After putting in a strong performance to start third on the grid, the #22 crew of G-Drive Racing took victory in the 4 Hours of Monza. This victory also sees the team take the lead of the 2017 European Le Mans Series LMP2 class championship. It was a close battle at the front of the grid, with the winners crossing the line just two seconds ahead of second place. M.Racing-YMR Norma took their first win in the LMP3 class and secured a one-two as the chequered flag fell.
Ferrari made the Tifosi smile as they crossed the line first to take victory in LM GTE, but it was not pole sitters #55 Spirit of Race that took the glory. With an impressive race from the back of the grid, the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia, the oldest car on the grid, took the chequered flag with an eight-second advantage over second place.
Around 20,000 fans took to Monza for this weekend of racing, and the close pace in every field did not disappoint the many spectators. Enzo Guibbert had a great start off the line in the pole-sitting #39 Graff, but Nico Lapierre made sure he did not disappear into the distance and kept up with the #39 competitively to make it a close battle for the lead in the opening stages of the race. In the first hour, there was a thrilling battle between #49 High Class Racing and #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse for third place in LMP2 that saw Anders Fjordbach come out on top.
Wayne Boyd held onto pole off the start and teammate Sean Rayhall made good progress from fourth making it a United Autosports one-two in LMP3 in the opening stages. Ricky Capo did not fall off the lead battle too much and managed to hold onto third as the race began to proceed into an endurance.
Christian Ried had the best start in LM GTE, managing to make a pass on Fernando Rees in the #50 Larbre Corvette and pole-sitting Aaron Scott in the #55 Spirit of Race. However, the race did not go well for the pole sitters as, just after they had pitted and Duncan Cameron had climbed aboard the Ferrari, the car suffered from an engine failure. After a long stint in the garage the team was forced to retire the #55. It was when the #55 retired that JWM Motorsport inherited the lead of LM GTE.
The first full course yellow was caused by an incident at Ascari when the #16 Panis Barthez Competition and the #9 AT Racing Ligiers came together and both span out of the race. The full course yellow was put out so that the stranded cars could be recovered from the edge of the track. This completely worked against Lapierre’s race in the #21 DragonSpeed as he lost time having to avoid the two LMP3 cars by cutting over the grass.
Richard Bradley did not have a much better day in the #40 Graff. Having made a great start from seventh on the grid, Bradley was challenging Guibbert for the lead around lap five. However, the Englishman received a drive-through penalty for jumping the start, which took him completely out of contention for the lead. The race really fell away from the #40 team when the car stopped out on track briefly with an electrical issue and the repairs in the garage dropped the team right down the order.
The second full course yellow hit the track towards the three-hour mark of the race. The then second-placed #2 United Autosports collided with the #9 AT Racing which meant the full course yellow was out again to retrieve the stranded cars. It was the second collision that the #9 had been part of. However, the fault was handed to Rayhall in the #2 and he was handed a stop-go penalty for causing a collision.
This time the full course yellow was detrimental to the race of then leader Guibbert in the #39 Graff. Getting the timing wrong, Guibbert pitted the Oreca as the track returned to green conditions, meaning that any time he could have gained in pitting under the full course yellow was lost as the field lapped at full race pace. The timing error cost Graff heavily and they dropped down to P5 in class.
Just five minutes after the restart of the race another full course yellow covered the track when Andres Menzes put the #10 Oregon Team Ligier into the barriers at Rettifilo. Menzes managed to limp the car back to the pits and get it back out racing with a simple nose change. The third full course yellow did not last too long.
At this point in the race, after three full course yellows, the #22 G-Drive had a 22-second advantage over the field and was leading comfortably with Leo Roussel at the wheel. A brief battle between the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse and the #21 DragonSpeed saw a small scuff for second place but ultimately Hendrik Hedman came out on top after briefly losing the position to Robert Lacorte.
#19 M.Racing-YMR had a two second lead in LMP3, with the #11 Eurointernational close behind and putting on pressure for the lead. The pressure clearly became a little too much for Giorgio Mondini as he made a mistake at Variante Della Roggia and had to take to the escape road, losing a lot of time in his chase for the lead. The #90 TF Sport managed to pass the #50 Corvette for second in class but the leading Ferrari was 25 seconds ahead down the road. With under an hour left it was a big ask of the Aston Martin team to close the gap. The #66 had no pressure or challenges as it led the car home to the chequered flag to give the Italian flag a Ferrari on the top step of the podium.
The race leader was comfortably sitting on a 95-second lead as the race entered the final stages, but it was turned upside down as they were handed a drive-through penalty for not respecting the full course yellow speed limit. After taking the penalty, Ryo Hirakawa‘s lead of 95-seconds had been cut to 22-second with 17 minutes of the race remaining. But third-placed Ben Hanley in the #21 DragonSpeed and Fjordbach in the #49 High Class Racing were closing in on the leader with good pace.
High Class Racing was forced to take a late pit stop for fuel only which saw Fjordbach return to the track six-seconds ahead of Hanley. Hanley made the pass for second place with three minutes of the race remaining, demoting the car who had raced most of the final hour in second to third.
Third-placed #17 Ultimate lead the LMP3 championship but five points after their third-place at Monza and their second-place at Silverstone a few weeks ago.
In the last thirty minutes of the race, Ross Gunn made a move on the #51 Spirit of Race to put two Aston Martins on the LM GTE podium for the second time of the season. It was victory for JMW Motorsport Ferrari, but the championship lead stays with #90 TF Sport as ELMS heads into the third round of the season.
The next race, the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring, takes place in a couple of months on the 23rd July. The season takes a break as some of the teams will head to France next month for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.