Imola has played host to a multitude of motorsport championships from Formula 1, World Superbikes and Touring Cars over the years, many drivers have taken victory around the spiritual home of the tifosi, each creating their own lasting legacy while others have left a more permanent memorial for so many to visit around the sixty-seven-year-old venue.
The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, is nestled in the historic region of Emilia Romagna in northern Italy, named after the late Enzo Ferrari and his son Dino who died of muscular dystrophy on June the 30th 1956.
The local area was once known as a bustling trading centre of the Roman empire, now famous for its ceramic and agriculture industry, it is seen as the working heart of northern Italy often overshadowed by both Florence and Modena.
In 2017 the Creventic 24H powered by Hankook first visited for the 12 Hours of Imola, returning in 2018 before moving on to Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the following season. The venue was then included as part of the 2019 24H Series eSport by VCO series returning in 2020 with Williams Esports (GT3), MSI eSports (991) and CraigSetupShop (TCR) each taking victory in their respective classes.
Niel Hekkens, Cerventic BV: “Imola is challenging circuit for multi-class racing and not used that often within the iRacing community, it is a track where the real-life 24H SERIES has been to and was initially on the 2020 Creventic schedule.”
“Unfortunately, the event did not happen due to the pandemic, and was then selected for the 24H Series eSport by VCO for the new season”
Tim Matzke, No.8 Maniti Racing Red, Audi R8 LMS, Images Supplied by VCO Media
NEO endurance has a long-standing reputation for close fair racing with the series running prequalifying to determine the 56-car field, All the competitors know that at each event the scrutineers and stewards follow a real time format that includes many real-life regulations, which they must follow these in order to compete, This means that all the teams are being watched very closely to ensure a level playing field for all involved.
Ahead of the new 24H Series eSport by VCO, changes were made to the balance of performance in order to bring the various manufacturers closer together in each of their respective classifications.
Within GT3, the Ferrari 488 GT3 had been dropped by most teams in favour of the Mercedes AMG GT3 and more the appealing Audi Sport R8 LMS, as a direct result of the continued update’s made by iRacing. The Audi Sport R8 LMS was given an additional 13kg weight to limit the cars overall performance within the class, which brought teams close together despite the high number of Audi Sport R8 LMS present.
Niel Hekkens, Cerventic BV: “We love to see as many car manufacturers on track as possible, as sports car fans we love variety in cars. On iRacing’s the baseline balance of performance (BoP) is limited with only adding weight and/or fuel tank restrictions.”
“Over the years, we have created an objective way to determine the BoP. It worked very well last season and we keep improving it. iRacing is a service that is constantly being developed”
Jukka Eskelinen, No.495 Glacier Racing, Mercedes AMG GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
With Alejandro Sanchez at the wheel, the No.12 MSI Esports Blue made the most of a solid start holding on to the lead with the Dino Lombardi in the No.12 Leo Racing staying in second just behind.
Arthur Lehouck in the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast pulled ahead of both the No.43 MSI Esports Red and No.77 Racekraft Esports cars under breaking for Tamburello, before then dispatching the No.98 Red Camel Esports with a clean pass through Tosa using the run up to Piratella to complete the move.
All the attention was now placed on Dino Lombardi in the No.12 Leo Racing, on the run down to Acque Minerali Lombardi got it all wrong losing the rear end under breaking and spinning out eventually returning to the race down in tenth place, promoting No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast to second in the process.
Their was now an intense three-way fight in GT3 for third between the No.98 Red Camel Esports, No.77 Racekraft Esports and No.43 MSI Esports Red, With the No.77 Racekraft Esports car continuing to harass Jorn Zoetekouw in the No.98 Red Camel Esports car there was bound to be a mistake.
A late breaking move into Rivazza by No.77 Racekraft Esports failed to pay off allowing all three teams to close right up on each other.
On the run to Tamburello the No.98 Red Camel Esports car appeared to be blocking No.77 Racekraft Esports on the inside, the two cars touched, and the No.98 Red Camel Esports flew across the front of the No.43 MSI Esports Red before hitting the barrier on the outside of the complex.
With a blown engine, sever aerodynamic damage and the need to be towed back to the pits the race was as good as over for the No.98 Red Camel Esports team, things were made worse when it was deemed an avoidable collision caused by the No.98 resulting in no penalty being issued by the steward.
