ELMS: Jota Sport LMP2 takes dramatic victory in 4hrs of Imola and a clean sweep for Ferrari in LMGTE
Imola, May 18th 2014-The no43 Newblood by Morand Racing Morgan of Christian Klein looked like winning the 4 Hours of Imola after passing the no38 Jota Sport Zytek 14 laps from the end of the race by dramatically the Austrian’s car slowed and stopped with an engine problem five minutes from the chequered flag, allowing Simon Dolan to regain the lead and to score the victory in round 2 of the European Le Mans Series. Full Results here.
The 4 Hours of Imola began with Harry Tincknell in the no38 Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan leading the 37 car field into the first corner from pole position. The British driver held the lead for the whole of his stint despite some pressure from the no36 Signatech Alpine of Nelson Panciatici, who had got ahead of the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Morgan of Ludovic Badey at the start.
On lap 25 Panciatici pitted to hand over to Paul Loup Chatin and a lap later Tincknell came in to hand over to Simon Dolan. Dolan rejoined in the lead of the race but held a slim 1.1 second advantage which wasn’t enough to hold off the 2013 ELMS LMPC champion. An incident not seen on camera saw the lead change on lap 37, with Chatin opening up a 5 second gap over Dolan as the Englishman fell down the order to 5th on lap 41.
On lap 49 there was a further change as Gary Hirsch in the no43 Newblood by Morand Racing overtook the TDS Racing Morgan for 2nd place, with Pierre Thiriet soon coming under pressure from Rodolfo Gonzlez in the Murphy Prototypes Oreca, who was still at the wheel of the no48 machine. Hirsch went wide at the final corner allowing the two drivers following to catch up and the Swiss driver had to defend hard to retain his second place.
On lap 53 Chatin brought the Signatech Alpine into the pits from the lead followed by the rest of the field but the pitstop schedule shuffled the order with Thiriet rejoining at the front of the race ahead of the no43 Newblood by Morand Racing Morgan now with Romain Brandella at the wheel. Chatin was back in 3rd place, just 5.3 seconds behind the leader, with Gonzalez in the no48 machine right behind the Signatech Alpine.
Chatin moved into second ahead of Brandela, and then Gonzalez passed the 3rd placed Morgan, but there was contact as Brandela tried to move out of the way into Turn 1. The manoeuvre was judge to be the fault of Gonzalez and a stop-go penalty was awarded to the no48 Murphy Prototype Oreca as a result but a transmission problem finished the Irish team’s chances of a good points haul in Imola.
After the next round of pitstops Oliver Webb was now at the wheel of the Signatech Alpine and was leading the race ahead of the no38 Jota Zytek and the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Morgan. However a safety car period was called by the Race Director to enable repairs to the plastic kerbs at T13, which came loose after a spin by one of the GTC cars dislodged the kerbing designed to keep the cars from cutting the corner. After several laps behind the safety car the race resumed on Lap 95.
The Thiriet by TDS Racing Morgan also ran into problems when a puncture forced the no46 car into the pits and into the garage to replaced a damaged brake disc. The mechanics made a rapid change and soon had their driver back on track after losing just two laps, but the podium was suddenly a long way off for the winners of the open race at Silverstone.
On lap 114 the no24 Sebastien Loeb Racing Oreca-Nissan was given a stop –go penalty for an unsafe release from the pits and Vincent Capillaire served the penalty two laps later. Michel Frey in the no34 Race Performance Oreca-Judd spun off the track at T8 and after being helped out of the gravel trap made a slow exit into the pitlane.
After Filipe Albuquerque did his stint at the wheel of the Jota Sport Zytek, Simon Dolan was back in the driving seat to complete his allotted driving time. The Englishman was coming under pressure from the no43 Newblood by Morand Racing Morgan of Austrian Christian Klien. For lap after lap Klien tried to find a way around the leading car but Dolan held his nerve and his lead and it wasn’t until Lap 125 that Klien went into the lead with a well judged manoeuvre into the first chicane. The Morgan-Judd then pulled out a small gap but Dolan was able to keep in touch with the leading car keeping the gap to less than one second.
