Friday 13 May 2016

European Le Mans Series - 4 Hours of Imola preview

Round 2 of the European Le Mans Series this weekend, at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy.

Imola is a rather special racetrack as its layout goes round the “Parco delle Acque Minerali”, just outside the city of Imola, 45 km south of Bologna. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is 5,44 km long and the only anticlockwise track on the ELMS calendar. It's known as a very technical track with a high variety of fast and slow corners and high curbs.

Sadly Imola is also known as the track where Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives during the San Marino Grand Prix.

G-Drive racing arrives in Italy as the championship leader in the Mighty#38 of Simon Dolan, Harry Tincknell and Giedo van der Garde. After an excellent opening race in Silverstone, the team returns to Imola for the second time this year after some extensive pre-season testing. Harry Tincknell insisting that the important thing is to keep attacking and build up their championship lead rater than being conservative. Tincknell has a 100% podium record at Imola since his debut here in 2014, and is eager to keep that percentage to a maximum. Roman Rusinov, racing in the WEC with G-Drive Racing is also in Imola. He will race the #12 Eurointernational Ligier JSP3/Nissan.

So24! by Lombard Racing arrives at the second round of the championship with high hopes. After their impressive start of the season, finishing on the third step of the podium in Silverstone, the newly founded French team will be looking for speed and true performance of the car, going for another podium finish. Olivier Lombard won the ILMC race in Imola back in 2011 at the wheel of the Greaves LMP2. Vincent Capillaire and Jonathan Coleman respectiveley ended the ELMS last year on the second step of the podium and in sixth place in LMP2.

2 driver changes at Krohn Racing this weekend. Tracy Krohn won't be racing in Imola due to an injury. He will be replaced by reigning ELMS champion Bjorn Windheim, who also raced the #40 Ligier at Silverstone. Olivier Pla makes his return to the team, Pla raced with the Ford GT in the WEC Silverstone. A strong and very fast line-up in the green machine, they may well be in contention for the win this time.

No Frank Mailleux at Race Performance this weekend. His place has been taken by Shinji Nakano who will also race at Le Mans for the Swiss team.

Murphy Prototyopes has a revised line up for the race in Italy. After his Silverstone debut, Sean Doyle returns in the Oreca03/Nissan. He will be joined by Gary Findlay and and Patrick McClughlan. Findlay made his ELMS debut in the final round of the 2015 season, securing a podium finish in the Graff Racing Ligier JSP3. McClughlan from Northern Ireland started his career in the Ginetta Junior series and drove a very succesfull Radical Sprint Championship last year (12 wins out of 21 races !!).

In LMP3, their Ave-Riley isn't deliverd yet, as its currently undergoing homologation inspection and test procedures in the USA. The car is expected to be available for the third round of the ELMS in Austria. In the meantime the team is using alternative cars. After racing the Ginetta in Silverstone, they will race a Ligier JSP3 in Imola. The car will be driven by a different crew than in Silverstone, with Rob Garofall, Alex Kapadia and Barry Baxter.

After Silverstone, we're missing 2 cars on the grid in Imola. The second SMP Racing BR01 is absent and the Morgan of Frédéric Sausset will return at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

20 cars will race in LMP3 in Imola, all Ligier JSP3's this time with Murphy switching from Ginetta to Ligier.

Compared to Silverstone there will be 1 extra car on the grid, Eurointernational fielding their second car for the first time. The #12 will be driven by Andrea Dromedari and Fabio Mancini and reigning WEC LMP2 champion Roman Rusinov.

United Autosports will be out at Imola to repeat their perfect weekend in Silverstone with a 1-2 finish. Although only 2 drivers only raced before at Imola, the team has clocked up around 1500 miles on the track in pre-season testing.

Eight cars will race in the GTE class, 1 less compared to Silverstone. The #96 ROFGO Aston Martin won't race in Imola this weekend. The #99 Beachdean Aston Martin defends his lead in the championship with the same crew as in Silverstone : Andrew Howard, Alex MacDowell & Darren Turner.

JMW Motorsport will be eager for revenge after losing their Silverstone victory due to not being in compliance with the homologation papers. Andrea Bertolini will surely want to win in his home country. The JMW Ferrari will be joined by two AF Corse Ferrari's on their home soil. WEC driver Rui Aguas joins the team of the #51.

The fourth Ferrari (#56) will be fielded by Austrian team AT Racing. Davide Rigon will be replaced here by Allesandro Pier Guidi. Rigon having other driving duties in the Blancpain series. Wolf Henzler returns to the #77 Proton Porsche, probably for the last time with Renger van der Zande taking over for the rest of the season.

Track action started this afternoon with the first practice session. On Saturday the second practice and qualifying is scheduled. The 4 hour race race will be green flagged on Sunday at 14.00h local time.

Kristof Vermeulen.

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