April 20 - 22 - 2016

Motor Legend Festival

LOCATION: IMOLA, EMILIA-ROMAGNA, ITALY

NEAREST AIRPORT: BOLOGNA (40 KM)

RACE REPORT

New faces and familiar names take the spoils in sunny season-opener at Imola

Mike Cantillon, Martin O’Connell, Nicky Pastorelli, Alex Kapadia, Gareth Evans, Graham Wilson/David Pittard and Mike Gardiner/Andy Wolfe were among the new faces and familiar names bringing home the wins and class victories in the opening rounds of the five Masters Historic Racing-run races. The first running of the Motor Legend Festival at Imola provided lots of exciting racing in perfect sun-drenched conditions, to start off the 2018 Masters season in fine fashion.

 


Mike Gardiner and his new team mate Andy Wolfe converted pole position into a dominant win in the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Imola. Gardiner led until the pit stops to hand over the Ford Falcon to Wolfe who proved to be an able replacement for Phil Keen by further stretching out Gardiner’s lead over Olivier Hart’s Ford Mustang. A second safety-car period at three-quarter distance failed to perturb Wolfe who ran off to a 13-second advantage at the chequered flag.

"It’s never easy at the front”, said Wolfe, “but Mike works really hard to win and it’s hard to disappoint him. But yes, it was pretty straightforward, even after the second safety car – although I did go off on my out lap – the sun blinded me, I couldn’t see a thing!"

Olivier Hart had climbed from fifth to second, passing Peter Klutt in the Klutt/Hallford Mustang, Norbert Gross in the Dutch-championship Ford Falcon and then Julian Thomas in the Thomas/Lockie Falcon, but with Lockie in the car young Hart had to cede his position again, as Lockie turned up the wick, proof of which was fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of the Dutchman. However, Lockie then spun on the oil that would provoke the deployment of the second safety car, and second place was Hart’s again.

"I was trying to pass Norby Gross in the Falcon”, Hart explained afterwards, “catching him towards the double righthander, and then he misjudged his braking and I had to take avoiding action. And when I rejoined the track I did so right into the path of a backmarker that I genuinely hadn’t seen…"

There was plenty of drama in both the Cortina and Mini classes as the first safety-car period shook up the order in the lower ranks quite a bit. Since the safety car’s advent coincided with the opening of the pit window, all drivers bar seven grabbed the first opportunity for their mandatory pit stops.

Mark Martin was among the few deciding to avoid the pit lane mayhem – and it proved an inspired decision, his Lotus Cortina jumping well up the order to find itself in second place in class behind Andrea Stortoni. When the Italian was a shock retirement on the final lap, Martin gladly inherited the class win ahead of Graham Wilson. Stortoni was still classified third in class as Stortoni’s Cortina rivals in the first part of the race all ran into trouble.

"Yes, I saw the queue in the pitlane and thought that by pushing on and catching the safety car I could make up time. And then when I went in myself I had the pitlane all to myself! I jumped Graham [Wilson] with whom I always seem to be fighting for position, and then got P1 at the end. Indeed, who needs Andrew!"

An entertaining all-Cortina fight between Stortoni, Greg Thornton and Geoff Letts – while also mixing it with Rob Fenn’s Mustang – was broken up in the ensuing pitstop chaos, Stortoni leaving the pits with a clear advantage over Martin and Wilson, while the Letts Cortina was pushed down into the clutches of Nick Swift’s class-leading Mini.

Swift looked set for a dominant class win but it all went wrong three laps from the end when contact put an end to his race. This handed the class win to the Ian Curley/Bill Sollis Mini while Liam Sullivan/Jonathan Lewis took second ahead of Raymond Low. Meanwhile, Lewis and Snetterton Speedshop team mate Ron Maydon also managed to trip each other up in those frantic closing stages, leading to Maydon’s retirement.

In his stunning Ferrari 250 GTO/64, Nicky Pastorelli blitzed the field on his way to victory in the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at Imola.

The Michael Gans/Andy Wolfe AC Cobra was the only car to remained unlapped by the Dutchman. The Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie Jaguar E-type and the Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé took third and fourth. Pastorelli’s closest rival during the first half of the race dropped out shortly after the halfway mark when the battery caught fire in the Daytona Cobra Coupé that Olivier Hart (at the wheel at the time) shared with father David.