It looked like victory was within the grasp of the Swiss team when disaster struck 5 minutes from the chequered flag. Christian Klien’s car slowed and stopped at the edge of the circuit, allowing the three cars following to move ahead. The Austrian got the car fired up again and rejoined in 4th place only to stop once again before the chequered flag with engine failure.
Simon Dolan swept into the lead and took the chequered flag 28 seconds ahead of the no24 Sebastien Loeb Racing Oreca-Nissan of Vincent Capillaire and a further 14 seconds ahead of the no36 Signatech Alpine of Paul-Loup Chatin.
By finishing in 5th place Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and Tristan Gommendy retain their championship lead, currently on 35 points, 8 ahead of Filipe Albuquerque, Simon Dolan and Harry Tincknell. Likewise Thiriet by TDS Racing are 8 points ahead of Jota Sport, with Signatech Alpine 10 points behind the French team.
All of the LMP2 competitors will be taking part in the 2014 24 Heures du Mans on the 14/15 June, while Round 3 of the European Le Mans Series on the 20th July at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.
LMGTE – Double Top for Ferrari in Imola
Andrea Bertolini in the No.72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia took the team’s first class victory of the 2014 season after relentlessly chasing down the No.81 Kessel Racing Ferrari in the final hour. The very experienced Ferrari factory driver was undoubtedly helped in his cause by the safety car which effectively wiped out the substantial lead built up by Thomas Kemenater and his team mate Matteo Cressoni in the first three hours. Bertolini and his Russian team mates Viktor Shaitar and Sergey Zlobin had always been in the mix following a strong drive by all three, but the Kessel pole-sitters will be feeling understandably disappointed to have lost out at such a late stage.
Third in class went to the No.66 JMW Ferrari 458 of Daniel McKenzie, George Richardson and Daniel Zampieri – another of the Italian cars to have been a contender throughout and the only other car to finish on the same lap as the class winners. Fourth and fifth respectively, and gaining valuable points, were the No.56 AT Racing and No.58 Team SOFREV-ASP Ferraris. The Prancing Horse marque filled the top six places in the category, with the No.76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR taking 7th in class.
As had been anticipated there was a bit of bumping and rubbing between the 37 competitors on track, and two of the three cars not running at the finish were LMGTE entries – the No.80 Kessel Racing Ferrari which lost a wheel – fortunately without causing any damage or distress to anyone else – and the No.54 AF Corse entry which went out mid-way through after running as high as second in the first hour.
The GTC class was an equally close affair, with the first three also being Ferraris and all finishing on the same lap. The appearance of the safety car had an effect on this class too, closing up all the competitors and ensuring a tightly contested final hour.
Taking its first European Le Mans Series win in only its second race was the No.60 Formula Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Danes Johnny Laursen and Mikkel Mac and Italian Andrea Piccini who was substituting for Jan Magnussen. The Danish-entered Ferrari, which is managed by AF Corse, started from class pole position, thanks to Mikkel Mac, and – pit stops apart – never ran lower than third.
The second and third steps of the GTC podium were filled by SMP Racing – the No.73 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Olivier Beretta-David Markozov-Anton Ladygin edging out their team mates in the No. 71 entry (Kirill Ladygin-Aleksey Basov-Luca Persiani) by 2.5 seconds at the chequered flag. Six of the top seven cars in GTC were Ferraris, the only interloper being the fourth placed No.99 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4 12C GT3 of Ricardo Gonzalez-Karim Ajlani-Alex Brundle.
For some of the European Le Mans Series competitors the next race will be the ‘big one’, the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 14/15th June. The whole ELMS field will be back together again for the 4 Hours of Red Bull Ring in Austria on 20th July and another thrilling race is surely to be expected.