LMES – Monza – Race Report
Herbert & McNish Shine In Veloqx 1-2
Great Race In GTS – Until The Vitaphone Saleen Fails
LMP2 Comes Apart (As Expected)
Freisinger Wins GT, Despite A Problem
Zytek & DBA Both Shine
Look at the
result and you might think it was a routine race - if you can call
the first race of a new series routine. After all the Audis were
1-2-3, Porsche won GT, a Prodrive Ferrari won GTS – and no
one survived in LMP2. So what’s new?
Well, the old
pros – Herbert and McNish in the Audis, Brabham, Wallace and
Johansson in the Zytek, Minassian in the DBA – really made
a race of this. It was great entertainment, and as is almost guaranteed
with the four classes, there was always something to watch, and
much of it was right at the very front.
The action began
from the lights. “Jamie gave it a burst of throttle, then
backed off, so I had to change down a gear, then I floored it –
but once their turbos spooled up, I was dead meat.” That was
front row man Andy Wallace, “but I managed to wriggle about
under braking and just about hang onto third.”
The first chicane
saw Rocky Katoh latest on the brakes, but in so doing, he managed
to put off both Nic Minassian in the Creation DBA and Robbie Stirling
in the Nasamax. Was this incident the cause of the Advan’s
car’s suspension failure so early into the race (9 laps)?
One significant car out. It would be a long while before we lost
So what could
A Wallace do about the Audis? McNish passed Davies at the first
chicane, and at the end of the first of 173 laps, Wallace was already
hounding the 88 Audi – and it was Brits 1-2-3. The Zytek was
dropping Dindo Capello already and this was the beginning of a Goh
afternoon during which the no. 5 Audi just didn’t have enough…
go. Tom Kristensen managed to get into the 1:39s late on (before
the rain), but the ‘third’ Audi never did challenge
the other two.
was tigering back in the DBA, passing the Pescarolo very quickly,
then closing on the Dome and the Rollcentre Dallara. By three laps
we’d settled into a pattern – Audi-Audi-Zytek-Goh Audi-Dallara-DBA-Dome-Pescarolo-RML
Lola-Jota Zytek-Belmondo Courage-Nasamax.
Then came the
GTS scrap, Alzen and Bouchut (what a pair) racing neck and neck
for lap after lap, passing regularly, touching hardly at all. Ortelli
led from Kox and Riccitelli in GT, but with JMB’s Ferrari
going very well too.
go into this much detail over 173 laps – so we’ll try
and condense the action…. A little.
Jamie in traffic,” said the Zytek man who has had such an
adventurous week. That was lap six, and the top three continued
to race round together, with Wallace looking as though he just might
be thinking of leading. “I got a run on Allan out of the Ascari,
but he sensibly had the inside line for Parabolica, so that was
as close as I got.”
With Jamie Davies
having less fortune in traffic, by lap ten, McNish led Wallace by
half a second, with 88 another two or so back down the road. Jon
Field had a mild brush with Davies, which cost another second or
more, so it was becoming a two horse race.
a reason we couldn’t determine (Intersport had collectively
vanished by the end of the race), Field was way down by lap 1, but
this team’s day (having got better as Field fought through
the GTs and GTSs) got much worse with Bill Binnie at the wheel.
He was hit very hard by the Autorlando Porsche, into the first chicane,
and the baby Lola was smashed out of the race, after just 43 laps.
was fifth by lap seven, and was moving well clear of the Dallara.,
which was to prove almost throughout the race that it was a faster
proposition than the Pescarolo.
held up the Zytek a touch as Robbie Stirling was lapped on lap 18,
but the black machine closed in again. The world has discovered
a second R8 challenger. At 20 laps the order wasn’t changing
among the top prototypes, and Alzen just about led Bouchut in GTS.
Ortelli led Riccitelli and Daoudi in GT – and Jon Field led
LMP2, the Belmondo car already in startenator trouble.
began the pit stop sequence at 23 laps, Wallace doing the same a
lap later. The Zytek stop was, to be honest, painfully slow, but
it would be a few laps before the new order unravelled. Davies and
McNish stopped after 26 and 27 laps, and stayed in their cars, on
the same tyres. The late stopper was the RML Lola, which briefly
ran fourth, behind the Audis. Suddenly Wallace was 36 seconds behind
McNish – and lapping in 1:44s.
pedal went really long – and I had to pump it like mad. It
turned out that the bracket holding the master cylinder had broken,
the master cylinder rotated – and let air in. I finally only
had rear brakes, none on the front. I could slide it into the Parabolica
and the Ascari, but I was losing lots of time into the first and
He kept it going
to the second stop, but once David Brabham took over, he pointed
out that they couldn’t keep this going to the end of the race
– and the Zytek lost seven laps, having the bracket replaced
and the brakes bled.