The recovering Dino Lombardi No.12 Leo Racing Team 12 had been caught behind Sami-Matti Trogen in the No.36 MAHLE Racing Team for some time, with the GT3 pairing fast approaching Acque Minerali Dino caught the No.36 at the wrong moment tagging the rear and spinning Sami-Matti Trogen around.
Alessandro Bico, No.12 Leo Racing Team 12: “My teammates and I were expecting to get a result thanks to our strategy.”
“It was simply spot on letting me fight for P2 during most of my driving time, a position that I then finally gained after a little mistake of the guy in front. Overall it was really stressful to manage the traffic but at the end of the day I must say that all went pretty good.”
Jorn Zoetekouw, No.98 Red Camel Esports, Audi R8 LMS GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
With the first round of GT3 pit stops fast approaching the attention drew back to the front where Alejandro Sanchez No.44 MSI Esports Blue was in a comfortable position with a clear ten second advantage, that was wiped out on the in lap as he looked up his breaks through Acque Minerali spinning him out.
For Arthur Lehouck and the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast this was the chance they needed to get into the race lead, as both teams had opted to only take on fuel and not change drivers.
Arthur Lehouck, No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast: “MSI had a good solid gap, so we had to push hard to catch them. Just before we pitted, they made a mistake which meant I was able to overtake them.”
As they exited the pitlane many of the Porsche 991 Cup teams had also chosen to pit, creating more traffic to pass. This allowed the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast to close right up on the back of the race leader, Arthur Lehouck continued to push hard moving all over the track in an attempt to distract Alejandro Sanchez No.44 MSI Esports Blue.
Despite his best attempts Alejandro Sanchez No.44 MSI Esports Blue could not break away from the chasing No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast, with the pair now lapping the No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com Arthur Lehouck made his move.
On the run down from Variante Alta to Rivazza the leaders went side by side each driver giving just enough room to be able to do so, this continued all the way along the main strait with the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast unable to pull fully alongside the inevitable happened.
Under breaking for tamburello the pair appeared to touch with both sides claiming innocence in the incident. Stewards however did not see things quite so, after reviewing the incident they decided that there had been avoidable contact made and that Arthur Lehouck could have avoided the incident.
This was not good for the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast with both Dominik Staib and Arthur Lehouck believing that in-game net code was at fault and that a fifteen second time penalty was undeserved.
Dominik Staib, No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast: “If Alejandro felt there was an opportunity in traffic then we have to take it, but first priority is always to play it safe”
Arthur Lehouck, No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast: “MSI tried to defend and we made contact, with in-game net code it was a shame as we received a penalty for this”
For Alejandro Sanchez No.44 MSI Esports Blue, the penalty would serve as little consolation as they would drop behind the No.77 Racekraft Esports to third. It would take them nearly thirty minutes of racing to eventually re pass and return to second.
Andres Mendez Alvarez, Press Officer, Teo Martin Motorsport / MSI Esports: “We had our scraps during both the first and second stints but Williams Esports Chillblast had to serve some penalties and they lost quite a bit of time serving them, however they had a really good pace. As a team we are looking forward to battling them again during this season.”
Arthur Lehock, No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast, Audi R8 LMS, Images Supplied by VCO Media
As one of only three Mercedes AMG GT3 entered No.78 Ronin SimSport had a lot to do. The Audi R8 LMS was the car to beat and despite qualifying in seventh Filip Mitrevski had found passing hard going even on fresher rubber. It was a risky strategy call to run new tyres at each stop made by the team, to try to reduce the advantage over the course of the race that was paying off.
Vincenzo Amico, Team Owner/Founder, No.78 Ronin SimSport: “Imola was always going to be a tough circuit for us in the Mercedes AMG GT3 against the favoured Audi machine.”
“We knew heading into the round that it was going to be a difficult race for us, Avoiding contacts and keeping it clean is for us and should be for every team goal.”
“With a circuit like Imola where it is difficult to pass, it put us on the back foot losing track position with the extra pit stall times taking tyres at each stop. We as a team made the most of it with Filip Mitrevski making some nice passes on track and managing traffic as best we could.”
