D'Ansembourg wins first Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at Monza after titanic lead tussle with Frey
Christophe d’Ansembourg (Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2) took the spoils in the wins first Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at Monza, but was made to fight really hard for the win. The Belgian was down to fourth after the start but then charged back up to pass poleman Michel Frey (Lola-Judd B07/18) by jumping him at the pitstops. Frey then reclaimed the lead on lap 15 but D’Ansembourg fought back by re-passing the Swiss driver on lap 19.
“It was a nice and really intense fight”, said a jubilant d’Ansembourg. “At the start, it was a wet track and I just ran out, so I was fourth. I got back past the Pescas, and then had an exciting fight with Michel. There were a lot of mistakes, though, that’s why we continued to switch positions. In the end, we both went wide in the Parabolica, and that’s how I passed him! This was a nice one to win. I now have to deal with the two Pescarolos. They are really quick, with two fast drivers that I also fight with in Formula One.”
“I did so many mistakes!” Frey admitted. “I didn’t deserve the win. The conditions were very tricky out there, I didn’t dare take all the risks.”
Meanwhile, Tandy explained why he was off the pace. “In the first chicane I had a big lock-up trying to avoid Kriton [Lendoudis] who was all over the place. I flat-spotted my tyres with that. It was a lonely second half of the race…”
In P2, Keith Frieser’s ORECA-Nissan 03 and Tommy Dreelan’s ORECA-GM FLM09 initially got the drop on the polesitting Lola-MG EX257 of Mike Newton, but Newton was back in front when Frieser and Dreelan ran into trouble. Down to the flag, Newton was forced to defend a narrow lead from Mark Higson’s ORECA, with Karl Pedraza and Philippe Papin taking third in another ORECA.
Despite incurring a drivethrough penalty, Hardy Woodcock’s Ferrari 458 GTE triumphed in the GT class. After a race-long fight, Stephan Jocher and Maurizio Fratti took second and third in their Porsche 996 GT3 RSRs.
After a start behind behind the safety car, the field was unleashed on lap 3, with polesitter Michel Frey immediately setting a cracking pace at the front. Initially, d’Ansembourg was swamped by the Pescarolos of Cantillon and Constable as he went straight through at the chicane, but on lap 5 the Belgian re-passed Constable, and then a lap later was up into second when Cantillon dropped down to fourth. Frey had just set fastest lap on lap 6 but as soon as d’Ansembourg was in free air he lowered the mark by a healthy margin, ready to claw back a 9-second gap.
Among the P2s, Keith Frieser and Tommy Dreelan both got the drop on Mike Newton, and the North American pair kept ahead of the Lola-MG until the stops. Despite a drivethrough penalty Hardy Woodcock kept his Ferrari ahead of Stephan Jocher’s Porsche to lead the GT class at mid-distance.
D’Ansembourg waited two laps longer before pitting, and when he came back out, the order was reversed, the Belgian now holding a narrow 2-second lead over the Swiss driver, who had to endure a 20-second penalty at the stops. Meanwhile, Kriton Lendoudis’ race in the Peugeot 908 was further confounded by a drivethrough penalty for crossing the white line on pitlane exit. The Greek had been fighting Steve Tandy’s Lola-Mazda B12/60 for fifth. At least Lendoudis got back out, which couldn’t be said for Constable, whose Pescarolo remained stuck in the pits after 9 laps.
In P2, it had been all change after the stops. Now, Newton led Mark Higson’s ORECA by a mere three seconds, with the Karl Pedraza/Philippe Papin ORECA in third, half a minute down the road. Both Scott Sport cars of Frieser and Dreelan had lost valuable time and were now right at the back, two and three laps down respectively. Woodcock still led the GT class imperiously.
At the front, Frey continued to harry the Lola-Aston, as the gap shrunk to less than four tenths on lap 14. The next lap, the Lola-Judd was past. Steve Tandy was a lonely third, 36 seconds down, while Cantillon’s deficit was now up a minute. D’Ansembourg wasn’t giving up, though. As the sun reappeared, the Gulf-liveried machine was back in the lead on lap 17 – in a remarkable way, though, as both drivers had run wide at the Parabolica but D’Ansembourg slightly less so. The next lap, D’Ansembourg’s lead was up to 1.2 seconds, and up to 4 seconds on lap 19 – now the game was finally over, and the Lola-Aston duly crossed the line in first after 21 thrilling laps.
Behind the warring lead pair, Tandy finished a lonely third, 45 seconds behind the winner, with Cantillon and Lendoudis in fourth and fifth. Newton maintained his tiny margin over Higson to win the P2 class, the pair followed home by the Pedraza/Papin ORECA and Mike Furness in the Courage LC75. Hardy Woodcock’s Ferrari 458 GTE claimed GT honours with a strong tenth overall while Stephan Jocher won the Porsche 996 GT3 RSR battle with Maurizio Fratti, the two exchanging positions until the chequered flag dropped.