Salih Yoluc and Euan Hankey have written their names in the history books as they claimed the first victory in the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup, which was hosting its first race at Imola.
Competing in the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3, the pair climbed from their third place grid position to a dominant victory around the curves of Italy.
Indeed Yoluc, who started the car, took the lead going into the first corner. Taking advantage of a collision between the #88 Mentos Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R and the pole sitting #7 BMS Scuderia Italia 458, the Turkish driver found clear track ahead and made full use of it. Following that incident, the Ferrari managed to continue – following a cursory trip through the pits – as did the Porsche, but it was later penalised for the collision with a drive through penalty and retired all together a few laps later.
Back to the action, and leading the fight against TF Sport was the FFF Racing Team by ACM McLaren 650S of Hiroshi Hamaguchi but even after both cars were handed over to Hankey and Adrian Quaife-Hobbs respectively, the status quo remained the same and the McLaren had to settle for second place – a strong result going forward to the next race at Le Mans for the Road to the 24 support race where they’ll share the track with LMP3 machinery.
Claiming a decent third place was the Classic and Modern Racing Ferrari 458 of Nicolas Misslin and Matthieu Vaxiviere. Vaxiviere, who took over the car for the second half of the race, really did earn that podium after holding off a late charge from Francesco Castellacci in the AF Corse Ferrari 488.
Coming in fifth, and hoping for more for the rest of the season, was the Tockwith Motorsport Audi R8 LMS of Phillip Hanson and Nigel Moore who had a handy near-enough 20 second gap back to the BMS Italia Ferrari on a recovery drive following the earlier incident.
Seventh and eighth both went to yet more Ferrari 458s as the Villorba Corse and AF Corse entries had a race to themselves and even then managed to finish nine seconds apart.
Finally ninth, and Ivor Dunbar made a visit to a few of the off-track features Imola has to offer before handing the FF Corse Ferrari 488 over to GT ace Johnny Mowlem who couldn’t do enough to drag the car further back up the grid.
After the race, TF Sport team boss Tom Ferrier said: “Victory in the opening round of the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup is a great way to start. Salih Yoluc’s stint was an absolute blinder and he drove brilliantly throughout, not making one mistake. We got a bit lucky with the first two coming together, but that’s racing. A very good pit stop followed and then it was simply up to Euan (Hankey) to cruise home. We were a bit tight on fuel and that was a concern, but he managed the pace and fuel usage well.
“This will give Salih a much-needed confidence boost and it’s three wins on the bounce for us – we’re undefeated in 2016 so far! We just need to keep doing what we always do, making sure the cars are put together wonderfully and the strategy is there or thereabouts, and the results should come. We won’t win all of them, but we’ll aim for solid finishes in every race.”