Jota Sport broke through to claim victory in Sunday’s Four Hours of Imola following a dramatic final hour in the second round of the European Le Mans Series season.
Simon Dolan took the No. 38 Zytek Z11SN Nissan to the checkered flag following an impressive closing stint that saw the gentlemen driver nearly hold off ex-F1 ace Christian Klien for the lead.
While Klien got around the Englishman in the final half-hour, the Austrian’s NewBlood by Morand Racing Morgan-Judd stopped on track with less than five minutes to go with a mechanical issue.
It gave the lead back to Dolan, who cruised to a 28-second victory over the No. 24 Sebastien Loeb Racing Oreca 03 Nissan of Vincent Capillaire in second, also benefitting from the late-race drama.
The win for Dolan and co-drivers Harry Tincknell and Audi factory driver on-loan, Filipe Albuquerque, was sweet redemption after crashing out of the lead in last month’s season opener at Silverstone.
“When I got back into the Zytek for the final stints, our fuel-saving strategy was paying off until the Safety Car came out,” Dolan explained.
“Then it was a case of going as fast I possibly could. Christian overtook me but I managed to stay with him and I don’t mind admitting I was overjoyed to see him slow in front of me!”
Loeb Racing’s Capillaire and co-driver Jan Charouz edged out the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450 Nissan, which finished third in the hands of Paul-Loup Chatin. The defending series champions lost 15 seconds in the pits when the car had trouble re-firing and also during the safety car period with 90 minutes to go, which affected its fuel strategy.
The No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Morgan-Judd was also another contender for the win but brake problems sent Tristan Gommendy to the garage from the lead with 40 minutes to go, just moments after the Frenchman got around Dolan for the lead. The Silverstone winners salvaged a fifth place result, although two laps behind.
A late charge by Tom Kimber-Smith and a clean opening triple stint by 16-year-old Matt McMurry saw the Greaves Motorsport duo finish fourth, capitalizing on the late-race attrition. The Morand entry, meanwhile, was classified in seventh.
The No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca-Nissan retired in the third hour due to gearbox failure after also showing early pace.
GTE class honors went to SMP Racing, thanks to a last-lap pass by Andrea Bertolini on the No. 81 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Thomas Kemenater, who along with co-driver Matteo Cressoni, led the majority of the race.
Bertolini managed to reel in the Swiss-entered Prancing Horse to claim victory for he and co-drivers Sergey Zlobin and Viktor Shaitar.
The Russian squad led a Ferrari sweep of the top-five positions in class, with the No. 66 JMW Motorsport entry of Daniel McKenzie, George Richardson and Daniel Zampeiri completing the podium in third.
Formula Racing, meanwhile, secured GTC class honors with its AF Corse-run No. 60 Ferrari of Johnny Laursen, Mac Mikkel Jensen and Andrea Piccini, who edged out the pair of SMP Racing Ferraris, which finished second and third in class.
RESULTS: Four Hours of Imola