Round two of the GES championship ran at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, known colloquially as Imola, and until 2007 was the home of the Formula One San Marino Grand Prix. The circuit is seen as the “home circuit” of Ferrari, and will forever be remembered for the tragedy of the 1994 Grand Prix and qualifying, which claimed the lives of Ayrton Senna, and Roland Ratzenberger.
For Legends Racing, preparation was far from optimal, and finalizing a setup was left later than normal, and far later than the team were comfortable with. Having “locked down” a setup at the 11th hour, the Legends pairing of Darren Seal and Adam Parle were finally able to focus on the race, rather than the preparation for it. Good traffic management, always crucial in multi-class racing, was expected to be more important than ever, with practice having demonstrated that safely passing the GT3 class would be difficult, more so when several of the Mercedes cars were running close together.
Qualifying duties were handled by Darren Seal, but unable to “hook up” a fast lap and recreate the laptimes posted in practice, the Legends DP lined up on row 5, in 9th place. A dominant pole from Simracing for Holland was a signal of intent, with very little separating the other teams in the front few rows of the grid.
After issues at the start for the prototype class blighted the the opening round of the championship, in round two the first lap drama was provided by the GT3 class. The Black Adder Mercedes got caught out by the early braking of the cars ahead, and in taking evasive action, lost control on the way into Traguardo and collected the NAB Racing car, before several other luckless teams also got caught in the incident. The GTC class also had some significant incidents in the opening laps, and consequently a number of cars were looking decidedly second hand before the end of even the second lap.
Simracing for Holland showed themselves to be as dominant in the race as they were in qualifying, making good their escape early on after the 2nd and 3rd placed teams were involved in a pile up with the GTC traffic they were lapping. Consequently, Simracing for Holland only temporarily relinquished 1st place to the recovering Black Adder Motorsport during their pit stops. Ultimately, they finished 66 seconds ahead of the 2nd placed Black Adder entry, having lapped the rest of the field.
The first 7 laps of the race were predictably busy for Darren, losing a position into T1, but regaining it when Nextlap Racing span. Whilst the top few positions moved clear, there was a fight for places 7 to 9, with ACME Racing, Torque Freak Racing and Legends Racing running line astern. This in turn allowed Apex Racing to become the fourth car in the line, but when lapping the GTC field for the first time, contact saw Apex in all kinds of trouble, with multiple cars caught in the aftermath of what was initially just a racing incident. Weaving through the GTC traffic also spaced out the prototype field, and allowed a consistent tempo to finally be found.
Through the remainder of Darren’s stint, positions would be gained through capitalizing on the errors made and misfortune suffered by others. Thrustmaster Mivano made the error on lap 16, receiving a stop and hold penalty for avoidable contact when attempting a pass on a GTC following a collision involving the Black Adder DP and Ace of Spades RUF. Shortly before Darren’s first pit stop, TFR were collected by the already damaged and out of control Beast Racing GTC, which span and rebounding off a wall, starting a chain reaction that would see them hit TFR, who then had multiple contacts with the Core Racing RUF. After struggling round Acque Minerali, the TFR entry was towed to pits, which in combination with the time for the damage to be repaired dropped them several laps down on the field.
Darren would emerge in 6th after the first round of pit-stops, where he would stay for the remainder of his time in the car. Only a contact from the Pure Racing Team GT3 on lap 46 gave the team cause for concern, the rear of the car showing some damage after the eventual GT3 winners shunted the Legends car whilst working their way past a GTC entry through Acque Minerali. Race control intervened to give the Pure car a drive through for the incident, but fortunately the damage appeared be cosmetic only, and Darren brought the DP into the pits at the halfway point in the race to hand the car over to Adam.
Adam’s first stint passed without issue, and after pitting for the final time on lap 82, M-P Prototype Racing and Backmarker Racing were within reach and with it the team’s elusive first top-5 finish in the championship. Whilst the 4th and 5th placed teams battled, Adam was able to narrow the gap, and when the two cars in-front collided on lap 94 the Legends DP sailed by, and as they continued to battle, pulled away.
Misfortune befell the SimRC.de entry on lap 96, hit from behind by the Pure Racing Team GTC car, and suddenly a podium finish looked possible for the Legends duo. The gap to the German outfit ebbed and flowed as both cars weaved through the slower traffic, but with under 10 minutes remaining, a clear track ahead allowed Adam to close right onto the bumper of Chistoph Weitz. Having been strong through Acque Minerali and Variante Alta on the preceding laps, a strong exit from the troublesome chicane allowed the Legends car to pull alongside Weitz. Weitz then broke marginally too late for Rivazza, running slightly deep into the corner, and despite locking up and getting the car slightly sideways, allowed Adam to cut back and force his way through on the inside. Protecting the inside line into Traguardo, the pass was finally cemented, and despite some GTC traffic in the closing part of the lap, held onto the place, and the first podium finish for the team.
With such a problematic lead up to the race, the podium finish was a fantastic result the team could scarcely have hoped for. The focus on clean, consistent driving paid dividends again, taking the team from a 9th place start to a 3rd place finish, and once more leading the Clean-X competition.
Having visited different venues for rounds 1 and 2, the GES now falls in line with the NES, with Twin Ring Motegi in Japan the next venue on the schedule. Being a firm favorite of the team, and buoyed by the success from Imola, we will be hoping for a great race and result. As ever, coverage will be provided by Race Spot TV and iRacing Live from 1830GMT on 10th December.