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Imola Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook from an action-packed 6 Hours of Imola…

Photo: Toyota

***Mike Conway’s 22nd win in the FIA World Endurance Championship (including class wins) moves him within two of all-time leader Sebastien Buemi. Kamui Kobayashi’s 17th win puts him level with fellow Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima in equal fifth, along with Roman Rusinov, Paul Dalla Lana and Nicolas Lapierre.

***Nyck de Vries meanwhile became the WEC’s first ever outright Dutch race winner in only his second start for Toyota Gazoo Racing. He previously won once in LMP2 with Racing Team Nederland in the 6 Hours of Fuji in 2019.

***In LMGT3, BMW scored its first-ever WEC victory in any class with the No. 31 WRT crew of Augusto Farfus, Darren Leung and Sean Gelael. Farfus and Leung are first-time winners, while Gelael adds to his previous three victories with the Belgian squad in LMP2.

***Porsche Penske Motorsport trio Kevin Estre, Andre Lotterer and Laurens Vanthoor continue to lead the drivers’ world championship on 56 points with their second-place finish, 16 points clear of Toyota trio Conway, Kobayashi and de Vries. The No. 5 Porsche crew of Matt Campbell, Frederic Makowiecki and Michael Christensen is a further point back in third.

***Estre doesn’t feel any disappointment in missing out on victory in his late-race battle with Kobayashi. “I think when we came here a month ago [to test] we knew this was going to be a hard one,” said the French driver. “We missed peak performance compared to the Ferrari, and in the race, our tire degradation was a lot higher than Toyota and Ferrari.”

***Estre thinks the No. 6 crew would have finished fifth or sixth in a fully dry race. “I’m really happy with what we achieved, because we didn’t have the pace to be P2,” he said. “We did it because we worked better than the others, and I believe it was the same in Qatar.”

***Porsche LMDh factory director Urs Kuratle admitted surprise that Ferrari didn’t opted to split its cars on strategy during the crucial wet phase of the race. “We were looking into it very carefully, and yes we were surprised,” Kuratle told reporters post-race. “But we have to be careful, and we were not 100 percent sure this was not the right call [at the time].”

***It came after Porsche elected to leave the sister No. 5 car of Matt Campbell out for an additional two laps before making the switch to wet tires. “We wanted to see how it progressed and then we saw at one point it was better to change and we brought him in again,” explained Kuratle. “We tried to maximize the chances.”

***Toyota’s Brendon Hartley revealed that he was the first of the leaders to stop for slicks because the marque didn’t want to bring in both cars at the same time, with Kobayashi running at the head of the field. “We were the car behind and so we were at a disadvantage, which is fair enough,” recalled the Kiwi driver. “Probably I could have pitted a lap later.”

***Ferrari opted to triple-stint its Michelin tires in the dry early part of the race, while Toyota took fresh right-side tires at its second stop and Porsche changed all four tires owing to higher-than-anticipated degradation.

***Ferrari’s race and test team manager Giuliano Salvi explained this was linked to its faulty assumption that rain would arrive earlier in the race. “[For the start] we used our drivers who nurse the tires in a better way [Niklas Nielsen in No. 50 and Antonio Giovinazzi in No. 51] because we wanted to go long, expecting something [rain].”

***BMW’s No. 15 M Hybrid V8 was disqualified for not rejoining parc ferme under its own power. The car shared by Raffaele Marciello, Dries Vanthoor and Marco Wittmann had been classified 34th overall and last of the Hypercar finishers, 42 laps down, having spent almost an hour in the garage at the start of the race following opening-lap contact.

***BMW M Motorsport director Andreas Roos told Sportscar365 that, in addition to bodywork damage, the melee on the opening lap resulted in suspension damage for Wittmann. “[That] had to be replaced, because there he got the hit at the start,” Roos said. “And then we wanted to make sure that everything is in good condition. Because then running with a car which is not straight anymore is also not clever because then you gather the wrong data and the wrong information. So this is why we decided to take the time, repair the car, and then we go out again.”

***Hertz Team JOTA co-owner Sam Hignett admitted that his Porsche 963s “didn’t have the pace” of the German marque’s works cars at Imola, after the No. 38 car finished out of the points in 11th and the No. 12 car ended up down in 14th following two costly off-track moments for Callum Ilott.

***On JOTA’s decision to extend its fuel mileage with both cars early on, Hignett said: “We were trying to go longer because we knew from Free Practice and qualifying that we were missing three or four tenths to them [the factory Porsches]. Unfortunately, with the way the race unfolded, that didn’t work.”

***Jenson Button revealed that he couldn’t see out his No. 38 JOTA Porsche’s windshield properly in the rain. “We spent 30 laps adjusting different things, but nothing worked,” said the 2009 Formula 1 champion. “We were losing multiple seconds per lap. it got to the point where I thought I should stop because I couldn’t see.

***Button continued: “When they pitted the last time they cleaned it, and the track was drier so it was a bit easier for the last stint. Without that, we would have been well into the points. But still our pace needs a bit of work.”

***Despite its woes, the No. 12 JOTA car leads the FIA World Cup for Hypercar Teams on 53 points with a third-place finish among the privately-entered cars, one point ahead of the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari that picked up the class win in eighth overall.

***Lamborghini picked up an additional manufacturer point on home turf as the SC63 of Edoardo Mortara, Daniil Kvyat and Mirko Bortolotti came home for a 12th-place finish – 10th when the two customer cars that finished ahead (No. 83 Ferrari and No. 38 JOTA Porsche) are removed from the equation, as is the case in the manufacturers’ standings.

***With Peugeot and Cadillac collecting their first manufacturer points of the season at Imola, it leaves only Isotta Fraschini yet to score out of the nine registered marques in the Hypercar class.

***In the LMGT3 standings, Manthey PureRxcing maintains its advantage despite losing out on victory to WRT, with Alex Malykhin, Joel Sturm and Klaus Bachler currently on 54 points. Imola winners Farfus, Leung and Gelael are next up on 37 points, tied with Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin trio Ian James, Alex Riberas and Daniel Mancinelli.

***WEC organizers claimed a three-day crowd figure of 73,600 at Imola. This surpassed the crowd seen for last year’s 6 Hours of Monza, which was given as 65,000.

***MotoGP rider Marco Bezzecchi was present at Imola, observing from the Team WRT garage of mentor Valentino Rossi. Bezzecchi expressed an interest in trying his hand at car racing in the future during a mid-race interview with WEC pit lane reporter Bruce Jouanny.

Davey Euwema contributed to this report

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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