“Traffic always has to be factored into any strategy you conceive, It is what the 24H Series eSport by VCO is all about”
The No.45 Biela Racing Team Euronics was also enduring similar difficulties having to start at the back of the GT3 class, the normally competitive sim racing outfit was on the backfoot and their previous experience at Imola had provided little to know help, knowing when to push and when to save would be vital for the team.
Lukas Jestadt, No.45 Biela Racing Team Euronics II: “The race was very different to the one we had back in January, we had to start from the lower pack and were stacked behind other competitors for the first third of the race.”
“After some time there we were seeing some sectors that were completely free of other cars so could push a lot more. Imola is always hard with the multi class traffic”
At the next round of pit stops No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast swapped drivers and fully serviced the car, Martin Christensen now driving, had to serve a stop-go penalty for the teams’ part in the earlier incident with No.44 MSI Esports Blue. Both teams once again pitted with Marc Perez in the No.44 MSI Esports Blue getting out ahead of his main rival.
It would not be long before Martin Christensen retook the lead from Marc Perez, passing up the inside into Tosa completing the move into Piratella, promoting No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast back into the lead once more.
Lukas Jestadt, No.45 Biela Racing Team Euronics, Audi R8 LMS, Images Supplied by VCO Media
For the No.77 RaceCraft Esports a series of multiple pitstops combined with a thirty second stop go penalty for an avoidable incident with No.489 BS Competition, effectively put an end to the team competing for the victory. With the added retirement of the No.98 Red Camel Esports, both teams that were expected to be front runners would look to put the memories of Imola behind them and move on to Sebring.
Vincenzo Amico in the No.78 Ronin SimSport Mercedes AMG had managed to push the car into fourth place overall, passing both the Maniti Racing Audi R8 LMS with relative ease. The real challenge for the team would come from the No.21 Leo Racing Team 21 of Fabio Ponta and the No.46 Biela Racing Team Euronics.
With all three cars pitting together both Fabio and Vincenzo would take on fuel and tyres, this allowed the No.46 Biela Racing Team Euronics II Audi to jump them both taking eighth place dropping the two competing cars down the order after brilliant drives to the front.
Alessandro Bico in the No.12 Leo Racing Team 12 was now pushing Martin Christensen in the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast, passing for second through Tamburello as Christensen outreached the corner under braking. Christensen immediately went on the attack looking for any way through, even trying a late cut back into Tosa to no avail, with the pass complete the No.44 MSI Esports Blue had pulled away extending their lead to thirty seconds over the battling duo.
Arthur Lehock, No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast: “Ahead of the second round of pitstops we had a eleven second gap behind MSI but the team pushed and Martin managed to close the gap to ten seconds. Taking more risks led to us collecting more penalties, so we had to do another fifteen second pit stop. This cost us lots of time, so we gave it our absolute best to keep second.”
Fabio Ponta, No.21 Leo Racing Team 21, Audi R8 LMS, Images Supplied by VCO Media
Julien Grunastel No.46 Biela Racing Team Euronics II was now just behind Vincenzo Amico in the No.78 Ronin SimSport, Vincenzo had passed the Audi but was now fighting his way through the GT4 traffic allowing Julien to maintain a sensible gap to what was the only Mercedes in the top ten.
Julien Grunastel, No.46 Biela Racing Team Euronics II: “Unlucky race for us, We had to start from the back and the first two hours did not really go to our favour.”
“Our endurance experience helped a bit during the critical moments in traffic and we could benefit from other people’s mistakes, unfortunately we got hit by a GT4 that lost control on the grass. Such a shame after a decent performance”
Over the course of the next 30 minutes Martin Christensen in the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast had slowly been reeling in the gap to Alessandro Bico in the No.12 Leo Racing Team 12, Alessandro was struggling to find a way past the Daniel Lafuente in the Porsche 991 Cup No. 936 Williams ESport BenQ.
On the straits the Porsche was faster than the Audi R8 LMS but in the corners the GT3 could maintain its cornering speed better, after being held up at Tamburello Alessandro finally passed the Porsche entering Villeneuve. Knowing that his Williams Esport teammate was just behind him Daniel allowed Martin Christensen to pass at Tosa having assisted in reducing the gap between the GT3 contenders.
