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Lancaster was able to hold off fellow British driver Harry Tincknell in the Jota Sport Gibson in the final laps to win by just three tenths of a second after a scrappy end to the four-hour race.
A lengthy Safety Car intervention set up meant that the healthy advantage built up by Wirdheim over the Jota car and the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca of Tristan Gommendy in the previous stint was wiped out as the race moved into its final hour.
Having passed both men on track with the help of fresher rubber, Gommendy took a lead of over a minute when Wirdheim and Jota’s Simon Dolan (who in turn took over from Audi regular Filipe Albuqerque) both made their final stops to hand over to Lancaster and Tincknell respectively.
But a final stop for Gommendy with just under 30 minutes remaining set up a thrilling finale, as the Frenchman emerging from the pits with a 14 second cushion having changed only two tyres.
The Thiriet Oreca was therefore rapidly reeled in by Lancaster and Tincknell, despite the Gibson drivers being embroiled in a ferocious battle of their own.
Tincknell moved ahead when the duo encountered traffic at the Loop, allowing the Jota driver to sweep around the outside of Lancaster into second, only to lose the position and then make contact with his rival during a subsequent re-passing attempt at Becketts.
That left Lancaster two seconds behind an ailing Gommendy with 10 minutes left on the clock, but when the Briton inevitably caught up, he dived for the inside at Aintree just after negotiating backmarkers and made contact with the Frenchman.
While Gommendy was left to limp to the finish in a distant third in the car he shared with Pierre Thiriet and Ludovic Badey, Lancaster was able to continue, albeit with Tincknell now right on his tail.
He had just enough left in the tank to stave off the factory Nissan driver in the dying stages and take the win, albeit under investigation by the stewards owing to his contact with Gommendy.
With Maurizio Mediani parking the AF Corse Oreca he shared with Nicolas Minassian and David Markosov in the gravel in the closing stages, fourth place went to the lapped Krohn Racing Ligier of Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Oswaldo Negri Jr.
The top five was completed by the Eurasia Oreca of Pu Jun Jin and Nick de Bruijn, helped by a late mechanical failure for the Murphy Prototypes Oreca of Nathanael Berthon, Michael Lyons and Mark Patterson.
The GTE Class battle was won by a lap by the Gulf Racing Aston Martin of Michael Wainwright, Adam Carroll and Phil Keen, as the early class leader – Rui Aguas’ AF Corse Ferrari – was removed from contention early on after being hit by the Krohn Ligier.
Olympic hero Chris Hoy took honours in the LMP3 class on his ELMS debut in the LNT Ginetta he shared with Charlie Robertson, while the TDS Racing BMW shared by Franck Perera, Eric Dermont and Dino Lunardi was victorious in the GTC class.
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