It was the circuit of Imola to host this year the third round of the 2011 Classic Endurance Racing. This famous track has always been the Ferrari’s stronghold and it was deeply revised in the last few years, above all after the 1994 accidents when Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzemberger lost their life: once eliminated the very fast Tamburello corner, a characteristic stretch of the old circuit, and the Variante Bassa which was removed to be straightened up before the pits, the Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari however keeps the old configuration, narrow and full of ups and downs which make it difficult any overtaking and lapping.
In the paddocks spectators can see the Beta Montecarlo Turbo, driven by Fabio and Alain Valle, that in the 2011 early months made its first appearance in the Italian Historic Car Championship; the silhouette designed by Lancia at the half of 70’s to challenge the more powerful and heavier Porsche 935. The same dated events of Goodwood Festival of Speed and Le Mans Story have caused the missing of some protagonists of the category, first among them the English Paul Knapfield, recently winner at Spa, as well as Jacques Nicolet, who should have finished his historic car season, although his sporadic participation in the final race of Le Castellet, and Jean Marc Luco, meanwhile there was the pleasant return of Guy Lacroix, who had missed the first two meetings of the season.
Those who arrive in Italy thinking of a hot sun, had to change their mind during Friday, when a big storm hit the autodromo, forcing the organizers to cancel many practice sessions, including the first CER qualifying session.
On Saturday morning, even the second qualifying session was not completely raced with interruption after first ten minutes due to the BMW engine failure of the Lola 298, driven by Klaus Dieter Freres, which caused the Variante Alta flooded of oil. In the remaining ten minutes pole was taken by Michel Quiniou, helped by his 3-litre Ford which raced to perfection, followed by Scemama, Guenat and Henry, all at the wheel of cars powered with a 3000 cc engine. But on the contrary, the third row was taken by Lafargue and Da Rocha at the wheel of a powerless but handy Lola 298 BMWs.
On Saturday afternoon, the race began with an unexpected event on the starting line-up: the Lola T280 driven by Quiniou had a sudden lock of the clutch cylinder and, in spite of technicians’ efforts the French driver was forced to retire. At the start it was Scemama to take the lead, pursued by the Rondeau driven by Henry: at the beginning of the second lap the French driver attacked in braking at the Tamburello corner and the Swiss driver, in the attempt to hold the lead, was too late in braking and ended in a spin: helped by marshals he managed to restart, recovered and finished fourth overall. Henry seemed to quicken his rate but very soon his worn-out tyres forced him to slow the rate and yield to the three-driver team made by Guenat, Lafargue and Da Rocha with the two drivers of Oak Heritage who couldn’t find a way to make a passage for a quicker Guenat. Pit-stops didn’t cause any particular change in the classification and the two followers had only to take actions by pressing on Guenat: tactics gave good results with Lafargue who took the lead of the race on lap 20 and Da Rocha who was second two laps later. For the two drivers the last laps were like a triumphal parade during which they also gave themselves the satisfaction of setting the best time on round.
Among the few P1s at the start of the race – only five cars, after Pierre Nicolet’s moving to P2 because of the use of self-ventilated brakes on his Chevron – the win was gained by Gutzwiller, favoured by Thuner’s abandon in the first laps and by Cazalieres, stopped by usual brake problems, while in GT2 we had to point out the umpteenth win of Sean McInerney in BMW M1, favoured by the Beta Montecarlo, which was unreachable in first laps, but forced to retire for Turbo problems. In GT1 once again a win for Ford GT40 even if, in this case, it wasn’t the car of Nahum but the car driven by Christopher Bell.