The return to ELMS action came after some people went and did a thing in France last month. If you weren’t one of those, let me paint a picture for you. It’s similar to going back to school after the holidays when some kids come in and tell you about their luxury Disneyland holiday, whilst you spent a week in a musty caravan at Dungeness and only then because a tabloid newspaper was doing a holiday for a £1.79 token collect. But hey, you’re all the same place now and when it comes to Red Bull Ring – what a place.
You’ll be pleased to know I ran out of Sound of Music puns about two years ago, but it is hard not to break out into song and twirl when faced with such a beautiful setting. It’s where the souls that have been sucked out of all the other circuits in the world come for refuge.
The eight strong LMGTE field put on a qualification display as close as two layers of paint but the stand out was pole-grabber Matteo Cairoli in the No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche. It’s always a good sign for the sport when a stellar performance is put in by someone so young, but hell, I have shoes older than him! Not that the old guard weren’t hot on his heels though, with Andrea Bertolini in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the AT Racing Ferrari taking second and third on the grid, both also dipping under 1m28s.
As the race got underway, JMW Motorsport starter Rory Butcher was showing off just how much Scots love being in Europe (ooooh, topical) by taking the lead and running away with it. Further down the field, the first of a number of prototype and GT snogs happened with the Oak Racing LMP3 coming together with Aaron Scott, although both continued. The interspecies drama hit its peak when the race-leading #23 Panis Barthez Competition LMP2 clouted the JMW Ferrari (quick aside, did you know Fabian Barthez used to be the French goalkeeper because it isn’t mentioned every bloody time he is on screen?)
So called ‘experts’ were quick to point out that it is difficult for GT drivers to see squatty prototypes creeping up on them. This of course is utter nonsense and I can reveal that, without any collaborating evidence whatsoever, the real reason was all the prototype drivers were too busy playing Pokemon Go. Anyone could tell that the #23 LMP2 was deep in pursuit of the much sought-after Butchiku, he literally saw yellow.
Thankfully, none of these skirmishes caused too much damage to the GT race, which was hotting up nicely. Full course yellows (due to prototypes chasing Jigglypuffs and Porygons into the gravel) were used to good advantage by the leading GTs, none more so than the JMW Ferrari, which after strong stints by Rob Smith and Bertolini, was pulling out a formidable lead. There was a brief moment of a tussle up front with Darren Turner’s Beechdean Aston Martin, but those in the know recognized the latter still had to stop. It was an illusion, much like Donald Trump’s comb-over.
As the chequered flag dropped, JMW led home a podium full house of Ferraris as they were followed, a lap back, by Marco Cioci, Rui Aguas and Peter Mann in the No. 51 AF Corse and the AT Racing example Pier Guidi shared with Alexander Talkanitsa Jr. and Sr.
It was a popular win for the team after their ‘rest’ in June and as congratulations poured in from fans, friends and fellow competitors, it showed more than anything the tremendous level of comradery and sportsmanship that exists in the ELMS Paddock. In the wonky world of today, isn’t that just lovely?
To catch up on Beki’s Wimblings from Imola, click here.