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BRUNDLE: Imola Debrief

Alex Brundle files his latest Sportscar365 column after Imola win…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

We all have that one relation who is described as having ‘character’. ‘Oh he/she/ Fido the dog is a big character’, ‘a real personality’.

This tremendous character can be the one who is the life and soul of the party, a real joy to be around.

Realistically this is an interesting dichotomy though, because the other application is for the real quirk of the group with unsavory wit or slightly strange and scary habits.

Every family has one of these also, and if you can’t think of whom in your family or close friendship group that is then… well… I’ll leave you to work it out.

Imola follows a similar paradox, as one of the most ‘characterful’ circuits on the European scene. It can either be a fantastic ‘Mona Lisa’ of racing bliss on an ‘old school’ racetrack or a complete nightmare as one issue tumbles into another, at this tough little four-hour endurance race.

Mona smiled at us this time, as we drove our way through plenty of heat and a pretty hardcore downpour in the final hour to take our second victory in a row for the No. 2 United Autosports crew.

From a first corner scrap that was considerably more cordial than Silverstone, I ran for the very early phase of the race behind Matt Bell in the No. 3 car.

I had made the plan; to try to pull a gap from the rest of the pack for both of us and then hopefully make the move stick in the traffic somewhere.

Unusually, the plan went almost exactly as expected, if not better, as Matt went a little wide letting through some LMP2 traffic and allowed me to scoot into the lead on the inside of Variante Tamberello.

I then set about building a gap which was growing nicely until we hit the back of the GT battle.

Just as at Silverstone, the first time through the GTEs was a little trial and error.

I think the two classes are still trying to find their feet together and with scant assistance from the Imola layout, which punishes the lack of straight line speed and low, stiffness of the LMP3 Ligiers.

I have to admit as clearly quick and competent GTE drivers offered me a massive number of opportunities to crash with them somewhat pointlessly the first time through. I was raging slightly.

It occurred to me later that perhaps those guys thought they were racing me wheel to wheel, is all that I can think of.

Indeed by merit of timed pitstops and heavily Am driver lineups for the LMP3 field, one of the Porsches beat the lot of us in LMP3, in the dry. Imola always was a freaky old place.

I kept chipping away at my gap in any case because I needed to negate the loss rated to pitting early because of the Gold driver drive time regs.

I handed over to Mike who drove a storming stint. Mistake-free as ever, he was often one of the fastest cars on track, running at Pro pace. Not bad for a guy who got off one of his many transatlantic flights a few days before and will do yet another on his the way straight back to HQ to run his (very successful ) businesses on Monday.

After some pitstop losses at Silverstone, Richard Dean himself was strapping us in and sending us on our way this weekend.

The boss transitioned seamlessly from boardroom to ‘Boxenstop’, practical and pragmatic as ever. Top man.

While the Angels were singing for us unfortunately the same could not be said for the No. 3 car. Mark Patterson was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for a pit lane speeding infringement earlier in the race which dropped them down to the mid pack.

The switch from Mike to Christian was seamless again and the car felt great for him on new tires as it had all weekend long. He was swift through the heavy traffic and made 2 nice passes to move us back into P1.

The heavens opened with about an hour to go. In about 15 minutes it changed from ‘just ignore it and stay pinned’ rain to ‘LMP2 car off the starboard bow captain’ rain.

Christian kept his head together beautifully and held on just long enough to make our fuel window in case it went green again quickly.

Little did we know that that was to be the effective end of the race, as almost the full final hour would be driven under yellow conditions.

Despite this, my (notoriously optimistic) engineer Gary; refused to celebrate at all until he had literally witnessed the car cross the line at safety car speed. But did so vigorously afterwards! Can’t blame him to be honest, I felt similar.

It was a great result and we now lead the championship by 25 solid points which is mega for this stage of the year. Bring on Red Bull ring in a few months!

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