As the pair approached Tamburello, they came upon the No.495 DRE Endurance BMW M4 GT4, passing between them at speed. First making slight contact with the rear of the No.12 Leo Racing Team 12 then being tapped further around by the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast. This incident further highlighting the gap in class between each category and another example of how close the racing was becoming with many choosing to take risks to stay ahead in the race.
Alessandro Bico, No.12 Leo Racing Team 12, Audi R8 LMS, Images Supplied by VCO Media
In contrast to the front running teams the No.36 MAHLE Racing Team had struggled for pace from the word go, Alex Arana had worked hard to bring the team up to fifth by running a slightly different strategy and was now working hard to catch Sven Haase in the No.45 Biela Racing Team Euronics, With the penultimate round of pit stops taking place Alex Arana would briefly move up to fourth choosing not to pit in sequence with the other teams.
Liam McNinch driving the No.9 Maniti Racing Purple was now the overall leader of the race also choosing too also pit outside of the normal pit window, the team had also suffered rear end aero damage earlier in the race, deciding not to repair the damage but to run with it briefly allowing them to run at the front during latter the pit stops.
The rise of the No.78 Ronin SimSport had come to a halt, having to serve a seven-minute pit stop to fix front end damage caused by an accident with the No.489 BS Competition BMW M4 GT4. This assisted their main rivals Biela Racing Team Euronics who now ran fourth and fifth, with Gregory Tanson in the No.46 Biela Racing Team Euronics II closing in on the top three.
Gregory Tanson, No.46 Biela Racing Team Euronics II: “As always in Imola, traffic management was a key factor for a good result. The track is very tight, so you do not have much room to get past other classes.”
“Also, the speed difference is very high is some places, so we had to be careful, on the other hand we had to be careful, we nearly couldn’t overtake the Porsche 991 Cup Class Cars as they were faster on the straights”
Unfortunately, the opportunity of finishing in the top three would end at Tamburello, while avoiding the No.434 Buttler-Pal Motorsport Porsche Cayman GT4 Gregory was hit directly in the side with disastrous consequences. The Audi R8 LMS instantly pitched into a barrel roll and into the Armco barrier, with so much damage occurring the chances of a podium finish now rested with the No.45 Biela Racing Team Euronics.
Liam McNinch, No.9 Manti Racing Purple, Audi R8 LMS, Images Supplied by VCO Media
At the front No.44 MSI eSports Blue now had a commanding lead over Martin Christensen in the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast. Martin had driven the Audi to its limits to catch the No.12 Leo Racing Team 12, passing around the outside of Tamburello with a very risky pass to regain second.
Following the last round of pit stops Sami-Matti Trogen was now behind the wheel of the No.36 MAHLE Racing Team with Lucas Jestadt bearing down on him in the only front running No.45 Biela Racing Team Euronics I, with both Audi’s pushing each other hard they had inadvertently put themselves in contention for the final podium spot.
Both teams where now in a fight for track position, as the No.9 Maniti Racing Purple served its last pit stop it became clear that should anyone of the top three hit issues in the last hour it could give anyone of them an unexpected but well-earned podium, the final stint and pit stop strategy would be vitally important.
That moment looked to have happened when the No.12 Leo Racing Team 12 appeared to deliberately tag the back of the No.426 mydays Erlebinswerk Porsche GT4 sending it straight into the armco barrier on the run out of Villeneuve. As the clock ticked down both the teams continued to race hard, but the stewards decided not to award a penalty.
For MSI eSports Blue it was a victory that came as a direct result of the preparations and determined efforts made by all the MSI eSports colleagues in Madrid, to overcome a Williams Esports Chillblast team that had been seen by many as the strong favourites.
Dominik Staib, No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast: “The race itself was very challenging, especially with the dense traffic. We had a slight speed reduction compared to MSI eSports, meaning we had to take more risks than we would have liked.”
“As a result, we ended up with a few minor incidents resulting in penalties and the inevitable loss of time, In the end we are happy with P2, a solid start into the season and the maximum of what was possible that day.”
Even before the halfway point of the race, the No.1 Williams Esports Chillblast was in a fierce battle with the No.44 MSI Esports Blue, both teams looked to have an advantage over the other with both taking the fight right to each other at the front throughout the six hours.
