Imola is one of the great historic circuits that has remained largely unchanged over the years – except for some well advised changes. It is steeped in history and widely remembered for that fateful weekend in May 1994.
Upon arriving to the circuit, Stuart, Roald and I went for our usual Friday afternoon track walk to familiarise ourselves with the surroundings and get our first look at a circuit that was new for the three of us. It was noticeable straight away that this was going to be a great circuit to drive. The track flowed through the undulating hills with a mixture of low, medium and high speed corners. We took some time during our walk to visit the sites of both Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenburger’s fateful crashes. It was amazing to see after all these years that fans are still visiting to leave their tributes.
Our car suffered a puncture which lead to catastrophic delamination of the tyre
First practice on Saturday morning ran to plan as we cycled through the drivers to get us all some experience of the circuit and comfortable in the car. The plan for second practice in the afternoon was to fine tune our set up for the race, and provide Roald with more laps so he would be ready. However, after only 30 minutes of running, our Aston Martin Vantage GTE suffered a puncture which lead to catastrophic delamination of the tyre. It caused extensive damage to the front right corner of the car, and brought the session to an early halt. This meant I was going into Sunday’s gour hour with only 10 laps of the circuit to my name, so I was feeling a little less prepared than I would have liked.
Stuart qualified our car on Sunday morning, but had an issue generating tyre temperature. We lined up 12th in the GTE class and 22nd overall.
We made the decision for Roald to start the race, I would double-stint in the middle and then Stuart take the car to the finish. Roald drove a solid first stint, but was very unlucky to get pushed off the circuit by a fellow competitor. He brought the car into the pits after 45 minutes to hand over to me.
The only downside to running flat-out is that we could only do 55 minutes on a tank of fuel versus the Ferrari and Porsches which could easily do 1 hour 5 minutes
With the fuel tanks filled up and a new set of Michelins bolted to the Vantage by the Gulf Racing mechanics, I exited the pit lane in 36th position and had some work to do. I consistently matched the pace of the leaders for my first stint and made up 10 positions. The only downside to running flat-out is that we could only do 55 minutes on a tank of fuel versus the Ferrari and Porsches which could easily do 1 hour 5 minutes. A quick bit of simple maths said we were going to have to make an additional pit stop in the 4 hours, so a podium finish was going to be difficult. The second pitstop of the race was for fuel only and no driver change. I drove flat-out again for another 45 minutes until the safety car was called to fix a broken curb at Acqua Minerale. We decided to make a quick splash and go pit stop during this period to minimise the time lost.
After the safety car, we made our final pit stop of the race and I handed over to Stuart. Another faultless pit stop was carried out by the Gulf Racing team and Stuart was sent on his way for the final 60 minutes. A couple more positions were gained and at the chequered flag we finished 9th in GTE and 19th overall.
Overall, I was happy with my performances over the weekend, Stuart and Roald both drove very well and team all did a great job. There is a long break before the next round of ELMS at Red Bull Ring in July, but I will be keeping myself busy with four historic race meetings and a number of test days in various race cars. Give me a follow on Twitter to up to date with what I’m doing – @danielbrown21