"It went very well from start to finish, the car was fantastic from lights to flag”, said a well-satisfied Pastorelli. “It’s a shame that David and Olivier were forced to drop out – that would have kept the race alive. There was no need to push until the end, otherwise we would have been marginal on fuel. And can I just say that this is a great venue with which to start a season?"

In a relatively quiet opening half Nicky Pastorelli duly converted pole into a 16-second lead over David Hart’s Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé at the 30-minute mark, with Michael Gans in the AC Cobra a further four seconds adrift. Julian Thomas followed in fourth in his Jaguar E-type, with Leo Voyazides further back in fifth in another Cobra Daytona Coupé.

In class CLP, Ron Maydon (Ginetta G4R) ran sixth overall and was well ahead of the Paul Whight/Rob Fenn Lotus Elan 26R, which in turn led Mark Martin’s Elan by a considerable margin. The C2 class was dominated by the Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Morgan SLR, with Bellinger in the car running eighth overall, a lap ahead of the Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus/Jeremy Welch pairing, the Swede doing the opening stint in the red Austin Healey 3000. In C1, Rick Bourne (TVR Grantura) led Theo van Gammeren (Porsche 911) and Christian Ondrak (Alfa Romeo Giulietta S2).

Hart, Gans and Voyazides all pitted on lap 20, handing their machines to Hart Jr, Andy Wolfe and Simon Hadfield respectively while Pastorelli and Thomas stayed out until lap 22, the Dutchman now holding a 1.29-minute lead over the E-type. When Thomas pitted to hand over to Lockie, Pastorelli was left with a margin of 35 seconds over his countryman Olivier Hart who in turn had 1.13 in hand over Wolfe. Lockie returned in fourth, and the gaps being what they were, Hadfield was now a lap down in fifth.

On lap 24, however, Wolfe, Lockie and Hadfield each moved up a place when Olivier Hart saw the battery of his Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé catch fire… Meanwhile, Pastorelli’s relentless pace was such that now also Lockie found himself lapped by the Ferrari while Wolfe trailed the Dutchman by almost two minutes – Pastorelli’s best lap time having been a 2.05.

In the Dutch GT race, Rhea Sautter bravely kept her countryman Alexander Schlüchter at bay to claim victory for herself and Andy Newall. Marcel van Laarhoven was a distant third in his Shelby Mustang GT350, profiting from Michiel Campagne’s demise in the big and loud Corvette Grand Sport.

Pastorelli eventually lessened his pace to maintain a 1.45-minute gap to Wolfe to take a lights-to-flag win for the Dutch Roelofs Engineering team while Lockie and Hadfield remained in third and fourth places.

"I was pushing as hard as I could”, said Wolfe, “hoping that Pastorelli made a mistake – but he didn’t. There was no pressure from behind, so I didn’t need to worry about that."

“The race was very good”, said Thomas, “although the brakes were gone from lap 4 so from then on it was a case of managing the brakes, but apart from that it was fairly straightforward.”

Circulating in fifth overall for most of the race, Ron Maydon claimed the CLP class win by some margin, keeping Jamie Boot’s C3-class TVR Griffith as a buffer between his Ginetta G4R and the Paul Whight/Rob Fenn Lotus Elan 26R. A lap down on Maydon, Mark Martin’s Elan took third in class, ahead of Dutch father-and-son team Niek and Sander van Gils in their Elan.

In C2, Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger were set for a dominant win but with 15 minutes to go Ahlers pulled their Morgan SLR into the pits with an engine issue, handing the class win to the Nyblaeus/Welch Austin Healey 3000. The Michael Bell/Simon Orebi Gann SLR duly picked up second in class. Husband and wife Manfredo Rossi and Caroline Abbou (Austin Healey 3000) finished a distant third in their new joint venture.

“We won, but with a bit of luck”, said Nyblaeus. “We were reasonably safe for second and then it was handed to us. Then again, you first have to finish – that’s why we tried to slow Jeremy down at the end."

Meanwhile, Rick Bourne and Malcolm Paul (TVR Grantura) ran out to a convincing victory in C1. Their work was made even easier when the Porsche 911 of the Dutch Van Gammerens retired at three-quarter distance. This handed a distant second place in class to the Christian Ondrak/Roberto Restelli Alfa Romeo Giulietta S2.

 

Saturday, 21 April

Mike Cantillon took a well-deserved first-ever FIA Masters Historic Formula One win by beating CGA Engineering team mate Christophe d’Ansembourg in a Williams FW07 double at Imola.