With all the leading teams having to contend with the close multiclass traffic, it would ultimately prove to be the decisive factor and provide many of the key moments that allowed MSI eSports to secure victory in the opening round of the 24H Series eSport by VCO.
Andres Mandez Alvarez, Teo Martin Motorsport / MSI Esports Press Officer: “Imola is a tight track that does not allow for many mistakes during the 6 hours, overall it was a smooth race minus some hiccups in the second stint.”
“Getting the win was a very sweet experience, especially after the scraps and tough traffic during the 6 hours”
Alejandro Sanchez, No.44 MSI Esports Blue, Audi R8 LMS, Images Supplied by VCO Media
PORSCHE 991 CLASS
With the race getting underway the No. 936 Williams ESport BenQ driven by Lasse Bak immediately made the most of being on Pole making a good start by holding off the charging pack to take an early lead into Tamburello.
Anders Dahl in No.911 Burst Esport had to defend off an early attempt to pass by Eero Tuominen, What only appeared to be light contact by Eero in the No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com would drop see Anders onto the grass and nearly into the outside Armco barrier. The contact instantly dropped the No.911 Burst Esport down to ninth, damaging the car’s suspension and bending camber as much as 5 degrees.
The stewards instantly took a dim view on this and awarded a five second time penalty to be added at the end of the race to the No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com, in just a few corners the race had taken a sudden twist that could have been avoided.
Andres Dahl, No.911 Burst Esports: “Being the first round of the season, the goal was to get settled in with a decent result, unfortunately we go pushed off at Tamburello and had to re-join mid-pack, it was quite annoying as the contact damaged the steering making the next six hours not fun to drive”
“Rule one of endurance racing is keeping it clean, which gets very difficult when caught up in a pack. The pace was not too bad though and we had some hard fighting to get back through the field.”
Over the course of the opening laps multiple incidents involving various cars added to the traffic congestion everyone was facing. Inertia SimRacing where now running second and third respectively with Eero Tuominen No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com ahead of his Finland compatriot Dani Korpi.
With both Inertia SimRacing team mates being pushed hard by the Sweedish No.907 GOTeam Racing Porsche driven by Robin Ostlund, it was not long before Robin Ostlund briefly took third. Dani Korpi No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi had been holding back Robin Ostlund No.907 GOTeam Racing for nearly an hour.
It took a small laps in concentration and a better exit from Rivazza to give the Sweedish driver the pass he needed into Tamburello, it would not be long before Dani was right back in front just a few corners later creating a fascinating tussle between two evenly matched drivers.
Andres Dahl, No.991 Burst Esport, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
Anders Dahl was now beginning to recover in the No.911 Burst Esport Porsche, despite dropping to ninth he had initially not been able to make progress through the field, a long hard fight for sixth with Kimmo Rovanpera No.999 YMCA Esports ended when the pair came across traffic at Tosa allowing Anders to get a run on the Fin up the hill passing him into Piratella.
This battle of whit’s went on for a while, each looking for a way to out for the other with it all coming to ahead when the pair came across traffic at Tosa, this allowed Anders to get a run-on Kimmo up the hill pulling passed him on the inside avoiding the No.417 SRC Squadra Corse Black into Piratella, eventually completing the pass through Acque Minerali before setting off after the No.979 GTL-VRT Red that was only a few tenths ahead.
Less than a lap later Anders passed the No.979 GTL-VRT Red with relative ease, having lost ground early on it was looking more likely that the No.911 Burst Esport could possibly recover and push on for a podium with only Dani Korpi No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi and Robin Ostlund No.907 GOTeam Racing in his way.
Upfront Lasse Bak No.936 Williams Esport BenQ had a commanding ten second lead now over Eero Tuominen No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com car, with Lasse carving his way with ease through the traffic.
Robin Ostlund, No.907 GOTeam Racing, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
With the first round of pit stops taking place the No.919 XVR Sim Racing had taken the decision pit a lap ahead of the other teams, swapping out Johnny Brandon with George Mclay at their first stop, only refuelling and not taking on new tyres at their first stop.
While others had chosen to double stint both tyres and drivers, this did give XVR Sim Racing the jump in the pit stops to start with but would ultimately prove to be a costly mistake, as the other teams benefitted from more grip and consistent pace, they would end up losing time throughout the race.
