WORDS: Lachlan Mansell
IMAGES: Cameron Dance/V8SCOPS
The second of the V8SCOPS endurance races, the Imola 500, may not have had quite the same level of drama as Phillip Island, but it certainly firmed up the form guide ahead of the Bathurst 1000.
The overall quality of competition was of a high standard in this race, but there were still a few drivers who made mistakes at critical stages.
Thumbs Up – Madison Down/Dayne Warren
Tipped by many as the red-hot favourites, Down and Warren were the fastest combination at Phillip Island but missed out on the win due to a sub-optimal strategy. At Imola, they controlled the race from the outset and even though the inevitable pit-stop shuffles meant they weren’t always in the lead, they never really looked like losing the race.
While Down and Warren are yet to stamp their names on the Virtual Peter Brock Trophy, they head into the Great Race as short-priced favourites with an irresistible combination of pure speed and dynamite endurance form.
Thumbs Down – Early brain fades
In endurance races, there’s a saying that you can’t win the race in the first 10 laps but you can certainly lose it… and there were a few unnecessary instances of car-to-car contact in Imola’s early stages.
One has to feel for the Corey Preston/Brad Rattew EXG Motorsport entry, which for the second time in two races was the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake. On this occasion, it was Ben Christensen who was the man responsible.
Other incidents in the opening phase included a brush between Jobe Stewart and Simon Feigl, along with contact between Daniel Misdale and Leigh Ellis.
Race control took a dim view of the early brain explosions and rightly handed out penalties to the offending drivers.
Thumbs Up – Fawzan El-Nabi/Harley Haber
A second-place finish was an excellent result for the lead United Sim Sports entry and a big confidence booster for both drivers heading to Bathurst.
Haber maintained the car’s place within the top group during the early stages, while El-Nabi had pace to burn in the final stint and charged his way onto the podium, pressurising Cooper Webster into a mistake (see below) to snatch runner-up honours.
Thumbs Down – Cooper Webster
This may seem harsh for a driver who is rapidly climbing into the top echelon of V8SCOPS drivers, but Webster will rue his late-race mistake while under pressure from El-Nabi, which cost him and James Scott four positions.
While Webster will be frustrated with the error, he will learn from the outcome and will be sure to avoid making the same indiscretion at Bathurst.
Thumbs Up – Jake Burton/Dominic Ferraris
Burton and Ferraris qualified sixth and raced inside the top 10 all day, ultimately finishing eighth. While they may not have quite had the outright pace of the podium finishers, they were not far away and impressed with their consistency.
Thumbs Down – Brett Loxton/Thomas Hinss
It’s fair to say the weekend didn’t quite go to plan for the Zuver Motorsports entry. After qualifying a below-par 21st, the Loxton/Hinss machine was caught in an early incident which necessitated an unscheduled pit stop at the start of the race. From there, it was a long evening that ultimately resulted in a 31st-place finish – not great for Hinss’ top-five championship prospects.