Unlucky at Paul Ricard Circuit in France, but United Autosports and Tom Gamble retained championship top spot
It was a weekend of mixed emotions for racer Tom Gamble and United Autosports after being forced to retire from round three of the European LeMans Series Le Castellet 240, reports Paul Horton.
The #2 championship-leading team lined up on the second row of the LMP3 grid in third place after the group, made up by Gamble, Rob Wheldon and Wayne Boyd, put in strong sessions during testing, free practice and qualifying.
Come race time, a fast start by Wheldon saw him take the lead in the LMP3 class by lap four.
With darkness having fallen over the track, and with one hour 50 minutes left on the clock, Wheldon took the #2 Ligier back into the pit and handed the car over to 18-year-old Gamble from the lead position.
Having continued the good form, Gamble was forced to pit as his team reported a problem to the car over the radio.
Unfortunately for Gamble, the damage sustained prior to his stint at the wheel proved to be too costly and forced the team to retire the car.
The car sustained a broken radiator and had engine problems from an earlier knock on the track.
“Things didn’t really go our way today,” said the Epperstone racer after pitting.
“Rob did an incredible stint and got us into the lead when the conditions were tricky.
“Then he had some contact with a Porsche and he was really unlucky with the damage it caused.
“When I went out on track the water temperature went really high and that was it really — race over.
“But it was just one of those days, we’ve had a really good start to the year and you can’t win them all, but we will come back stronger.”
All was not lost for Gamble’s team United Autosport though, as the race saw the #3 Ligier home for its first podium of the season in second place.
Gamble and #2 Ligier team remain top, 14 points clear.
Zak Brown, team owner and chairman, said: “What a race — fantastic result in LMP3.
"Duncan and Andrew had a great race too, but Wayne, Rob and Tom had the worst luck.
"I’m sure they will bounce back at Monza.”
Richard Dean, team owner and managing director, said: “That was one of the hardest races I’ve ever had to watch as a team owner.
"It all seemed to be going wrong at one point, but that made the win in LMP2 and the second place in LMP3 so much sweeter.
"The positive thing for them to take away is that they are still leading the championship.
"Next for us is Le Mans — let’s see what we can do there.”