Steve Levallee, Team Manager, No.919 XVR Sim Racing: “Going into Imola we thought we had the pace and soon realised we probably went in the wrong direction with both the setup and early strategy calls. We made up for some of that with a revised strategy but pace wise we were clinging on.”
A slow pit stop for Williams ESport BenQ put them back out in traffic and allowed No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com to jump the 991-class leader, Eero Tuominen was now under intense pressure for the lead from Lasse Bak.
Through Variante Alta, Eero made the mistake Lasse needed to put him under pressure, choosing to use all the kerb meant losing crucial speed on the run down to Rivazza, with Eero defending the inside Lasse was unable to use his speed advantage.
The No.936 Williams ESport BenQ now had the better run down the Pit Strait and run to Tamborello. A slight clip of the inside curb could have upset the Porsche under braking, but Lasse still made his move count, pulling out from behind Eero and placing the No.936 Williams ESport BenQ perfectly down the inside to retake first.
Instantly the rolls were reversed and Eero wasted no time in applying the pressure to Lasse, whether it was looking up the inside at Tosa or getting the better run off Variante Alta these where just glimpses of opportunities that presented themselves, but in reality, Lasse had once again resumed control of the race and began to re-open the gap he had worked hard for prior to the pitting.
Matias Vitikainen, No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
At the front, the No.936 Williams ESport BenQ now lead from the No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com and a recovering No.911 Burst Esport as the attention was now switched to growing four-way fight for eighth headed by the Henrik Lindoff No.907 GOTeam Racing.
Lindoff had managed to move ahead of Michael Pedersen in the No.927 WoIP.com Volante Racing following the pit stop cycle and was now pulling clear of the chasing pack. On the exit of Villeneuve Michael ran wide allowing George Mclay in the No.919 XVR Sim Racing and the Jordan Weekes No.959 HM Engineering 991 to pass at Tosa, with both teams now able to put pressure on the No.907 GOTeam Racing.
With the dramas of the start now over it was Evan Marion who had taken over at the wheel the No.911 Burst Esport, Evan had managed to catch the back of Matias Vitikainen No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com and was now constantly applying pressure to team running second.
A mistake by Evan’s would prove costly however, after he missed his breaking point in the No.911 Burst Esport contacted another car in traffic, the contact with the No.46 Biela Racing Team Euronics II GT3.
It may have been subtle but added further damage to the Porsche 911 GT3, it would also be the key reason stewards issued a ten second post-race time penalty that ultimately cost the team any chance of a top three finish.
Andres Dahl, No.911 Burst Esport: “Evans did a decent job in the middle part of the race but got a penalty for a misjudged breaking point. I think that cost us some top speed, which would hurt us a lot in the end.”
Evan Marion, No.991 Burst Esport, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
With the second round of pit stops now taken place Johnny Brandon was in the No.919 XVR Sim Racing running in forth, compared to the other 991 Cup teams their car was down on power along the straits, out through the corners it struggled with grip making them an easy target for nearly all the cars in class.
This became evident when Henry Salmen swooped past in No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi, Johnny had been clever to avoid any sort contact with the passing traffic watching carefully as the Xavi Ros No.977 Aurys Racing Team passed by on the run up to Villeneuve with ease, this allowed the Rafal Drzaszcz in the No.979 GTL-VRT right on to the back of the struggling Porsche.
Johnny Brandon, No.919 XVR Sim Racing: “It was clear just how high the standards were, as soon as the race started it was clear it was a bad strategy, but a lesson learned. It’s pretty disappointing but given it’s a new car for us we are hopefully going to get quicker”
Robin Ostlund had been at the wheel of the No.907 GOTeam Racing for nearly half the six hours of Imola, this feat of endurance may have been commendable but had it not been for falling from third to eleventh during the same time.
An attempt to pass Jordan Weekes in the No.959 HM Engineering 991 through Tamburello had not gone well and forced Robin to back off to allow the No.77 RaceKraft Esports Audi passed further slowing him down in his pursuit of Jordan.
In similar contrast Henry Salmen No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi was also trying to recover back to the front pushing hard to catch and pass Ville Iivanainen driving the No.999 YMCA Esports, on the run down to Tamburello Henry got his chance.
