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ILMC - 6 hours of Imola 2011

1-3 July 2011
ILMS - 6 ore di Imola 2011
06/07/2011 -

After only three weeks' pause with respect to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, ILMC and LMS championships have made a stopover at Enzo and Dino Ferrari's Imola circuit for the third and fourth season qualifying sessions. The circuit on the Santerno banks has positively stricken the drivers of the category because many of them had put forward some doubts about the difficulty in overtaking on a quite narrow circuit. In the end almost all changed their minds asserting that the configuration was fantastic and challenging so as to make the problems become less important and, among other things, minimized, when overtaking. On the eve of the race, there were many absentees because of a near Sartre, even if the absence involved less competitive cars for the most part. Whilst there were few doubts about the absence of Aston Martin whose prototype won't be appearing during this year considering the results, to say the least ridiculous, till now obtained, there was some amazement on the Orca's decision to miss the Italian appointment to better get ready to the final of the season. There were other absentees like the Orca Hybrid of Hope racing, after so many problems run into Sartre, the Cytec of Quite team looking for a solution to the engines failure of last events and the second Escarole P1 of Oak team, heavily damaged by the start of the fire broke out in the engine compartment during the 24 Hours. Anyhow, the French team has put three cars on the track, also entering P2 with the "Burchett" handled in cooperation with the Dams already seen at Le Mans with Gulf livery, on the occasion driven by turns Nicole and Permit, Another novelty was given by the team Level 5 Motor sport, back to the Lola version "Burchett" after the early season choice of a coupe, all the same turned out too slow.

From the free practice on Friday, with a particularly heavy storm which reduced the second session to a half an hour only, there has been a tough challenge between two Audis and two Peugeots entered with a crew made by Bourdons-Davidson that challenged all the rivals, first among them the duo Faster-Bernhard. Whilst among P2s, petrol engines, uncertainty has reined supreme, with two Rebellions not bothered by little by the Escaroles, in particular by the Oak's one. On Saturday morning, on the contrary it was the Audi of the younger crew that led the dances, even if it set higher time than on Friday, due also to the rain of the previous day that washed the track. Among the P2s there was once again the dominium of the cars powered Nissan, with the Orca of Bourse Energy and TDS ahead of all, followed by the Cytec of Greaves team and Orca of Stigmatic, whilst the first of the "others" was the Lola of Pecos team. On the contrary some difficulties were noticed in the Auras, with Strake team arrived only sixth and the Rm1 even second-last among P2s. The home environment has favoured the Ferraris, first ones among the Taros with teams AF Cores and Luxury, while as usual Porsches dominated among Grams.


On Saturday at 14.00 the qualifying sessions started officially, with the GT cars that were leading the dances. The expected traffic got all the crews to go out from paddocks, with Makowiecki who set best time, further on improving and holding a temporary Pole Position till the arrival of BMWs. This time it's Muller to steal the show: first he set 1:44:7 and then, on the next lap he took Pole with 1:44:468: his mate Werner had to be content with the second time at 2 tenths from his team mate, assuring BMWs a fine double position on Ferrari's land. But to the rampant horse Melo's third time was half-disappointment, even if the Brazilian has practically set a time equal to Werner's: the result was still worst for duo Fisichella-Bruni, the eighth in the category. Category Am was less thrilling with the Porsche driven by Long who took Pole at 1:45:650, followed by Cioci and Rugolo, at the wheel of Ferraris 430, who got the better of a very favoured Armindo.

The 20 minutes reserved for prototypes have been much more hard fought, with Davidson and Fossler who had again lowered the best time, at least till when traffic on the track has permitted. The reason why Peugeots and Audis appeared on the track only in the session first ten minutes (Sarrazin remained on the track for some more laps), in which was played the fight for the best time that was finally set by Davidson with 1:31:736. Behind him finished in the order of arrival Fassler, Sarrazin and McNish, on their turn preceded a surprising Moreau, first among the P1s petrol engine. In P2 Orecas Nissan had still the dominium, with Beche and Kraihamer to fight to hold Pole all over the session. Third place was instead gained by a usual Watts, so fast to compensate the Acura's big limits, followed by the other two Nissan engines in the hands of Ayari and Kimber Smith. Finally Formulas Le Mans with Genoa team ahead of Jmb Racing and Pegasus.

The Race

On Sunday, little before 14.00 the cars were lined on starting grid: the sky was clear and since the morning a hot summer sun had been shining on the circuit, became mild by a breeze that will make the day pleasant to 10000 fans who went to the Autodromo to admire the queens of Le Mans and why not, also the Playboy's bunnies who were occasionally given the job of keeping the poles of the cars.

At the start Bourdais took the Pole advantage to take the lead on Tamburello, followed by Fassler, Montagny, McNish and Moreau: unfortunately for the Oak Racing, the car run into electric problems to the engine during the second hour, which had to force it with a long pit-stop.