"It was two years coming!” said a beaming Cantillon, whose form started to improve in the last half of the previous season. “Yes, I’ve a done a lot of work with a personal trainer and that’s paid off. It’s a great day!"

Dubbed the first Historic San Marino Grand Prix by the Imola organisers, the race first saw poleman Martin O’Connell drive away into the distance, setting fastest laps on lap 2 and 3 and pulling out a 6.5-second lead before his ATS D4 ground to a halt on lap 8.

Cantillon, having been the only driver to have kept pace with O’Connell, was handed a lead of 17 seconds over d’Ansembourg, the Belgian having been busy fending off runaway pre-78 leader Greg Thornton (Lotus 77) and Joaquin Folch in the Brabham BT49. Cantillon’s lead was wiped out, however, when on lap 10 the safety car was deployed to allow the retrieval of Katsu Kubota’s Lotus 91 from the Rivazza gravel trap.

At the restart, Cantillon kept his cool and ran out to a 1.6-second lead over d’Ansembourg, with Thornton not far behind.

"The restart was clean”, said the winner. “I had lots of time to think about it!"

It wasn’t clean for Joaquin Folch, however. The Catalan had been fourth but started experiencing lack of power when the safety car came out. “I decided to keep going as we were circulating slowly behind the safety car anyway. But when the green flag was waved the power wasn’t there.”

Folch put his hand up, and fifth-placed Steve Brooks (Lotus 81) rightfully decided to keep behind until the safety-car line was passed. “But by then I was in the wrong gear”, said Brooks, “and three cars came flying past!”

So suddenly Greg Thornton in third was looking at a 10-second gap to Jamie Constable’s Shadow DN8 as the quickest of the cars that had jumped Brooks at the restart. “I was looking in my mirrors to see where everyone was”, Thornton explained, “as with the new reversed-grid start order in race 1 for the top-8 of race 1 I was planning to drop down two places to still maintain the pre-78 class lead but start two places further up the grid tomorrow. But then I looked – and there was nobody there!”

In fourth, Constable made up for a torrid qualifying session to take second in the pre-78 class, ahead of Henry Fletcher (March 761) who in his first Historic Formula One race took a fine fifth overall and third in class. In sixth, Manfredo Rossi (Lotus 80) took third in the post-78 class while Brooks recovered to seventh overall.

Jason Wright, another pre-78 podium favourite, initially tracked Constable on his way up before dropping out on lap 9. Steve Hartley (Arrows A4) and Bob Blain (March 761) were early retirements.

 

 

Sunday, 22 April

Martin O’Connell took revenge for his mishap in the first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race of the Motor Legend Festival weekend at Imola by fighting his way forward from 21st on the grid to take Marc Devis’ ATS D4 to a spectacular win.

The former British Formula 3 National Class champion put his single-seater savvy to good use to be 12th after the opening lap, and sixth after 2 laps. A short spell behind the safety car dispatched for the retrieval from the gravel of Vincent Rivet’s March 811 was followed by O’Connell jumping both Greg Thornton (Lotus 77) and Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07) at the restart. One lap later, the ATS surged past Jamie Constable’s Shadow DN8 to take second place.

Meanwhile, from second on the grid, Steve Brooks (Lotus 81) drove a very strong race, leading until lap 9 after inheriting the lead on the opening lap when pole man Patrick D’Aubréry wildly spun his March 761 on the climb up to Tosa. Having valiantly defended first position for three laps, the Classic Team Lotus driver had to finally give in to O’Connell on lap 7 but stuck with the ATS in the four laps remaining to the finish. Brooks eventually crossed the line just a couple of seconds down on the winner.

Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07) produced a steady race to claim third, profiting from a clash between pre-78 class rivals Jamie Constable (Shadow DN8) and Greg Thornton (Lotus 77) that dropped both of them down the order. Their places were picked up by Joaquin Folch (Brabham BT49) and race 1 winner Mike Cantillon (Williams FW07), the latter having spun on lap 2 and on his way up again until Folch halted Cantillon’s progress. Manfredo Rossi (Lotus 80) was a brief second after two laps but failed to keep pace with the top-five. The Italian finished sixth.

Pre-78 class winner Constable kept Brooks honest in the opening stages but then saw his class rival Greg Thornton pass him on lap 6. Contact one lap later lost both of them places, Thornton eventually finishing well down, fifth in class.

Thornton’s demise helped Jason Wright (Shadow DN8) into second place in class while fellow Canadian Keith Frieser (Shadow DN1) picked up third. Frieser had been ahead of Wright before the latter made the pass on lap 8. Squeezed in between Constable and Wright was Andrew Beaumont’s Lotus 81 in eighth overall.