Ville had been caught behind the No.747 SRN Motorsport Cayman GT4 at Rivazza as the pair powered along the main strait Henry took his chance pulling along side under breaking, a great piece of driving from both witnessed both drivers go side by side in the complex without touching all watched closely by the GT3 of Lars Reincke No.11 EFR Car Collection by TECE.
With Henry slotting of Ville just before Villeneuve, the opportunity now opened up for Xavi Ros No.977 Aurys Racing Team to take advantage, diving up the inside of the No.999 YMCA Esports through Piratella they were passed and closing on the No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi, Once again Tamburello would be the preferred passing point with Xavi moving up to forth.
Xavi Ros, No.977 Aurys Racing Team, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
Only a few moments later the No.951 WOSR iZone Performance and No.907 GOTeam Racing would make contact, Robin Ostlund appeared to be deliberately muscled out by and sent spinning across the Tamburello gravel trap avoiding contact with the No.21 Leo Racing Team 21.
For the No.951 WOSR iZone Performance it was not good, the front right had sustained severe suspension damage that was only noticeable on the exit of the complex, as the car ran wide onto the grass the Porsche suddenly veered into the path of the passing traffic, contacting Kin Vedel-Osterby in the No.495 DRE Endurance BMW M4 GT4, which in turn then tangled with the No.8 Maniti Racing Red Audi causing carnage for those approaching Villeneuve.
After being passed by Xavi Ros at Tamburello, Henry Salmen was now pushing to retake fourth place, an early pitstop brought the No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi out in traffic behind both the No.999 YMCA Esports and No.911 Burst Esport.
Henry’s task was then made easier when Evan Marion lost the rear end under braking at Acque Minerali but recovered it brilliantly to avoid contact with the barrier returning to the track in seventh.
Marko Kela, No.999 YMCA Esports, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
With the next round of stops now underway the No.977 Aurys Racing Team was now up to third within thirty seconds of the leading pair of Matias Vitikainen No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com and Daniel Lafuente No.936 Williams Esports BenQ.
Williams had chosen to repair the front-end damage that they had picked up earlier on in the race, in doing Matias Vitikainen had jumped the No.936 Williams Esports BenQ in the pit stops and was now having to fend off Daniel, with both having to also deal with the GT4 and TCR traffic.
Over the course of the next few laps Daniel Lafuente continued to pile on the pressure unable to close in enough to make a move, Matias was pushing extremely hard to stay in front and came upon the No.474 SRN Motorsports Porsche Cayman GT4 at the worst possible moment.
Slowing up through Tamburello, the No.936 Williams Esports BenQ made a bold pass around the outside to take the lead, instantly Matias was looking to find a way past unaware of the ever-closing No.12 Leo Racing Team 12 GT3. A slow exit for Daniel at Variante Alta nearly ended in disaster as both Matias and the Leo Racing Audi each tapped the rear of each car, luckily no damage had occurred on either car, but it had opened up a slight gap between the 991 class leaders.
Williams decision to pit later soon became clearer, Moreno Sirica would take the wheel of the No.936 Williams Esports BenQ dropping to fifth in the process. A mistake with the fuel calculations would prove costly as both Inertia SimRacing cars would now be leading the race, with little opportunity to regain the lost time the team would need to pit again to make the finish.
Moreno Sirica, No.936 Williams Esports BenQ: “We were we were fighting for the win all race long and considering we had substantially less time for practice, I’m still happy with how the team managed the race and the traffic”
“We did make a mistake at our last stop with the fuel calculations which prevented us a possible win”
“It was our first endurance race in a Porsche cup car, personally it was one of the most fun events I’ve ever had.”
Moreno Sirica, No.936 Williams Esports BenQ, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
Jaroslaw Cebula in the No.979 GTL-VRT RED was up to fifth following Inertia SimRacing bringing in the No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi, with Dani Korpi now at the wheel the on track barrage of pressure provided by him would be the start of some of the most intense racing of the day throughout the class with just nighty minutes of racing to go.
With an hour of racing left Johnny Brandon No.919 XVR Sim Racing had driven well, despite being down on power he had managed to drag the team into seventh, with Joakim Vennstrom No.907 GOTeam Racing bearing down on him, the team choose to pit handing the final stint over to George Mclay dropping the No.919 XVR Sim Racing Porsche to ninth and two laps off the overall leader.
