Tandy takes victory in second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at Monza as lead pair clash

Steve Tandy (Lola-Mazda B12/60) took a surprise victory in the second Aston Martin Endurance Legends race at Monza, as Michel Frey (Lola-Judd B07/18) and Christophe d’Ansembourg (Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2) clashed while fighting over the lead. The Belgian was out on the spot, and although Frey crossed the line in first, a 25-second penalty for the incident dropped him to third behind Tandy and the Peugeot 908 of Kriton Lendoudis.

“I didn’t expect that!” said a beaming Tandy. “I started third but lost a place early on. We were running a consistent pace, though, keeping in sight of Christophe and Michel until they clashed. And then my engineer came on the radio that Michel was going to get a 25-second penalty, so I had to pace myself. I still had to fight off Cantillon, and then Kriton was coming up fast, with a Peugeot that is quicker on the straights, so I had to keep him behind me, and luckily I did!”

A tense few opening laps saw D’Ansembourg lead away from pole, only to see Frey charge past halfway through the first lap. On the next lap, the Lola-Aston was back in front but D’Ansembourg’s joy lasted just two more laps as Frey reclaimed the lead while setting a storming fastest lap of the race. All the while, Mike Cantillon was hot on the tail of the lead battle, as he pulled away from Tandy in fourth, with Lendoudis in fifth further back. Behind the Greek, Jamie Constable’s Pesca had risen up to sixth by lap 5, coming from the back of the grid after its premature end to the first race.

In P2, Mike Newton initially followed Lendoudis in sixth overall before giving up the place to Constable, but the MG-Lola still held a comfortable 20-second lead on the Scott Sport train of Keith Frieser and Tommy Dreelan, the North Americans as a pair making their way past the Karl Pedraza/Philippe Papin ORECA that on lap 4 came to a halt at the first chicane, its engine having died. Even worse, Mark Higson had been unable to make the start due to issues of the electrical kind on his ORECA.

Hardy Woodcock, meanwhile, continued where he left off in the first race by running eighth overall initially before succumbing to the faster P1 and P2 coming from the back. His Ferrari 458 GTE still held a comfortable lead over the warring Porsche 996 GT3 RSRs of Stephan Jocher and Maurizio Fratti, the German leading the Italian.

As the pit window opened, Frey had opened up a 10-second lead on D’Ansembourg and setting a new fastest lap of the race before the Lola B07/18 came into the pits on lap 10 as the first of the leading runners. The Lola-Aston continued for two laps before making its mandatory pitstop and when it rejoined it was 7 seconds in front of its rival, helped by Frey’s additional 20-second stationary time for being an elite driver.

Right on the cusp of the pit window closing, Tandy was the last to pit, allowing D’Ansembourg back into the lead, but Frey had been trimming down the Belgian’s advantage with one ‘purple’ sector after another. By lap 14, the gap was down to just a tenth on the line. D’Ansembourg held firm for one more lap, though, but on lap 16 the pair touched, and D’Ansembourg was off and out.

“We both braked late for the first chicane, and he stayed in front”, Frey explained afterwards. “And then at the second chicane he had more brake power, I just couldn’t brake that hard. I tried to avoid him on the outside but it wasn’t enough, and I hit him on the right rear. I apologised to Christophe. It’s a pity that it had to end like this, we were having a great fight. But that’s racing…”

The incident brought out the safety car, which allowed Tandy, Lendoudis and Cantillon to bunch up behind the leader. At the pitstops, the latter had lost third place to the Lola-Mazda and the Peugeot. Constable remained in sixth, ahead of the leading P2 machine of Newton, who now saw his lead on Frieser and Dreelan evaporate. In GT, Woodcock had a lap in hand on Jocher and Fratti.

After a quick recovery of the Lola-Aston, the green flag was waved on lap 18, and Frey immediately made a break, leaving Tandy to fend off the attention of Mike Cantillon who had pipped Lendoudis at the restart. Moments later, though, it was announced that Frey had been handed a 25-second time penalty for the incident with D’Ansembourg. And that wasn’t all, as Cantillon had a lunge at Tandy but the move didn’t materialise and the Pescarolo dropped out of third with one lap to go…

Even though Frey did well to open up a 13-second gap on Tandy, with fastest lap of the race across the finish line, it wasn’t enough to compensate for the penalty. This handed a surprise victory to Tandy, who was chased home by Lendoudis, while Frey was still classified third, a mere second ahead of Constable, with Constable recovering to finish fifth.

“I’m always sleepy in the morning”, said a smiling Lendoudis. “If I had had one more lap! My last lap was my best… Yesterday was all wrong but we changed the car today and it was better, so I knew a podium would be possible.”

Mike Newton doubled up on a successful weekend for himself and the MG-Lola EX257 as he headed Keith Frieser’s ORECA-Nissan 03 and Tommy Dreelan’s ORECA-GM FLM09 for P2 class victory. Hardy Woodcock equally made it two out of two in his Ferrari 458 GTE, with Jocher and Fratti completing a copy of the first race’s GT podium.

“I overtook a few P2 cars at the start”, said Woodcock, “and I got to keep them behind for a few laps, so that was fun. But after that, it was kind of boring until the safety car. It was still a great race, though!”