Also starting from the back, Steve Hartley was up to seventh by lap 8 but his weekend of horror continued when he pulled his Arrows A4 into the pits one lap later.

 

Graham Wilson and David Pittard (Chevron B8) were the surprise winners in a very eventful FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race to take the spoils in the season’s curtain raiser at Imola. The pair were handed victory when the winners-on-the-road Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield were excluded from the results.

Voyazides and Hadfield looked to have come through despite a first-lap spin by Voyazides, as the Anglo-Greek pair survived a race of attrition punctuated by several safety-car periods and incidents in which their various rivals managed to trip up over each other. But upon seeing evidence, the stewards disqualified Voyazides and Hadfield. Meanwhile, ‘Mister Consistency’ Jason Wright (Lola T70 Mk3B) survived the mayhem to take second (third on the road) ahead of the Gonçalo Gomes/James Claridge Lola T212.

The opening lap saw poleman Leo Voyazides drop it at the Variante Alta, along with fellow front-row sitter David Hart and Marc Devis, in a trio of spinning T70s. Voyazides and Devis lost the most places while Hart was able to continue in fourth. This handed the lead to Henry Fletcher’s Chevron B19 who by lapping two seconds faster than Hart – himself back up to second place by lap 2 – built a lead of 17 seconds over the Dutchman.

On lap 6, Hart came in for an unexpected pitstop to change a rear tyre while on the same lap Stefano Rosina’s McLaren M8C passed Mike Donovan’s Lola T70 Mk3B for what was now second place. As Fletcher continued to extend his lead over the Italian, up to 23 seconds by lap 9, Voyazides had charged back up to sixth place. One lap later, this would be fifth as the leading car ground to a halt at Tosa – a sad end to a magnificent sportscar debut for Fletcher.

Two separate incidents – Nikolaus Ditting pulling off at the Variante Villeneuve, and Greg Thornton spinning off at Tosa in his Chevron B8 – required the safety car’s dispatch just moments before the pit window would be opened. Almost all cars came in at the first opportunity, shaking up the order to quite an effect. Mike Donovan was in the lead now, ahead of Rosina, followed by Devis and James Claridge in the Lola T212 that Gonçalo Gomes had kept in fourth place during the car’s opening stint. Up next were Simon Hadfield and David Pittard in the cars taken over from Leo Voyazides and Graham Wilson respectively.

This looked to be an open goal for Hadfield who, despite the interruption of another safety car prompted by the Joao Paulo Campos Costa/Alexandre Beiro GRD S72 stopping at Villeneuve, was soon into a lead over Claridge that would rapidly increase. Equally, young David Pittard was quickly up into third in Graham Wilson’s Chevron B8, lapping as quick as Marc Devis and Jason Wright in fourth and fifth, while Mike Donovan became another front-running casualty, dropping out on lap 18 with fuel-pump failure. But that was after being prime witness to Hadfield impatiently attempting to pass both Donovan and Rosina in one go, an attempt that ended up with the white Lola in the side of McLaren.

On lap 22, with 10 minutes still on the clock, the race was neutralised one more time when the Chris Jolly/Steve Farthing Cooper Monaco T61M stopped at Piratella while the Benedini/Benedini Chevron B16 went off into the gravel at Rivazza, but this didn’t affect Hadfield who on the green flag stormed off into a big lead, with Pittard following in his wake. Meanwhile, Jason Wright passed James Claridge for third.

Hulme class victory seemed to go to ‘usual suspects’ Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger but the reigning champions were pipped to the win by Dutchman Michiel Smits, whose Lola T70 Mk1 had kept pace with the Cooper Monaco King Cobra during Bellinger’s opening stint and then passed Ahlers shortly before the final safety-car interruption.

Graham Wilson and David Pittard were the clear winners of the Bonnier class, but newcomers Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie did very well to take their Chevron B8 up to fifth overall. In the first part of the race, Thomas battled hard with Paul Ingram’s B8 before Lockie pulled clear. Greg Thornton was also in the mix but spun out at Rivazza on lap 11.

The Siffert class win proved to be an easy prey for Ross Hyett’s Chevron B16. Early on, Hyett battled with Giampaolo Benedini’s B16 but the Italian car faded with a pitstop on lap 8 and along with Jamie Boot’s B16 was among the cars that lost a lap during the safety-car periods.

