European Le Mans Series

4h Imola: Thiriet by TDS Racing wins rain affected contest

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Thiriet by TDS Racing claimed victory at the second round of the European Le Mans Series to go third in the LMP2 championship.

The #46 Oreca 05-Nissan – comprising of Mathias Beche, Ryo Hirakawa and Pierre Thiriet – won a rain-affected 4 Hours of Imola after starting second on the grid.

Track conditions deteriorated in the final hour, prompting race officials to scramble the safety car with just under 30 minutes remaining.

Hirakawa assumed the lead of the race shortly before the two hour mark, passing Fabien Barthez in the #23 Ligier JSP2-Nissan. The Panis-Barthez Competition car had started from third, but Paul-Loup Chatin brought the car into the lead of the race during his second stint.

Chatin had battled closely with the pole-sitting DragonSpeed Oreca 05-Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre, who led away from a clean start.

DragonSpeed lost track position during the second stint when silver driver Henrik Hedman took over, but the American team stayed within range of Thiriet by TDS Racing and Panis-Barthez.

However, both DragonSpeed and Panis-Barthez cars would be beaten to second place by G-Drive Racing‘s Gibson 015S-Nissan.

After silver driver Simon Dolan completed the first stint, Harry Tincknell recovered the gap to the three leaders and overtook the DragonSpeed car just before the rain became a factor. Giedo van der Garde held on to take second place for G-Drive, 19.257 seconds behind the Thiriet by TDS car.

DragonSpeed followed closely in third place, while the SMP Racing BR01-Nissan inherited fourth after the Panis-Barthez went off in the rain and dropped to seventh.

Completing the top five was the Eurasia Motorsport-entered Oreca 05-Nissan which was the only other car to finish on the lead lap.

United Autosports topped LMP3 (Credit: Adrenal Media)

In LMP3, the #2 United Autosports Ligier-Nissan took its second consecutive class victory at Imola. Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England emerged triumphant from a thrilling lead battle, beating the #11 Eurointernational Ligier by 9.668 seconds.

Pole-sitter Matt Bell – driving the #3 United Autosports car – led the opening six laps but allowed Brundle through when he ran wide at Tamburello.

The #12 Eurointernational machine led at the halfway point with Roman Rusinov at the wheel: the Russian inherited the lead after Brundle lost track position during a full course yellow pit cycle.

However, the United Autosports crew pushed back through the field and led the race when the crucial final safety car period occurred, securing victory as a result. The #3 car did not fare as well, finishing seventh in class after Bell incurred a penalty for speeding in the pit-lane.

Third in LMP3 behind the #11 Eurointernational entry was the Panis-Barthez Ligier, with the #19 Duqueine Engineering Ligier close behind in fourth.

LMGTE honours went to the pole-sitting #77 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR which led the race from start to finish.

Robert Renauer – making his European Le Mans Series debut – drove the opening two stints before handing the car over to Wolf Henzler and Michael Hedlund.

The trio maintained the lead until the final safety car, using the wet weather conditions to break ahead of the LMP3 field. Hedlund crossed the line one lap ahead of the JMW Motorsport and AT Racing Ferrari 458 Italias.

The sister Proton Porsche was a further lap behind in fourth, while the Silverstone-winning Aston Martin Vantage rounded out the top five.

In terms of the overall championship, G-Drive Racing leads with 43 points after podiums at the first two events. SMP Racing retains second with 30 points, while Thiriet by TDS Racing moves up to third with 26 points.

Two wins from two for United Autosports puts the #2 crew on a table-topping 50 points, with a sizeable gap of 25 points to the #3 entry and a further point leading back to the #19 Duquiene Engineering trio.

Despite missing out on victory at Imola, the #99 Aston Martin continues to lead LMGTE with 35 points in the bank. AT Racing is two points adrift in second, with the race-winning #77 Porsche now a further three points off the top spot.

The European Le Mans Series teams will return for the non-championship 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 18-19, leaving a two month break before the third round of the season at the Red Bull Ring on July 17.

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