While Bourdais was gaining little advantage and McNish was delayed, Fassler and Montagny challenged for the second place: the French driver didn't manage to find a space to overtake the rival and also at first pit-stop for filling on lap 29 let the Swiss pass him. To favour the overtaking it was the Porsche's double passing of Felbermayr team, in the style of Villeneuve, with Montagny who put himself between the passed car and the Audi. From now on Peugeots led the race without being troubled by prototypes of Stuttgart. On lap 100 the first change of drivers with Bourdais who failed the stop point at the pits losing some precious seconds: as a result his team mate went back to the track in the second position, just behind the twin car. Meantime in P2 after Kraihamer's going off the track causing a heavy delay, Beche was leading with a wide margin over Premat, very clever in the first stages to recover a poor qualifying place, and over the Oreca of Signatech team.

In GTPro, the fight for the first position was reserved, as expected, for BMWs and Ferraris of the AF Corse that went on with equal times and limited gaps, which at every pit-stop permitted a radical change in the classification. Whilst the Luxury team, leader in the qualifying session, there was the failure of Ortelli-Makowiecki's car even before the start of the race, owing to ignition problems. Even in GTAms the fight was tight, but in this case didn't regard the rampant horse cars, with the Porsches of Armindo and Long struggling for the first position, followed by the Corvette of Larbre.

In the lead of the race, Davidson reduced the gap from Sarrazin but from the stands Quesnel forbade his drivers whatever actions preventing the double overtaking that was coming on the track. The English driver had to wait for the next pit stop to regain the first position, being in the meantime protagonist of a collision with the Audi driven by Kristensen on the Tamburello corner, fortunately all happened without any damage for both prototypes. As a matter of fact after less than three hours of race an Audi has already been double passed and another after a while, this circumstance has, after what we have already seen at Spa, revealed the 908 potentiality: at this point we wonder how Peugeot could have lost the 24 Hours! After the first four the Rebellions with Jani and Boullion, whose front part of the car has been newly modified in its streamline. The Rebellions raced a solitary competition with the Pescarolo that limited itself to remain in the same lap ready to take advantage of a possible Safety car. Excellent was the rate of the race made by the Oreca of TDS team, widely first in P2, while behind it there was the fight for the second place with four cars separated by few seconds. Meantime, in GTPro the Ferrari cars of AF Corse have overtaken the first BMW, but the one driven by Farfus seemed unreachable.

The race went on without any Safety car's intervention, a matter that from one side did justice to the strongest and from the other made the end of the race a bit boring, at least for what was concerning the lead of the race. However there was still time to see two punctures made by the Peugeots at about one hour from the end: first it was Bourdais' turn, who had to give in the leadership to the twin car and later on, after a few laps it was Montagny's turn who gave his ill-gotten gains back to his team mate. Few laps from the end there was another puncture involving the Audi of Bernhard, who after replacing the tyre has managed to go back to the track just before his team mate Kristensen, thus gaining the third step of podium.

Among the P1s, petrol engines, the goddess Fortune helped Belicchi and Bouillion, arrived fifths thanks to an unexpected pit-stop of Jani, before whom the engine of a GT burst out covering his car windscreen with oil. Pescarolo could take advantage of that but due a partial stoppage of air vents of the rear brakes he was forced to a long pit-stop relegating him to the seventh position.

In the P2's during the two final hours it happened all. Thiriet was obliged to remain at the pit-stop for a starter problem, leaving the first position to Barbosa, unbelievable first after fruitful race behaviour. When it seemed the first win to arrive for the Level 5, here the car was obliged to stay at the pits for a problem of the gearbox which relegated him to the third position, leaving the umpteenth win to Greaves team, before the Oreca Signatech, on which it was necessary to replace the diffuser.

A certain excitement didn't fail even in GTPro, with Muller who had a puncture and was obliged to third position behind two Ferrari AFs: at this point Melo had too advantage and easily gained the win while Bruni cost him a great deal of trouble to remain behind a completely wild German who, however, had to be content with the third place.

In GTAm the win went to Armando-Narac, preceding the other Porsche 997 driven by Long-Rada and to the Corvette of Larbre.

However, on Monday, the last twist arrived with the disqualification of Long-Rada for failure to comply with the maximum time of one of the two drivers. Therefore, the third place in GTAm was given to Ferrari AF Corse with Cioci-Perazzini-Lemeret.

Finally Formula Le Mans was won by the Jmb team before Pegasus and Hope Racing.

Next appointment will be on 9-11 September 2011 for the 6 Hours of Silverstone, obviously always in the company of Connectingrod!





article by Marco Zanello
Photo Giacomo Zanello - Marco Zanello

Vai Alla Gallery  Photogallery " ILMC - 6 hours of Imola 2011

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