Victory in the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours eludes Ferrari at the end of a race run from the front
Le Mans, 12 June – The famous Le Mans 24 Hours race, third round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, ended this afternoon with a sense of disappointment in the AF Corse garage: Ferrari number 51 driven by Giancarlo Fisichella, Gimmi Bruni and Toni Vilander came home second in the LMGTE PRO category behind the Corvette of Olivier Beretta, Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia, which went into the lead two hours from the flag, when a technical problem began slowing the Ferrari more and more, after it had been a front runner for most of the race.
At the start at 15h00 on Saturday, Gimmi Bruni immediately went into the class lead, lapping in quick times. His lead was then wiped out after the accident between McNish’s Audi and the Luxury Racing 458 Italia with Anthony Beltoise at the wheel, as this brought out the Safety Car for over an hour. After eight hours, another Audi, driven by Rockenfeller, collided with the AF Corse Number 71 Ferrari driven by Robert Kauffman and hit the guard rail at around 320 km/h, fortunately without injury. Once again the Safety Car came out, closing up the field yet again. As the race progressed, the hard charging trio of Fisichella-Bruni-Vilander retook the lead after 17 hours, until the car had to make a long stop in the pits because of the technical problem that saw the Corvette move into the lead. The other Ferraris did not fare much better in the marathon event: the JMW Motorsport car crossed the line in ninth place, while the two Luxury Racing cars, the Team Farnbacher entry and the the other AF Corse 458 Italia failed to finish, despite performing strongly, especially in the night time. Some consolation then that the 458 Italia GT2 Number 51 entered by AF Corse, won the Michelin Green X classification for GT cars, proving that the Maranello marque is paying close attention to reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
“We can take some satisfaction from this result, the team and Ferrari,” commented Giancarlo Fisichella after the race. “Second place is always a good result, even if naturally there is some disappointment given that we looked set to take the win. Unfortunately, some problems on the car in the closing stages of the race meant the top spot was out of our reach.”
In the LMGTE AM class, best result was a fourth place in the category for the JMB Racing F430 GTC. Competitors in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup will be back in action at Imola over the weekend of 3 July for the fourth round of the season, which is also round three of the Le Mans Series.