From now on
it would be an Audi UK Veloqx race – and what a show these
two cars put on. In particular, what a show McNish and Herbert put
on. At one hour, the Zytek was still fourth, ahead of a closing
Minassian, Collard and Barbosa.
got a problem with our fuel rig,” admitted Martin Short later.
“We’ll have to sort it out because it cost us loads
of time, at every stop.” Typically the Dallara would pass
the Courage in every stint, then drop behind at every stop.
Larbre had had
a slow stop too, but Bouchut fought past the Barron-Connor 575s,
back into contention with his old mate Alzen.
At 43 laps,
just before the only other (apart from the Field one, which took
place after the Safety Car) major incident, McNish led Davies by
18 seconds. Then the Auto Palace Ferrari inexplicably (maybe the
engine blew?) turned right and spun into the pit wall. It was a
very heavy rear end impact, and the safety car was summoned.
at the first opportunity, McNish at the second. The Scot stayed
in, the Englishman handed over to another one – Johnny Herbert
(this at 79 minutes).
were almost all way back in the queue, and McNish’s one lap
later stop saw him no longer leading. He had to fight through some
terrible traffic, but passed JC-W in the DBA in the process, and
very quickly ran a clear third. So at 50 laps, we had Herbert leading
the Goh Audi and McNish, these three covered by seven seconds.
did drive (almost) two stints in the 8 Audi, but from this point
onwards it almost seemed as though it was McNish against Herbert
for the rest of the race. McNish passed Ara in the Goh car easily
enough, and gradually hauled in Herbert. It was a furious chase,
and by lap 60 the gap was just two seconds. Eight laps later, two
hours in, and the gap was 1.3 – with Ara 31 seconds behind,
and Goh was out of it for the rest of the afternoon.
GTS was still
Larbre and Vitaphone, with Ranieri Randaccio leading LMP2, some
way behind the GT leaders – Dumas for Freisinger from JMB
and the excellent Choroq Porsche.
from the lead at 125 minutes – and lost a chunk of time. It
would turn out that Sascha Maassen knew all about why. Had Freisinger
gained a lap behind the safety Car though, to save its day?
was lapping in the mid and low 1:38s, the fastest lap of the day
his 1:38.363. Oh for that wretched bracket.
More pit stops
for 8 and 88 saw the order at the front remain the same –
and the Zytek was ninth.
Rob Barff (this
one, above, is for you Andy Barff - best wishes from dsc) might
have held Herbert up a little, but with such similar straight line
speeds, passing the Dallara was always going to be a challenge.
Barff was chasing down the Pescarolo – after another slow
Out of Ascari
they charged, and McNish had the run on Herbert. With a little bit
of F1 ‘get over there’, the Scot took the lead into
Parabolica. Aggressive, but scrupulously fair – just about.
That was lap 86, and by 100, two hours 55 into the race, McNish
had pulled out two and a half seconds. The rest were in the order
5, 3, 17, 6, 14 (Nasamax going really well), 7 and 22 – with
Bartels and Lamy resuming where the other two had left off, at the
head of GTS.
at 3 hours, 103 laps, and stayed in. McNish pitted at 3 hours, 1
minute and 55 seconds, for Pierre Kaffer to have his first go. There
is no three hour rule in this series.
