United Autosports' Tom Gamble tops podium in perfect Portugal performance in European Le Mans Series
Tom Gamble returned to the top step of the podium in the final round of the European Le Mans Series in Portugal.
The 19-year-old, from Epperstone, and his United Autosports team mates Phil Hanson and Jonathan Aberdein closed the season with a win in the 4 hours of Portimao race.
The finish also gained United Autosports a coveted second automatic invitation to the 2022 24 hours of Le Mans.
Gamble said: “It had been a long time coming with a few races this year where we have been so close.
“It was brilliant to pull off a win in the final race of the season and to get second in the championship.
“We would have liked to have finished one place higher, but that’s how it goes.”
The two Friday Free Practice sessions went well for the team, finishing 7th and 4th.
Qualifying was a consistent affair that saw them finish in sixth spot — good enough for a third row start for Sunday’s four-hour endurance race.
Hanson was the anchorman and started proceedings by being first behind the wheel of the Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 race car.
Initially Hanson dropped back to eighth place at the start, losing two spots, but soon moved back up the order and was up to P4 after the first 15 minutes of racing by lap nine.
On lap 18, a full course yellow was declared after a crash on the pit lane straight, and shortly after a red flag was shown to clear up the damage.
When racing resumed after 25 minutes, two laps commenced behind the safety car before the circuit went green.
On lap 30, Hanson pitted and Aberdein took control of the car, and the team opted to keep the same tyres to go out in P1.
Aberdein struggled on the worn tyres but was able to capitalise on his position to pull out a small gap from the rest of the field.
Gamble watched the screens in the pit garage as another change of strategy was taking place. The rest of the race would rely on Gamble.
Aberdein kept the #22 in the lead and, on lap 61, he called it a day and Gamble jumped into his office for the rest of the race.
Within no time Gamble was in the mix, leaving the pit lane in fourth, before quickly taking third.
He then closed the gap on the Algarve Pro Racing Oreca of Sophia Fioersch.
A great battle ensued for second place with Gamble getting past on lap 74.
He stuck to his guns in second until a pit stop for fuel and tyres on lap 86. A great bit of teamwork in the pits saw Gamble rejoin in first to everyone’s surprise.
With 17 minutes left on the clock the #26 of G Racing’s Nyck De Vries moved ahead, but his lead would be short-lived as De Vries lasted another lap before a scheduled pit stop at the end of lap 119.
Gamble was back in the lead with about 15 minutes to go.
For the next 12 laps, Gamble remained cool, calm and collected taking the chequered flag after 70 laps in the seat to take first spot.
“The race went perfectly for us,” he said.
“We had a few different strategies that paid off.
“The team gave us a fantastic car today and all weekend and great to finally pay them back with a win.”
Paul Horton, local motor racing journalist and photographer who has followed and worked with Gamble, said: “It was an engaging race with around five leaders, but Gamble was the man of the race excelling on every lap.
“He has had some great stints this season in LMP2 and the one to watch.
“It’s a great accolade for Tom, LMP3 Champion last year and now an LMP2 winner.
“What an end to the season.”