Mathias Beche brought the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05 Nissan to the checkered flag behind the safety car in a rain-soaked round two of the European Le Mans Series, the Four Hours of Imola.
Beche, Pierre Thiriet and Ryo Hirakawa led the race from just before the midway point, having started from second on the grid.
The tense battle for the top spot that had played out over the opening half of the race was a very different story later in the afternoon, as the rain began to fall on the Italian circuit with an hour to go.
A full course yellow was brought out soon after, to recover one of several Ligier JS P3 Nissans to be stranded in the gravel throughout the course of the race.
However, the FCY stayed out even once John Falb’s Graff Ligier had been recovered, due to worsening weather conditions.
The safety car was deployed with 27 minutes on the clock, after several cars had struggled to keep up with the rest of the field under the FCY in the torrential rain.
The race did run the full four hours, and on the final lap the safety car headed into the pitlane, but no overtaking was allowed as the cars headed to the finish line.
In the opening stages of the race, the LMP2 and overall lead battle was between the TDS car of Pierre Thiriet, Nicolas Lapierre’s DragonSpeed Oreca, and Paul-Loup Chatin’s Panis Barthez Competition Ligier JS P2 Nissan.
All three would lead during the first half of the race, but the No. 46 TDS Oreca stayed out front until the end.
“A great race, because we were really unlucky [at Silverstone],” said Beche.
“It was a bit unfortunate for the public that it’s finishing under a safety car, but anyway, we had a really solid race and my team-mates did a brilliant job.”
Panis Barthez Competition, the team that had led both Free Practice sessions earlier in the weekend, fell down the order and only finished seventh.
Meanwhile, DragonSpeed came home third, in spite of contact with Rui Aguas’ GTE-class Ferrari F458 Italia.
G-Drive Racing finished the race in second, from fifth on the grid for the Silverstone winners. The Jota Sport-run squad made a surprising decision to put Silver-rated Simon Dolan in the Gibson 015S Nissan for the first stint, but this certainly paid off.
SMP Racing and Eurasia Motorsport completed the top five, with their BR Engineering BR01 Nissan and Oreca 05 respectively.
United Autosports was once again the standout team in the LMP3 category. The No. 2 Ligier JS P3 Nissan was the eventual winner, with Alex Brundle, Mike Guasch and Christian England making it two-in-two so far this season.
The sister No. 3 car led early on, under Matt Bell, but a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane pushed the car down the order.
Eurointernational finished second with its No. 11 car, but the team’s No. 12 car had led for a while in the middle of the race, with reigning WEC LMP2 champion Roman Rusinov at the wheel. Meanwhile, Panis Barthez Competition rounded out the podium.
All four of the full course yellows at Imola were caused by LMP3 cars getting stranded in gravel traps.
Proton Competition had an incredible run in the GTE category, and the team’s No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR led the entire race in the seven-car class.
Robert Renauer took a commanding lead from pole position, and after a near-two hour stint, he handed the car over to Wolf Henzler and later Mike Hedlund.
Impressively, the Proton car finished ahead of the entire LMP3 field, and 13th overall.
JMW Motorsport finished second, after losing its win to a disqualification at Silverstone. AT Racing’s similar Ferrari was third, ahead of the other Proton Porsche.
RESULTS: Four Hours of Imola