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If the 2017 Hankook 12H IMOLA is remembered for the dramatic grandstand finish between eventual winners Car Collection Motorsport and the hard-charging Scuderia Ferrari, then the 2018 running of the event will certainly be remembered for the drama that unfolded, both off-track and on, as the already high attrition race, quite literally, entered its 11th hour.
 
Drama at the finish…
 
Although not the first casualty of the Variante Tamburello gravel trap – Dominique Schaak’s high-speed puncture in the Allied Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 MR (#93) nine hours earlier was particularly notable [Part one report] – the plume of dust that followed Mauro Calamia through the gravel in the Swiss Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#15) certainly seemed to get the ball rolling as, one after another, incidents starting striking the race leaders heading into the final hour.
 
Indeed, just a few laps later, Robert Renauer in the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 991 GT3 R (#911) was seen touring to the pits with a right rear puncture, concerning, given the potential for suspension damage that entailed. Almst immediately afterwards, Remon Leonard Vos in the 2nd-placed Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#5) also arrived on pitroad, the British team’s owner/driver brake pedal going straight to the floor. Slightly further back, the A6-Am class leader –PROsport Performance (#85) – suddenly felt its own chances of a top three finish disappear along with its engine revs as the Mercedes-AMG GT3 was dollied back into the garage. Of the top five leaders, only Forch Racing (#29) – bar a quick trip through the Tamburello gravel trap – and IDEC SPORT RACING (#17) seemed to be keeping out of trouble, and even they were building the tension in a nose-to-tail pitched battle for, what would soon become, 2nd place overall.
 
Who would win? Or, more aptly, who was next, and who would survive? The tension was unbearable.
 

A6-Am – PROsport prevails, Swiss Team derailed
 
Drama seemed to follow the A6-Am field throughout the weekend. Despite a superb drive to the front (briefly) after an engine change during qualifying, terminal gearbox problems meant the SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG (#16) was done after just 50 laps, an overheated engine also scuppering Car Collection Motorsport’s chance of a podium finish for the #33 Audi R8 LMS at the same track the car had taken outright victory last year. Even the sister #34 entry, having already suffered an exploding brake disc on the very first lap [Part one report], was still in trouble, collapsed rear suspension sending Ingo Vogler straight over Varianta Alta en-route to the garage, and an eventual 3rd in-class, 10 laps behind.
 
That left just PROsport Performance and the Swiss Team, the ‘American’ Mercedes battling its day-glow equivalent in stifling conditions at Imola and trading the A6-Am lead throughout the afternoon (“the #15 definitely had us on pace,” explained Joe Foster). Regrettably, even their battle would end on pit road, PROsport Performance wheeled into the garage just 35 minutes before the end of the race with an oil leak. Following its high speed run through the grave;, its Swiss rival was also done for the day, the damage caused by gravel ripping at the under tray proving too heavy to repair in-time. Second-place in A6-Am was scant reward for the team’s efforts in only its second 24H SERIES start this year.
 
“I was lucky I didn’t hit the wall at the end of the straight,” Mauro Calamia explained to radiolemans.com. “We changed the brakes after six hours, also the discs, but we don’t know why it happened. So all that work, all those 11 hours…” was, understandably, all the bitterly disappointed Italian could muster.
 
A6-Am Top 3
 
1. PROsport Performance (#85, Mercedes)
2. Swiss Team (#15, Mercedes)
3. Car Collection Motorsport (#34, Audi) 

 

A6-Pro – Herberth Motorsport back on top
 
Back at the front – thanks in part to a superb effort from Robert Renauer – and unlike its A6-Am rivals, the Herberth Motorsport Porsche recovered quickly from its puncture and was back on-track, albeit with Ram Racing within striking distance. After all, its pace throughout the weekend (the Mercedes took GT pole position by four-tenths of a second and had led for the majority of Friday), and despite a couple of errant spins on old tyres at Variante Alta and Rivazza, Ram Racing (#5) was still very much in contention for outright victory as the race entered its closing stages: in a race where teams had struggled with tyre wear and with one unscheduled pit stop already served, Herberth Motorsport could still hit trouble, right?
 
