Epperstone race ace Tom Gamble, of United Autosports, seals LMP3 category and continues winning run to take European Le Mans Series title
Tom Gamble has won a prestigious European motor racing title — at his first attempt.
Gamble, who turns only 19 on Saturday, earned himself the best possible birthday present by securing the prestigious European Le Mans Series title in Portugal over the weekend.
The 2017 Ginetta Junior Champion, from Epperstone, contested the five-race ELMS in the LMP3 category — his maiden season in the powerful sports-prototypes.
During the campaign, Gamble shared a Ligier-Nissan with fellow British co-drivers Wayne Boyd, 30, and Rob Wheldon, 38, in the four-hour, multi-class races.
Gamble, a BRDC SuperStar and 2018 McLaren Autosport BRDC award winner, started from pole-position for the fourth time and won in style at Portimão.
The United Autosports trio finished 21-points ahead of second place in the championship, scoring a total of 94 points after three wins (France, Belgium, Portugal) and a third place (Italy).
Winning the LMP3 championship was a dream come true for Gamble, reports Paul Horton.
Co-driver Rob Wheldon, like Gamble, joined United Autosports at the start of the season, while Wayne Boyd enjoyed his fifth year with the championship-winning team, which won previously in 2016 and 2017.
“I think we knew from the start of the year with the line-up we had that it was possible to win the championship, and in pre-season testing we had a really fast car,” Gamble said.
“United Autosports prepared so well for this year, we really hit the ground running at the first round and then the same again at the second race.
“We had a couple of unlucky rounds where we didn’t get the results we wanted or deserved but it has been fantastic to cap it off with a win — the best possible way to win the championship.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without my awesome team-mates and this amazing team.
“United have won everything they have been apart of this year so it’s a pleasure to be part of its success.”
The weekend started as it carried on, with success for Gamble’s race team a constant theme.
Free practice saw Boyd come out fastest on the 2.915 mile circuit with a time of 01-36-081.
A 30-minute qualifying session saw Boyd again excel, posting a fastest time of 01-36-277 on lap two.
Crucially for United, their nearest championship rivals in the no.13 Inter Europol Competition Ligier finished in tenth after Dino Lunardi had a fast lap deleted for exceeding track limits.
As the lights went out for the 137-lap race, Wheldon, from pole, kept his lead as the grid rounded turn one.
At the restart of a full course yellow, Wheldon lost the lead to the no.15 RLR MSport Ligier, of Lorenzo Veglia, the no.9 Graff, of Arnold Robin, and the no.13 championship contender Lunardi.
After 80 minutes of racing another full course yellow was declared after a AF Corse Ferrari went off into the gravel at the final corner and, once again, several cars took the opportunity to pit.
To the advantage of Wheldon he regained the lead before pitting and handing over to Gamble, who had the pressure task of keeping momentum.
With just 90 minutes left on the clock the safety car was deployed and, at the restart, Gamble held a 20-second lead.
Driver analysis then showed he held the fastest 15 laps in the race — an achievement in itself which further sustained the lead with an hour left as Boyd completed the race with a 12-second lead.
The good news continued for United as the pole-sitting #32 crew of Will Owen, Alex Brundle and Job van Uitert finished fourth to seal second in the LMP2 standings.
Team owner Zak Brown said: “It was a fantastic result for the team to win not one, but two championships in the same series. It has never been done in ELMS before.”