Another podium for Signatech-Nissan team and the ORECA 03…
After its fourth pole position in five races, la ORECA 03 once again showed its potential during the 6 Hours of Imola, fourth round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup ; and third round of the Le Mans Series. TDS Racing, who took the start from first place, held the lead for more than four hours, while the Signatech-Nissan team had the win in hand before having to change a rear diffuser. Nonetheless, the Bourges-based team goes home with another podium finish, reaching second place in the last half-hour. It was enough to keep the ILMC championship lead in the LMP2 class for Mailleux/Ordonez/Ayari.
Race action. Having dominated free practice and qualifying, the ORECA 03s got an excellent start. TDS Racing and Boutsen Energy Racing kept their first and second positions, while the Signatech-Nissan reached third place when Soheil Ayari passed the No. 42 Honda. Race Performance, with Frey/Meichtry/Rostan, following in seventh place. After a spin and a small detour through the gravel trap, Boutsen Energy Racing realised a solid comeback, going from 10th to 5th after the second hour. Meanwhile, TDS Racing continued to widen the gap to the competition, of which Signatech-Nissan was one, running second despite having to change the rear cover. Although Boutsen Energy Racing had reached the race for the podium, the Belgian team is forced to pit in the third hour for a stop and go, then again for an electrical problem. Race Performance is forced to retire after a vibration problem linked to the BMW-Judd engine.
At the halfway point, two ORECA 03 still maintain the lead. But while, the trio Thiriet/Beche/Firth continues their flawless race, Mailleux/Ayari/Ordonez are forced to stop to replace a rear diffuser just before the last third mark. The No. 26 falls from second to fourth place. Half an hour later, TDS Racing stops to change the starter while running in the lead with a lap advantage. The pole winning No. 46 rejoins the action in eighth. After six hours of racing, of which they were the quickest all day, three of the four ORECA 03 see the finish. Signatech-Nissan fought hard to the checkquered flag to reach the second step on the podium in the last few minutes, while TDS Racing and Boutsen Energy Racing finish seventh and ninth respectively.
"Since the start of the season, we’ve been fighting for the win" explains Franck Mailleux, who had a very good stint for Signatech-Nissan. "TDS Racing was very quick and deserved the win. For us, the reliability was there but we didn’t have any luck with a broken diffuser. My triple stint went well, even if the setup wasn’t just right. We’re learning and we still need to work. We are maintaining the lead in the ILMC so that’s positive."
"I was careful at the start" confides Jody Firth, who led in the TDS Racing. "I was up against pro drivers, but I was able to wident the gap. My double stint went well, with a car that was easy to drive. I also tried to use the least amount of fuel as possible thinking about the finish. We were able to get a lap up on the competition. At the end of the day, I’m disappointed for the team, but I’m happy with my performance personally."
Formula Le Mans : JMB Racing winner after a heated battle!
The Formula Le Mans competitors were really racing on the Enzo & Dino Ferrari circuit. The number of leaders multiplied all along the event with Pegasus Racing, JMB Racing, Genoa Racing and Hope Racing each enjoying the lead. At the end, it was JMB Racing who took the win for the first time this season with Marroc/Ducote/Marcelli. In second was Schultis/Simon/Schell, who still dominated the championship classification, and third for Moro/Zhang/Graves. Petersen/Julian/ Zugel wind up fourth after a spin in the last hour.
It’s a great feeling to win here. Really incredible!
Race action. JMB Racing hands the lead to Pegasus Racing in the first lap, before regaining the top spot during the first hour. Nicolas Marroc and Patrick Simon begin a heated battle, staying within the same second until the first pitstop ! The rest of the running order is shaken up with Genoa Racing taking second place after starting from the back of the grid. The American team, led by the trio Julian/Petersen/Zugel, even takes the lead in class at halfway, ahead of Hope Racing and JMB Racing.
With a slightly off schedule pit strategy, Schultis/Simon/Schell take the lead several times for Pegasus Racing. With two hours to go, the suspense returns, as the leader, Genoa Racing, finds the gravel trap. Jens Petersen rejoins, with Luca Moro and Nicolas Marroc right behind. The three cars stay within the same minute. After yet another spin from the No. 93, JMB Racing, Hope Racing and Pegasus Racing are still elbows to elbows entering the last sets of pitstops. Pegasus is finally overtaken by JMB Racing, who takes the win after a great performance. Hope Racing ends up on the podium, just ahead of Genoa Racing.
"I had a good race," declared Nicolas Marroc after reaching the top step on the podium. "With the traffic, in between the LMP2s and GTs, it was hard to find your rhythm. We had great battles and we’ve gotten a great result. The car was very good and reliable."
Kyle Marcelli revisits the second hour where the win was played : "We decided to change tyres in addition to refueling. The team was keeping me abreast of the gap : I came back and was able to pass in the first corner. Afterwards I found a good pace and did my best to keep it. We made a few changes on the set-up, but despite doing few laps during practice, the car was really good."
"I tried to complete a clearly and safe stint ; and I didn’t encounter the slightest problem," adds Chapman Ducote. "We had to have a clean race. The car was good all the week-end. It’s a great feeling to win here. Really incredible!"
Next rendezvous for the Formula Le Mans teams will be July 9 with the third round of American Le Mans Series at Lime Rock.