Ironically, it was at this moment that things started to go very wrong for Ram Racing…
 
Having already served a penalty for passing cars under Code 60 conditions – a decision the team strenuously denied – and having lost yet more time working on the brakes during its final pit stop, the #5 Mercedes would hit its final metaphorical road hump when Vos collided heavily with the GT4-class leading Allied Racing Porsche (#263) with just 15 minutes of the race left. Crabbing its way up the hill towards Rivazza, the suspension was clearly buckled, and the early runaway leaders would plummet down the order to 5th at the flag. Now clear of their nearest rivals, Robert and Alfred Renauer, Ralf Bohn and Daniel Allemann would sale home to take their first 24H SERIES win since last November’s Hankook 24H COTA USA.
 
Ultimately, it was IDEC SPORT RACING (#17) that claimed the runners-up spot after two sensational on-track battles. Indeed, Dmitri Enjalbert would dice wheel-to-wheel with both Ram Racing’s Tom Onslow-Cole and later with Forch Racing’s Zeljko Drmic en-route to the podium, and although the Frenchman would give best to Onslow-Cole in their scrap (“he played me like a fiddle! Stirling work from him,” the Englishman later admitted), Enjalbert would make his move for 3rd place stick Variante Villeneuve, aided, admittedly, by the lapped B2F competition Peugeot 308 Racing Cup (#335) that baulked Drmic one corner earlier. Ram Racing’s demise meant the IDEC SPORT RACING Mercedes-AMG GT3 would be elevated to 2nd, Forch Racing taking its third consecutive A6-Pro podium in 3rd.   
 
Remarkably, amidst the chaos of the closing 60 minutes, almost nobody noticed the #11 Ferrari 488 GT3 working its way back up the order. The slightly maimed prancing horse had fallen to 28th on Friday after Jiří Písařík admitted to a hefty shunt against the barriers [Part one report], but clean running and aggressive fuel strategy meant that Scuderia Praha – again in partnership with Bohemia Energy racing – had moved into 5th as the white flag was flown. Incredibly, and in a particular cruel blow to Ram Racing, Písařík would redeem himself by snatching 4th place overall from the stationary Mercedes on the very final lap.
 
Overall, and A6-Pro, Top 3
 
1. Herberth Motorsport (#911, Porsche) – 347 laps
2. IDEC SPORT RACING (#17, Mercedes) – 345 laps
3. Forch Racing (#29, Porsche) – 344 laps 
 
2018 European Championship – GT (after four rounds)
 
1. Car Collection Motorsport (#34, A6-Am) – 58 points
2. PROsport Performance (#85, A6-Am) – 57 points
    Forch Racing (#29, A6-Pro) – 57 points
3. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, A6-Pro) – 53 points
4. Porsche Lorient Racing (#65, 991) – 50 points
5. Porsche Lorient Racing (#64, 991) – 49 points 

 

991 – Two for two for EBIMOTORS, Van Berlo survives heavy shunt
 
Much like the GT class up front, Imola’s 991 class victor seemed a foregone conclusion heading into the overnight break, Raceunion (#187) having already amassed a one-lap lead over EBIMOTORS after securing class pole position that morning [Part one report]. The German team’s luck would run out early on Saturday though, Andreas Gülden bringing the #187 Porsche 991-I cup to pit road with a broken left driveshaft, the lengthy pit stop required dropping the early leaders to the tail off the 991 class after less than 30 minutes of green flag racing, from which the early leaders could only salvage 6th in-class.
 
Allied Racing (#93) and Speed Lover (#88) were similarly in the wars, both suffering puncture-related incidents heading into Tamburello. Unlike its sister entry in SPX though, the latter would suffer enormous damage after brushing the barriers during its clash, while the Allied Racing Porsche would spin out of the race again after 255 laps. This time heading into Variante Villeneuve. This time for good.
 
