Rinaldi Racing converted pole position into a debut victory in today’s European Le Mans Series race at Circuit Paul Ricard with drivers Pierre Ehret, Nicolas Varrone and Memo Gidley. Following last years success in the series, this is another impressive result for a Ferrari customer team. The next race on the European Le Mans Series calendar will take place at Imola on May 15th.
First Hour. Having sealed pole position with Memo Gidley on their series debut, Rinaldi Racing’s 488 GTE defended the top spot over the opening laps with Pierre Ehret, before conceding the race lead to Sarah Bovy who started from row two. The first hour of the race was interspersed with three separate Safety Car incursions, totalling over 27 minutes, with Giacomo Petronelli staging a comeback for JMW Motorsport from seventh to third spot, keeping the Ferraris of Kessel Racing, Rinaldi Racing and Iron Lynx in check behind.
Second hour. After the stops for refuelling and driver swaps, the first Full Course Yellow was triggered to remove debris from the track after a puncture sustained by Duncan Cameron in the Spirit of Race 488 GTE. On the track, Gidley then put Rinaldi Racing back into the lead ahead of Sarah Bovy, while Kessel Racing moved up from eighth to sixth ahead of JMW Motorsport and the Iron Lynx sister car.
Third hour. After the interruptions over the opening 120 minutes of racing, the third hour went hitch-free, the highlight of which was Matteo Cressoni’s attack on Varrone’s leadership at the wheel of the Rinaldi Racing Ferrari. The Italian seized the lead, while the Argentinean managed the gap over the Porsche in third place.
Fourth hour. With 60 laps to go before the chequered flag, reigning team champions – Iron Lynx – were authoritatively controlling the race with Davide Rigon ahead of Nicolas Varrone and the Porsche of Zacharie Robichon attempting to fend off assaults from Michelle Gatting in the Iron Lynx 488 GTE, which in turn was being pursued by the Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni who managed to overtake the tenacious Dane with just under 30 minutes left. The final twist came 12 minutes from the end when Davide Rigon, who at that point held a 12-second lead over Varrone, pulled into the pits to hand over to Matteo Cressoni to complete the minimum driving time. Rinaldi Racing’s Ferrari now led the race with Bruni’s Porsche in the slipstream pulling out all the stops over the final two laps. The 488 GTE driver, however, hung on to cross the finish line with a 120-millisecond advantage over the Italian, rewarding Rinaldi Racing with the win on their series debut. The Iron Dames took fourth place, 14 seconds adrift of the winners, while fifth went to Kessel Racing who got the better of the Oman Racing Aston Martin in the finale. Seventh position went to the Ferrari of Iron Lynx, while Spirit of Race and JMW Motorsport closed out the top ten, followed by the second Rinaldi Racing entry.