Wilson/Pittard claim shock overall win in FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race!

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.