The second 90-minute Free Practice session at Imola this afternoon saw the first dry running of the weekend as teams concentrated on finding performance for the second round of the ELMS tomorrow.
The track appeared to rubber-in reasonably quickly, with FP1 pace setters Thiriet by TDS forging the early pace with Tristan Gommendy at the wheel of the red and silver ORECA 05-Nissan.
The Frenchman set an initial 1m37.155s but this was eclipsed by Filipe Albuquerque in the JOTA Sport Gibson 015S. The Portuguese works Audi driver posted a 1m36.056.
Gommendy, climbed aboard his LMP2 Coupe for the final 15mins of the session and responded with a 1m35.736s lap, before then going even quicker with a 1m35.181s to put down an early warning to his rivals for qualifying tomorrow.
Harry Tincknell started and finished the session for JOTA Sport but ultimately couldn’t get a fully clear lap on his runs.
A late flurry of times from Murphy Prototypes and Krohn Racing saw the Oreca and Ligier place third and fourth respectively. Nat Berthon posted a 1m36.529s lap on his final tour, while Oswaldo Negri gave Krohn Racing reason to feel confident with a fine 1m36.811 as the chequered flag flew.
The Greaves Gibson-Nissan was in fifth place with the team making several set-up changes during the session to fine-tune the car and to maximise the tyre performance for the race tommorow. Jon Lancaster set the best time during the 90-minutes with a 1m36.819s.
There was much to be encouraged by for SMP Racing as Mikhail Aleshin showed a very good turn of pace in the brand new BR01. The Russian slammed in a 1m37.342s lap which was P4 for a long time in the session before the Murphy and Krohn improvements pushed them down to P6. Designer Paolo Catone looked mildly satisfied with the performance of his new baby at the end of it’s first competitive days running.
LMP3 continued to be the personal fiefdom of Team LNT as the No.3 Ginetta-Nissan again headed the No.2 example. Charlie Robertson continues to impress as he set a 1m43.593s lap before handing over to Chris Hoy who continued to improve and learn the circuit.
Villorba Corse again rounded out the top three but their session was spoiled by incurring a hefty 15 minute stop/go penalty for breaking a re-fuelling regulation. A member of the team had not closed his visor while re-fuelling the car.
The Lanan Racing Ginetta-Nissan sat out the second session as the team continues to rebuild the car that was damaged by Alex Craven this morning. Team boss Graham Johnson is confident that it will be ready for qualifying tomorrow as the team replaces the majority of the rear of the car. Mark Shulzhitskiy waited in the wings to get more laps in the car and was very complimentary as to the cockpit ergonomics and the initial feel he got with the 17 laps he completed this morning.
The SVK by Speed Factory car was repaired after its FP1 adventures and placed fifth in class behind the University of Bolton Ginetta-Nissan.
In LMGTE it was last years GTC pole sitters and class winners – Formula Racing that were top of the pile with Mikkel Mac setting a 1m42.300s lap. The young Dane revels in the challenge of Imola and was half a second ahead of the BMW Team VDS Z4.
Andy Priaulx ensured the Ferrari stranglehold on the LMGTE class could be challenged this weekend, with a series of promising laps in the final thirty minutes of the session.
Gulf Racing completed the session in third place to make it three different marques in the top three. Adam Carroll peaked on a 1m43.072s lap as the team continued to perfect the balance on the Porsche 911 RSR.
The GTC class saw the previously troubled No.62 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia leave its FP1 toils behind to place P1 in class. The session hadn’t started too brightly, as Castellacci stopped briefly at Tosa with a brake problem before getting the Ferrari back to the pits.
A late, late driver change had seen Rino Mastronardi replace Thomas Flohr in the car alongside Stuart Hall and Francesco Castellacci. So late was the call in fact, due to Flohr been summoned to the US on business, that Mastronardi only arrived at the track an hour before FP2!
It was Mastronardi, categorised a bronze, who set the time of 1m44.637s to head the similar AF Corse entered Ferrari of Gianluca Roda, Ilya Melnikov and Marco Cioci.
There were less incidents than the treacherous FP1 session but a few ‘situations’ are worthy of note.
Simon Moller crashed in the Massive Motorsport Aston Martin on the exit of Tosa and triggered a Full Course Yellow as the Vanatge had to be pushed to a safe position. It has so far been a disastrous weekend for the affable Danes as they completed less than a lap in FP1. Simon’s demeanour (below) spoke a thousand words as he exited the car.
There were also minor rotations and trips across the Acque Minerale scenery for Bjorn Wirdheim and Harry Tincknell’s Gibson-Nissans. Michael Lyons also had an off at the challenging double right in the Murphy Oreca-Nissan.
The all-important qualifying sessions are scheduled to get underway tomorrow morning at 10am cet.