Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, located at Imola, a suburb of the Italian city of Bologna, was the venue for round three of the Le Mans Series and round four of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
The team barely had time to draw breath after the great victory the previous month. After the elation of taking a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, there was a reality check when the Zytek Z11SN Nissan was brought back to base. The car had sustained serious damage as a result of running over debris and the tub required to be stripped down before remedial work could commence. So celebrations were cut short by the need to rebuild the car after the exertions in France. This was achieved with the customary efficiency of the organisation, and the team, car and drivers were ready for another event, another shot at victory.
The joint event had brought out an entry of 50, which slipped by one by the time that action on track started. On the narrow and crowded Imola circuit, this would mean that common sense and a cool head would be just as important for the competitors as outright speed and performance, especially during the six hour race on Sunday.
The first session was held in bright sunshine and the Greaves Motorsport Nissan powered Zytek ended up in a comfortable fourth spot, posting a 1:41.345, although it was difficult to get any rhythm going with no less than four Red Flag periods. However this was better than the total washout that the second session turned out to be, the heavy rain and the forecast for fine weather during the race meant that 20 cars did not venture from the pit garages, Greaves Motorsport being amongst that number.
The rain impacted the opening part of the third session the following morning but as the track dried out the times tumbled and #41 maintained its fourth fastest sport with a 1:39.522. In the afternoon’s Qualifying session, Tom recorded a time of 1:38.533 good enough for fifth place in class. The team had taken a deliberate decision not to go for outright pace but rather to save the car for what is sure to be a difficult race on the tight and twisty circuit. This strategy was based on an analysis of the likely benefits of attacking the track against the probable downsides.
Jacob Greaves explained, “The wear and tear on prototypes that leap the kerbs in pursuit of the final tenths around the lap will, in our view, be a significant factor in the outcome of the race. With some 49 cars taking the start here there is so much time that can be lost in the traffic, so managing that, keeping out of trouble and maintaining reliability will produce a more optimal performance than wringing the neck out of the car.”
These words would prove to be prophetic during the race on the Sunday.
Tom took the opening stints maintaining the cautious approach while picking up places. Next in was Olivier and he continued the progress, snatching second place before the second hour was done, though this good work was undone after a precautionary pit stop to investigate a strange vibration – this turned out to be tyre pick-up. The second place turned into the lead as Level 5’s entry was forced to make a series of unscheduled pit stops late in the race and it was left to Karim to cross the finishing line at the six hour mark and take the Chequered Flag for win number three.
Tim Greaves paid tribute to the team’s efforts after the race
“This win was pretty special. The team did a fantastic job in getting the car turned round in the time available and their preparation and attention to detail are second to none, particularly after the exhausting victory at Le Mans.
“All three drivers drove brilliantly on a crowded, tight track. It was a real team effort with everyone giving 100%. The only problem that we encountered during the race was during Olivier’s stint. Concrete from the kerbs breaking up was picked up by the tyres and the noise indicated that we had a potentially serious problem. We made an extra stop and the issue was investigated and solved.”
“At that point we expected a second place result but Level 5, who had led the race till late, hit problems and we were in a position to capitalise on their misfortune.”
“It was another great result for Nissan, who together with our partners, Zytek and Dunlop have provided us with a very competitive package.”
“We know that we need to work getting the final percentages of pace out of the car and have a programme of summer tests planned.”
“It has been a real struggle to get to the top and we know that staying there will be even harder, given the quality of our opposition. We are looking forward to our home race at Silverstone in September and hope that we can show our supporters a similar performance and result.”
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks since Le Mans, with lots of work having to be done on the car post race. The team did a fantastic job in preparing the car in time for the Six Hours of Imola. Combined with a flawless performance from all the drivers, it brought us a great result. It also has put us into the lead of the Le Mans Series with two rounds to go.”
“The Zytek Nissan was totally reliable once again, and our pace was very good – we could push when we needed to and that allowed us to take advantage whenever the opportunities arose.”
“The secret is to have the most reliable car, not the fastest car, Le Mans was amazing but this is a great result for the whole team. Just a few days ago the car was stripped right back to the tub and it has taken a fantastic effort to get it here.”
“The car was totally rebuilt after the rigours of Le Mans and when the boys did so they found some serious damage, we think caused by running over the debris from a major accident involving another car during the night. The repairs required meant that the crew rebuilt the car from a bare chassis in just two days.”
“That allowed us to race here and to win. Motorsport is very much a team sport and without my team this win would not have been possible.”
“The result is down to pure reliability and consistency and I must say that Olivier’s stint in the middle of the race really put us in contention here. We are in a good position for the Championship and really could not have asked for a better weekend.”