Moreno Sirica was now aware that the No.936 Williams Esports BenQ could not finish the race without pitting for fuel, this would hand the race lead too Eero Tuominen in the No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com with only thirty minutes left to race.
The attention was now firmly on the battle for third between Jay Rodriguez No.977 Aurys Racing Team, Dani Korpi No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi and Anders Dahl No.911 Burst Esport.
A quick pass at Tosa on Dani Korpi allowed Anders to move up to forth, in moments the No.911 Burst Esport was all over the rear of Jay Rodriguez and the clock was ticking down fast. Out of Rivazza all three were nose to tail looking for any way to move up and pull away, Tamburello looked to be the first opportunity, but no one was willing to risk it so late on.
Along the short strait to Villeneuve, Anders made his move pulling alongside the No.977 Aurys Racing Team as they entered the complex. For a brief moment it looked like a very well executed pass but then Jay lent on the rear of and sent Anders into a half spin narrowly avoiding the No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi that was on the outside.
Dani Korpi, No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media
Now it was a two-way fight between Dani and Jay, having held back for a lap the racing would once again be focused on the Villeneuve complex. This time however Dani passed by without incident, holding the No.977 Aurys Racing Team off through Tosa, all while the No.911 Burst Esport closed in on them both.
With Jay Rodriguez weaving around behind Dani it could have ended in disaster instead his own antics forced him to slow down after Variante Alta to avoid spinning off, this gave Anders the run into Rivazza he needed to put the No.911 Burst Esport back in contention. As they exited the final turn on to the pit strait the pair where bearing right down on the No.489 BS+Competition BMW M4 GT4, Jay boxed Anders in behind and with nowhere to go the inevitable contact happened sending the No.977 Aurys Racing Team across the pit strait gravel trap and into the wall.
Anders Dahl, No.911 Burst Esport: “Coming into the final hour, we had to pass Aury for third and the car just stalled as soon as I pulled out of the draft. I tried to use a slower car to slingshot, but unfortunately my bumper tangled slightly with Aury’s car causing them to death-wobble into the wall.”
Whether it was a moment of red mist in Anders race, revenge for the earlier spin of an issue with the cars aero, it did not matter the incident was seen by officials as unnecessary contact resulting in the team receiving a ten second penalty that would ultimately cost them the final podium spot.
As for Jay Rodriguez No.977 Aurys Racing Team the damage effectively ended the race and dropped them to twelfth at the finish, officials also handed them a five second penalty for their part in the earlier incident with the No.911 Burst Esport. It was a great shame for both teams as the final few laps offered up a dramatic finish between them.
Despite the incident Anders was able to catch up with Dani Korpi No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi, over the last fifteen minutes the No.911 Burst Esport Porsche tried every possible passing opportunity to take the final podium spot.
Andres chance came with five minutes to go passing the No.900 Inertia SimRacing Imprimo.fi around the outside of Villeneuve, knowing that he had to finish ten seconds clear of Dani would see the No.911 Burst Esport set some of the fastest laps of the race but to no avail.
Anders Dahl, No.911 Burst Esports: “Another ten second penalty and now we had to overtake the second Inertia car for third and gap them ten sec. The lack of top speed made it difficult, but with four laps to go, I managed to slip around the outside in. I pushed as hard as I could, but could only manage to gap them by eight seconds, which ended us in a disappointing forth”
Inertia SimRacing had done what few had expected, they had taken the fight to the favoured team in the class and won. Eero Tuominen and Matias Vitikainen in No.902 Inertia Sim Racing Eurorc.com, had finished just one second clear of the Lasse Bak, Daniel Lafuente and Moreno Sirica in the No.936 Williams Esports BenQ.
They had shown that a solid strategy, good race management and a solid driver line up can overcome even the fastest opponent, but more than that both Inertia SimRacing cars had kept applying the pressure that ultimately forced the mistakes from others and gave them the first victory of the season.
Simo Rautavirta, Team Manager, Inertia SimRacing: “It all came down to strategy at Imola, we had managed to take care of the tires, and ended up saving enough fuel to get the optimal pit cycle for us, we had very nice overall strategy”
Eero Tuominen, No.902 Inertia SimRacing EuroRC.com, Porsche 911 GT3, Images Supplied by VCO Media