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Thiriet Oreca wins Thriller in Imola

ELMS - 17/05/2015

Under blue skies and bright sunshine the 4 Hours of Imola proved to be dramatic from the very start when the no 44 Ibanez Racing 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 no38 Jota Sport 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 no29 Pegasus Racing Morgan and the no41 Greaves Motorsport Gibson of Bjorn Wirdheim.   Patterson then began a spirited defense of his second position from a very determined Roussel, with Wirdheim allow looking for an opportunity to overtake.  This allowed Tincknell to open a comfortable gap at the head of the field.

Pierre Thiriet had started the race in 9th place in the no46 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.  This bunched up the field and Tincknell found his hard won lead reduced to a few seconds at the restart.  The Englishman started to rebuild his lead before coming in on lap 38 to serve the first pitstop, which allowed Tincknell to retain the lead ahead of the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca.

On lap 60 the safety car was deployed again when the no5 Villorba Corse Ginetta of Roberto Lacorte stopped at the entrance to the pitlane.  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.  The race went green once again but not before Gary Hirsch in the no41 Greaves Motorsport Gibson spun off, losing the Swiss driver several seconds before rejoining the track.

At the restart Ludovic Badey in the Thiriet Oreca was leading the with Michael Lyons in the Murphy Oreca in second place while fighting off the attentions of Hirsch in the Greaves Motorsport Gibson.

After the next set of pitstops the Thiriet Oreca and the Greaves Gibson were fighting for the lead for several laps but the  no29 Pegasus Morgan caused the Greaves P2 car to loose time trying to pass and the Thiriet Oreca opened up a comfortable gap.

As the race drew to a close Tristen  Gommendy held a comfortable advantage over Nathanael Berthon in the Murphy Oreca and at the chequered flag was 12 seconds ahead with Filipe Albuquerque in the no38 JOTA Sport Gibson in third place.  A late penalty for a pitstop infringement to replace the left wing added 1m35s to the JOTA time but this still left the team in third place ahead of the Greaves Motorsport Gibson.

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. Alessandro Pier Guidi took the win in the no56 AT Racing Ferrari after a great recovery drive after dropping down the field at the start and being tapped into a spin by the no3 Team LNT Ginetta of Charlie Robertson. 

The no55 AF Corse Ferrari of Matt Griffin, the no52 BMW of Jesse Krohn, the no88 Porsche of Richard Leitz and the no56 Ferrari of Alexander Talkanitsa kept the crowd entertained for lap after lap and after the end of race pitstops put the no60 Formula Racing Ferrari of Andrea Rizzoli at the head of the field the drama continued all the way to the flag. Alessandro Pier Guidi overtook the cars ahead of him to hit the front of the field at the right time and take the chequered flag in the AT Racing Ferrari just 3 seconds ahead of the no88 Proton Competition Porsche of Marco Mapelli.

Silverstone race winners Charlie Robertson and Chris Hoy started the race from pole position, with Roberstone building a big lead over the remaining LMP3 runners.  However a penalty and technical issues dropped the Scot down the field handing the advantage to the no15 SVK by Speed Factory Ginetta and the no7 University of Bolton Ginetta Nissan of Rob Garofall and Morten Dons.  Dons and Garofell worked hard to build a two lap advantage and took the LMP3 victory in Italy.

The GTC podium went to AF Corse with Stuart Hall taking the win in the no62 Ferrari 458 ahead of teammates in the no63 and no64 cars to secure a podium lockout for the Italian team.  The no68 Massive Motorsport Aston Martin was an early casualty and spent a lot of the early part of the race in the garage.  It emerged well down the field only to retire.  The three AF Corse Ferraris did face a challenge from the TDS Racing BMW but it was soon clear it was going to be victory for AF Corse but the identity of the winners had yet to be decided.  The no62 Ferrari of Francesco Castellacci and the no63 Ferrari of Marco Cioci were nose to tail and this continued for most of the race. However as the race entered the final part the challenge from the no63 458 faded away and by the chequered flag Stuart Hall held a 1 lap advantage over his nearest rival.

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The next race of the 2015 European Le Mans Series will be in Austria at The Red Bull Ring on July 12 but first some of the teams and drivers will be heading to Le Mans for the ‘Big One’ the 24 Heures du Mans on the 13/14 June.

CLICK HERE for the results from Round 2

CLICK HERE for the classification after Round 2

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