Kaffer was out
ahead of Herbert, but the small gap shrank very quickly. On lap
112 was THE move of the race. Herbert came upon a 575 on the regular
line out of Parabolica. Kaffer went for the inside – and Herbert
drove onto the run off area, then aimed for the grass and passed
the Ferrari, on the grass, at full throttle, maintaining speed and
the inside line for Parabolica, where he took the lead. Fantastic
away from Kaffer, and what we didn’t yet know was that Johnny
would now stay in the 88 car to the end of the race. Having driven
for over three hours himself, you would have thought McNish would
have left the balance of the race to his partner. No way. This was
to become an endurance race between Herbert and McNish. The former
had taken over on lap 46 (79 minutes), and would therefore drive
non-stop for 226 minutes.
going to have to wrap this up fairly soon, because the media centre
is going to shut – and journos have been known to end up locked
into this place.
in at 131 laps, Kaffer at 132, still about ten seconds behind. McNish
had designs on getting in the 8 car again, and at lap 148 he did
just that. This mucked up the synchronised stops for a while, but
a regularly timed Herbert stop at lap 159 saw him still ahead, as
rain started to fall. Everyone seemed keen to stay out on slicks,
but the rain became heavier, and wet tyres were needed.
first, McNish two laps later – it was worth taking a chance
on the rain stopping, but it didn’t.
Then the closing
laps drama unfolded. Cars were slithering straight on at the first
chicane, McNish twice, with a nudge against the Short-driven Dallara
on another lap, at the same spot. Herbert had it under control,
but McNish got closer and closer – and with the finish taking
place after the rain had stopped, but still on a very wet track,
the final gap was a tiny seven tenths. This is about as hard as
it gets, and doubtless the Audi engineers and team members were
more than a little concerned – especially as the Goh Audi
was more than a lap behind, but at times still looked as though
it might just win.
car had the advantage over Rollcentre for fourth, the stunning Zytek
– dynamite in the wet too – was sixth, the RML Lola
had a reliable run to seventh – just a reluctance to start
after one pit stop – and the mighty Nasamax was eighth.
John McNeil: "We
have more developments and we will be testing again before the Le
Mans 24 Hours in June. The trouble-free 1000km in race conditions
today bodes well. The crew really gelled together with excellent
pit work and preparation, and we are really pleased for our technical
partners Astek and O2 Empower, who continue to supply world class
technology to the team."
go down to the wire: the Vitaphone Saleen had diff, failure, so
Larbre won with the 550, ahead of the surviving B-C 575 –
and then we had the GT winners, Freisinger.
Leconte: “I can tell you that Larbre is once again at the
sharp end. We are at the first event of the LMES, the main target
of the year for the team, and with our new Ferrari car and relationship
with Care Racing it seems I only have the minimum to do for victory."
So what did
Sascha Maassen know? Well, the Cirtek RSR had stopped with an electrical
problem. “We thought it was a connection, but eventually we
found that it was the alternator. When Freisinger stopped with the
same problem, they sorted it out in half the time (thanks to us),
and that won them the race.”
It was a very
good GT race though, at one point the top three – Freisinger,
JMB and Choroq – running just ten seconds apart (first to
third), although Dumas and Ortelli did a better job in the rain,
while the Japanese crew had several excursions.
The Racers Group
was fourth, and good old Sebah was fifth, Piers Masarati never expecting
to finish so high up in the Sebah 911 GT3-R. The Perspective car
stopped out on the circuit fairly near the finish, while the TVRs
had TVR type troubles – that is, expect the unexpected. After
running together early on, the DeWalt peninsula racesports car had
a stone go through the oil radiator, and thereafter they had a fine
mist of oil spray onto the screen. The Synergy car was in trouble
early on, and stopped for a long time to fix the clutch master cylinder,
then it stopped out on the track.
have to stop there… it was quite an event. Yes, the Audis
were 1-2-3, but there was an awful lot more to it than that.
had a strong, hard race with the ‘sister’ Veloqx Audi
throughout which I believe was one of the best sportscar races I’ve
ever been involved with, so I can’t be too disappointed with
the result. The closing stages were exciting - I was pushing hard
and another lap would have been mighty interesting. We’ve
got points on the board in terms of the championship which was important
and sets us up nicely for Le Mans.”
Herbert: “The Audi
never missed a beat - it was perfect all day. Going on to the grass
to overtake Pierre was worth the risk and the close finish ultimately
proved that I needed to push and build up a small cushion. Victory
today was very important for our championship title hopes. The team
have done a lot of hard work in testing at Paul Ricard and at Le
Mans and it’s paying off with Veloqx scoring a 1-2 finish
at Monza. Team moral will be high heading to Le Mans which is vital.
Oh, the DBA.
A rear wishbone broke, maybe a result of the first corner contact.
Then it lost fifth and sixth gears. Generally the LMP1s were very
reliable. This one will be too, in due course.