Like the previous round at Navarra, IDEC SPORT RACING endured a tough weekend with its #75 Porsche 991-I Cup. After, reportedly, an assist into the Tamburello gravel trap by the #33 Car Collection Motorsport Audi , Stephane Adler attracted the ire of Modena Motorsport’s Mattias Beche when he seemingly, and inadvertently, hit the pitlane speed limiter during a Code 60 caution period. Beche in the pursuing #216 CUPRA TCR was all over the Porsche’s rear bumper at 55mph, but was forbidden from passing. An oil leak would lose IDEC SPORT RACING a further 50 minutes in the pits, the team’s 991 weekend drawing to a close with 8th place in-class at the flag.
 
All this left the way clear for EBIMOTORS – despite a very late-race puncture – to take its second consecutive class win in the 24H SERIES, the first Italian team ever to do so in the 991-class. “This is the very circuit in the world,” explained Carlo Curti, the Italian clearly enamoured by his home circuit.  
 
The #64 and #65 Porsche Lorient Racing Porsches meanwhile would be split by Van Berlo Racing, the #56 Porsche taking the final 991-class podium spot despite a heavy collision with the Motorsport developpement Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR (#136). The impact crumpled the Porsche’s left rear wheel arch and – incredibly – even knocked the driver’s side clean off its mountings. Somehow, 2018 Hankook 3X3H DUBAI sensation Kay Van Berlo was sent on his way again after just 15 minutes of repair time, a debut podium for the team a well-deserved reward for their sensational efforts.
 
991 Top 3
 
1. EBIMOTORS (#73, Porsche) – 331 laps
2. Porsche Lorient Racing (#64, Porsche) – 330 laps
3. Van Berlo Racing (#56, Porsche) – 324 laps 

 
 
SPX and GT4 -
 
The only Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo in the field ended a strong weekend in Imola with a commanding win the SPX class, barely 10 minutes from the team’s base in San Marino. Doubly impressive was the performance of team principal/driver Gianluca de Lorenzi, who returned to the Super Trofeo hot seat for the first time in two years.
 
Speed Lover meanwhile took a solid 2nd in-class ahead of VDS Racing Adventures, the reigning SP2 champions enduring a difficult race in Italy after massive front end damage on Friday dropped the #58 MARC Focus V8 way back in the field, and ultimately, 76 laps behind the SPX winners.
 
In GT4, and following its heavy clash with the Ram Racing Mercedes in the closing stages – “shit happens,” explained a frustrated but magnanimous Detlef Schmidt – Allied Racing’s Imola weekend drew to a close with Nicolas Schöll attempting one final tour of the 4.909km Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari to take the chequered flag and secure the team’s first 24H SERIES class win on its season debut. In a VERY ginger 2m 45s – a full 50s slower than its average performance – the ruined #263 Porsche managed to finish the lap and take the chequered flag, but would expire on its way back to parc ferme.
 
It was a similarly fraught day at the office for class rivals QSR Racingschool too, the #254 Mercedes-AMG GT4 leading GT4 until three-quarter distance before snapping its front left suspension mountings at Piratella, causing the 11th Code 60 of the day to be flown. Back on pitroad, and in a particularly nasty moment, a QSR mechanic trapped his hand between the now directionless left front wheel and the arch itself, requiring a trip to the medical centre.
 
SPX Top 3
 
1. GDL Racing (#77, Lamborghini) – 332 laps
2. Speed Lover (#78, Porsche) – 322 laps
3. VDS Racing Adventures (#58, MARC) – 256 laps 
 
GT4 Top 2
 
1. Allied Racing (#263, Porsche) – 297 laps
2. QSR Racingschool (#254, Mercedes-AMG) – 289 laps
 
 
* You can read what happened with the TCE division at Imola HERE, check out the result of the 2018 Hankook 12H IMOLA HERE, and the current European Championship standings HERE. You can also keep up to speed with the build-up to our next round at Portimão via our official Facebook page [HERE] and Twitter account [HERE].
 
*Words by James Gent.

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