturally be frustrated to have triumphed behind the safety car, the team’s pole-winning pace and their drivers’ impressive composure in difficult conditions put them in excellent stead heading to the second round of the ELMS campaign at Italian venue Imola (18 May).
Oliver Turvey, Jota Sport driver: “This has been a great first weekend in LMP2 and the European Le Mans Series with pole and the race win, which came in really tricky conditions. We started on slicks which made the first lap extremely challenging, but after slipping to seventh I was able to work my way back up. The team played a big part in this as they did a great job and allowed me to feel very confident in the car all weekend. Overall it’s been the perfect way to start the season and I’m already looking forward to the next race.”
Simon Dolan, Jota Sport driver: “I’ve never really got on with Silverstone in the past so it’s good to finally get a win here! It was pretty cold and wet on-track and then the visibility started going which made it really difficult. But in the long run we’ll only remember that we won the race, not the weather conditions, so it’s a very positive result and great for the championship.”
Sam Hignett, Jota Sport Team Principal: “It’s rewarding to start the season with a win after putting in a lot of work over the winter months. The drivers proved a perfect combination with Oliver mighty in qualifying and Simon managing extremely well in what were dreadful race conditions, so a big well done to both.
“At heart we’re racers so naturally we’d like to have fought all the way to the chequered flag, but on outright pace I believe we were worthy winners today. Hopefully the weather will be better next time out and we can really show what we’re capable of.”
Before tackling the Imola ELMS event, Jota Sport will be back in action at iconic Belgian circuit Spa-Francorchamps (5 May) when they will contest the FIA World Endurance Championship race in preparation for June’s Le Mans 24 Hours. The British squad secured LMP2 class victory at the event 12 months ago and will be targeting another competitive run this year.