Saturday, 21 April

Alex Kapadia converted pole position into a win in the Masters Endurance Legends race of the weekend at Imola. The ORECA-Nissan 03 P2 driver came back to pass Steve Tandy’s Lola-Mazda B12/60 with two laps to go, having dropped behind the P1 car after the pitstops.

A thrilling battle for third place was ended in favour of Gareth Evans who used his Creation-AIM P1 machine to overtake Keith Frieser’s ORECA-GM FLM09 for the final podium spot while Travis Engen ran the pair close in his Audi R8 P1.

The ORECA 03s of Michel Frey and Ralph Meichtry were in hot pursuit of Kapadia up until the pitstops – the three drivers with previous Le Mans experience driving away from the opposition led by Tandy’s Lola. At the halfway mark it all fell apart for both Swiss drivers, as Frey was handed a 15-second stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact with the Venturi LM600 of Gérard Bouvet and Christian Perrier. Having done his regular pitstop, Frey returned to serve his penalty but didn’t bother to go back out again. Meanwhile, Meichtry pulled into the pits on lap 16, his race over.

Due to the various handicaps in pitstop times, Kapadia dropped behind Tandy during the pitstop phase and was now faced with closing an 11-second gap. The ORECA driver took five laps to be back snapping at the Lola-Mazda’s gearbox and made the pass on lap 20. On the same lap, Evans swooped past Frieser for third. Setting his fastest personal time right at the end, Engen was also looking for a way past Frieser but the Canadian managed to stay ahead of the American.

In relatively lonely races, Mike Newton (Lola-MG EX257) and Darius Ahrabian (Lotus-Lola P2 Coupé) were sixth and seventh.

In his Aston Martin DBR9, Nikolaus Ditting sealed GT honours when the Antonio Fuoco/Yoshiki Ohmura Ferrari 458 GTE suffered gearbox problems. As the rest of Ditting’s opposition also faltered – his lead rival Dominik Roschmann in the second DBR9 getting a drivethrough penalty – Ditting’s life was made easy in the second part of the race, the German taking eighth overall.

Sadly, Bob Berridge’s Peugeot 908 was a non-starter.

Sunday, 22 April

Alex Kapadia made it two out of two on track by winning the second Masters Endurance Legends race at Imola’s, only to be demoted post race a time penalty for a pit stop infringement placed him 4th overall in the final results. The ORECA-Nissan 03 P2 driver dominated from start to finish, heading the P1 machines of Gareth Evans (Creation-AIM) and Travis Engen (Audi R8).

Evans had a race-long fight with Steve Tandy’s P1 Lola-Mazda B12/60 before Tandy pulled off with a puncture on lap 17. Also in the mix from the start was Engen’s Audi, who was hot on the heels of Tandy’s Lola when he spun off into the gravel on lap 19, causing the red flag to come out with three minutes still on the clock. The race would not be resumed.

The race’s main excitement came in the laps leading up to the pitstops, as Michel Frey and Ralph Meichtry joined Evans, Tandy, Engen and Keith Frieser’s ORECA FLM09 in a six-car battle for second place. The two quick Swiss drivers had come from the back in their ORECA 03s and soon began mixing it with Kapadia’s initial pursuers, Frey moving up to third by lap 9.

The longer pitstops that were forced onto former Le Mans drivers Kapadia, Frey and Meichtry did not handicap Kapadia much, as he kept a 31-second lead over Tandy when the pit window closed. Frey and Meichtry, however, dropped back well behind Tandy and were fighting with Evans’s Creation when Frey spun into the gravel at Rivazza on lap 14, leading to the arrival of the safety car.

At the restart, Kapadia quickly ran out a sufficient lead over Tandy – and then over Evans and Engen when Tandy dropped out with his puncture. Meichtry’s progress was stopped by a gaggle of backmarkers separating him from Engen,

Meanwhile, Keith Frieser’s ORECA FLM09 was lost during the pitstop phase, the American coming into the pits but failing to leave it again. This handed positions to Mike Newton’s Lola-MG EX257 and Darius Ahrabian’s Lola-Lotus P2 Coupé.

In the GT class, Dominik Roschmann made it 1-1 in his intra-Aston Martin DBR9 battle with Nikolaus DItting by bringing his DBR9 home ahead of Ditting’s similar machine. Roschmann was further helped by yesterday’s winner Ditting spinning on lap 2. The Gérard Bouvet/Christian Perrier Venturi LM600 finished a distant third in class.


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