European Le Mans Series: Thiriet's Oreca wins 4 Hours of Imola
French team Thiriet by TDS Racing won the 4 Hours of Imola, the second race of the European Le Mans Series. The team also took the lead in the championship, which continues in July at the Red Bull Ring. The race at Imola was the last test before the 24 Hours of Le Mans because many of ELMS teams and drivers will participate in legendary endurace race.
Under blue skies and bright sunshine, the race at Imola proved to be dramatic from the very start when the #44 Ibanez Racing’s Oreca of Yutaka Yamagishi stopped on the formation lap, forcing the race director to declare a second lap behind the leading car before the race could begin.
The #38 Jota Sport’s Gibson Nissan of Harry Tincknell led the remaining 29 cars into the first corner, holding off the challenge of Mark Patterson in the Murphy Prototypes’ Oreca, Leo Roussel in the Pegasus Racing’s Morgan and the Greaves Motorsport’s Gibson of Bjorn Wirdheim. Pierre Thiriet had started the race in 9th place in the #46 Oreca 05 but soon started to make progress up the field and by lap 8 the French driver had joined the battle for second place.
On lap 19, the safety car was deployed for the first time to clear gravel from the track at Turn 3 after one of the GTE cars had gone off at Tamburello. On lap 60, the safety car was deployed again when Villorba Corse’s Ginetta of Roberto Lacorte stopped at the entrance to the pit lane. Jota Sport’s Simon Dolan returned to the pits with the front left wing of the Gibson missing after being forced to ride the kerbs in avoidance of a back marker.
When the race restarted, Ludovic Badey in the Thiriet’s Oreca was leading with Michael Lyons in the Murphy’s Oreca in second place while fighting off the attention of Hirsch in the Greaves Motorsport Gibson. As the race drew to a close Tristan Gommendy held a comfortable advantage over Nathanael Berthon in Murphy’s Oreca and at the chequered flag was 12 seconds ahead with Filipe Albuquerque in the #38 Jota Sport’s Gibson in third place.
The LMGTE battle proved to be the talk of the event with leading four cars covered by a few seconds for most of the second half of the race. The #55 AF Corse’s Ferrari, #52 BMW of Team Marc VDS, #88 Porsche of Proton Competition and #56 Ferrari of AT Racing kept the crowd entertained for lap after lap. After the end of pitstops Alessandro Pier Guidi (AT Racing) overtook the lead take the chequered flag just 3 seconds ahead of the Proton Competition Porsche’s of Marco Mapelli.
In LMP3 category Silverstone race winners Charlie Robertson and Chris Hoy (Team LNT) started the race from pole position, but penalty and technical issues dropped them down the field. The winners are Morten Dons and Rob Garofall in University of Bolton’s #7 Ginetta. The GTC podium went to AF Corse with Stuart Hall taking the win in the #62 Ferrari 458 ahead of teammates in the #63 and #o64 cars to secure a podium lockout for the Italian team.