ELMS: TDS Racing beat the rain to win at Imola


The no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05-Nissan of Pierre Thiriet, Ryo Hirakawa and Mathias Beche won the 4 Hours of Imola ahead of the no38 G-Drive Racing Gibson-Nissan as the race finished behind the safety car when heavy rain fell on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in the final hour.

The first three hours were action packed across all three classes, with Beche in the no46 Oreca holding a comfortable lead when the rain came down with less 60 minutes remaining.

With heavy rain falling, and cars skidding off the track, the Race Director decided to use a Full Course Yellow to neutralise the race and then changed this to a Safety Car with 27 minutes remaining on the clock as the rain continued to fall.  With the track still too wet to continue racing, the 4 Hours of Imola finished under the Safety Car and the result declared.

Silverstone race winners Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England in The no2 United Autosports Ligier made it two wins from two starts, while Robert Renauer, Wolf Henzler and Mike Hedlund in the no77 Proton Competition Porsche took a dominant win in the LMGTE class.

LMP2 Race Report

The race started under blue skies with the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca-Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre leading the 41 competitors into the first corner from pole position.  The French driver continued to lead as Pierre Thiriet in the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca kept pace with the leader before being passed by the no23 Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier of Paul Loup Chatin.

The no41 Greaves Motorsport Ligier of Memo Rojas was clipped by no48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca of Garry Findlay and spun 180 degrees at Curva Tosa.  Rojas rejoined at back of field and after a brief stop rejoined the race but effectively out of the running and Findlay was given a black and white flag for causing the incident.

Meanwhile Lapierre held a four second lead as he started to lap the LMGTE competitors and had to take to the grass when one of the Ferraris didn’t see the white and blue Oreca and moved across on the reigning LMP2 24 Hours of Le Mans Champion.  Lapierre managed to keep the car pointing in the right direction and continued in the lead, setting the fastest lap of the race before handing the car to Henrik Hedman at the first pitstops.

Thiriet and Chatin stayed in their respective cars after their first stops and the quicker pitstops allowed them to leap ahead of the Dragonspeed Oreca.  Chatin led but couldn’t shake off the attentions of Thiriet, the silver driver maintaining  3-4 second gap to the gold rated Chatin before the second stops when Thiriet handed over to Ryo Hirakawa and Chatin to Fabien Barthez.  The Japanese driver caught Barthez and swept into the lead on lap 59 on the inside at Rivazza and then opened up a 10 second gap.

The first Full Course Yellow was brought out just before the half way point of the race when the no9 Graff Ligier spun off into gravel after contact with no48 Murphy Prototype Oreca of Patrick McClugham.  Five minutes before track went green again.  20 minutes later another Full Course Yellow was cllaed to recover the no8 Race Performance Ligier which had gone off at the final corner.

After the green flags were waved once again Hirakawa pulled away from the chasing pack and held a comfortable cushion when he handed the car to Mathias Beche for the final 90-minutes.

Harry Tincknell had taken over the G-Drive Gibson from Simon Dolan in 6th place and was soon making up places and by the time he handed over the car to Giedo Van Der Garde with 80 minutes remaining he was up to second place ahead of the Dragonspeed Oreca of Ben Hanley.

With 70 minutes left dark clouds had started to gather over the Imola circuit and rain was reported a short time later.  Within five minutes the track was awash with water and a Full Course Yellow was declared as several cars were spinning off, including the leading Oreca, with Beche quickly recovering without losing his lead.

The Full Course Yellow became a Safety Car period and this is how the race concluded with the no46 Thiriet by TDS Racing taking the 25 championship points for the race win, 18 points for the no38 G-Drive Racing extending their championship lead to 13 points over the no32 SMP Racing BR01 which finished in 4th place.  There were 15 points, plus the extra point for pole position, for the no21 Dragonspeed Oreca.

LMP3: United Autosports Make it Two From Two

The no3 United Autosports Ligier of Matt Bell started at the head of the 20 car LMP3 field with the no11 Eurointernational Ligier of Marco Jacoboni alongside the British driver and Alex Brundle in the no2 United Autosports Ligier just behind the leading pair.

At the start Brundle got a good start to get ahead of Jacoboni and slot in behind his teammate.  The two cars were leading the pack when on lap six Bell ran wide at Tamburello when he ran out of room as Memo Rojas in the recovering no41 Greaves Motorsport Ligier tried to pass. This gifted the LMP3 lead to Brundle with Bell rejoining in second.

Behind the leading pair the no12 Eurointernational Ligier of reigning FIA WEC LMP2 Champion Roman Rusinov caught and moved ahead of his teammate Marco Jacoboni for 3rd place.  The Russian driver, who  was enjoying his first LMP3 race experience, took the lead at the first pitstops with Mike Guasch taking over the no2 Ligier, while Mark Patterson got behind the wheel of the no3 car.

Patterson had to return to the pitlane a couple of laps later to serve a drive through penalty for speeding in the pitlane and this allowed Rusinov and Jacobini to take control of the class.  As Rusinov opened a comfortable lead, Guasch set about catching Jacobini and with 90 minutes of the race completed the American moved into second place.

As the race continued and the drivers were changed the LMP3 class was led by several different drivers.  After the second Full Course Yellow period on Lap 75 it was the no16 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier of Eric Debard who was leading from the no12 Eurointernational entry of Andrea Dromedari and the no2 United Autosports Ligier of Christian England.

England moved into second place with 90 minutes of the race remaining, 15 seconds behind Debard but on lap 93 the roles were reversed and the no2 United Autosports Ligier returned to the top spot as the no16 and no12 cars headed to the pits. Within a few minutes the race was neutralised as the rain came down and the Full Course Yellow neutralised the race.  The no11 Eurointernational Ligier was in second place and the no16 Panis Barthez Competition entry took the flag in third.

With 50 points from the first two races the no2 United Autosports Ligier holds a 25 point championship lead over their teammates in the no3 car after they were classified in 7th place. The no 19 Duqueine Engineering Ligier finished the race in 4th place and are currently 3rd in the championship on 24 points, three ahead of the no16 Panis Barthez Competition Ligier.

LMGTE: Proton Competition Porsche Takes Dominant Victory in Italy

The no77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR of Robert Renauer, Wolf Henzler and Mike Hedlund took maximum points in Italy, putting behind them the disappointment of Silverstone.  Renauer took control of the race from the start and moved through the LMP3 field with ease.  By the end of his 2 hours in the car the German was lying in 17th overall and ahead of all but three of the LMP3 competitors.  Wolf Henzler took over the car and drove until the rain started to fall.  American Mike Hedlund drove the Porsche to the chequered flag behind the Safety Car to claim the first LMGTE win.

The no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari was the closest competitor to the flying Proton Competition drivers with Robert Smith handing over to Andrea Bertolini, who caught and passed the no56 AT Racing Ferrari of Alexander Talkanitsa, and then Rory Butcher both working hard to close the gap towards the end of the race.  The rain brought a halt to the British team’s charge and they had to settle for second place in Italy.

The no99 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Andrew Howard, Alex MacDowall and Darren Turner were also moving up the field but had to settle for 10 points at the chequered flag but when added to teh 25 points they secured at Silverstone the British trio leave Italy with a two lead in the championship over the father and son pairing of Alexander Talkanitsa senior and junior, who finished on the podium for the second race in a row.

The next round of the 2016 European Le Mans Series will be held in Austria at the magnificent Red Bull Ring on July 16/17.

CLICK HERE for the result from Round 2 of the 2016 European Le Mans Series