Spirited drives from Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey helped Jota Sport fight back from an early puncture to claim their second European Le Mans Series podium of the season at the penultimate round in Hungary on Saturday.
Like the morning’s qualifying session, the three-hour race began in wet conditions with Turvey keen to make inroads from fifth on the grid. And the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 Test Driver wasted little time in doing just that by picking up two positions in the opening 30 minutes.
But just as he was lining up a move for second place, debris deposited in the final corner caused a left-rear puncture. Having only just passed the pit entry, the Briton was forced to complete a full lap at near-walking pace so as not to damage the #38 Zytek-Nissan’s bodywork.
While the puncture dropped the team down to fifth, the unscheduled stop did at least offer an opportunity to switch from full wet weather tyres to intermediates. On a drying track it wasn’t long before Turvey was lapping considerably faster than those ahead and, by the end of his stint, had incredibly moved back up to second overall.
Intermittent drizzle prompted the team to remain on intermediates when Dolan climbed aboard just after half-distance. Differing strategies meant the British squad’s silver graded driver was now pitted against the other teams’ fully professional pilots in unpredictable conditions. Nevertheless, Dolan once again demonstrated his capability behind the wheel of an LMP2 prototype by producing two fault-free stints, during which he was able to match his rivals’ times and overcome the frequent rain showers.
That ensured Jota Sport was able to complete its comeback by finishing third, just a lap behind the winners. It’s a result that also sees them head to the final round at Paul Ricard in France on September 27/28 with an outside chance of clinching the ELMS Teams’ and Drivers’ crowns.
The team’s ELMS entry wasn’t its only podium finisher this weekend, however. Its classic arm, Jota Historic, prepares and runs the Lotus 16 that was driven to third place by its owner Roger Wills in the Richmond Trophy at Goodwood Revival on Saturday.
Simon Dolan: “That’s an excellent result – I doubt we could have done any better considering everything that we’ve had to overcome today. I was very happy with my performance in what were tricky conditions throughout the race. Oliver made a great start and was right on the leaders’ pace before his puncture, without which who knows where we might have ended up. To have finished only a lap back is testament to a fine team performance.”
Oliver Turvey: “There’s no question the puncture changed the course of our race. I lost a lot of time crawling around the whole lap trying my best not to damage the car, but without that we might not have benefitted from the switch to intermediates. I was the fastest guy out there after the stop and was pleased to make up the lost time and positions. Simon then did a fantastic job considering the conditions and calibre of professionals he was up against. The podium is a great reward for his and the team’s hard work.”
Sam Hignett, Team Principal: “It’s great to be back on the ELMS podium after our victory at Silverstone at the start of the year, especially given the circumstances. Both drivers were exemplary – Oliver at the start and then on the intermediates, and Simon in those tricky conditions against the gold and platinum drivers when he drove very well indeed – and I can’t praise the team enough for their efforts all weekend. Mathematically we can still win the championship at the season finale in two weeks so we’ll be doing everything possible on our side to make that happen.”
European Le Mans Series standings (after 4 of 5 rounds)
1. Thiriet by TDS Racing 73 points
2. Signatech Alpine 73
3. Jota Sport 55
4. Race Performance 40
5. Morand Racing 40
6. Murphy Prototypes 39
7. Boutsen Ginion Racing 22
8. SMP Racing 20
9. Greaves Motorsport 10
10. DKR Engineering 8
11. HVM Status GP 4