Optimum Motorsport denied top ten finish in Imola
An action-packed 110-minute race on Michelin Le Mans Cup’s return to Imola saw everyone on the edge of their seat from lights out until the chequered flag.
Despite sitting comfortably within the top ten for the latter stages of the race, the championship’s second round was interrupted by three Safety Car periods and four Full Course Yellows but ultimately, it was the two drive-through penalties that the Optimum duo received which saw the team fail to yield any points.
It was business as usual for the pairing of Mark Crader and Alex Mortimer as they got acquainted with the 3.050-mile circuit. “I’ve not raced here in about 11 years,” stated Alex as he headed out on Thursday for the Collective Test session.
With Mark taking on qualifying duties on Saturday morning after the two days of testing and free practice, it was a hard-fought P24 for #20 as the 15-minute qualifier saw two red flags disrupt all flying laps for the Bronze rated driver.
Mark would start the race in 21st after others within class such as the #6 and #28 LMP3 cars received penalties for pit exit infringements during Friday’s Bronze Test.
By the end of lap one, Mark had managed to keep out of trouble, moving up from 21st to 19th as contact at Turn 7 saw the #33 Team Virage Ligier of Rob Hodes in the gravel trap after coming together with several other cars.
After three laps behind the Safety Car, the field went racing once more but once again, the Safety Car was released with 1 hour 17 minutes left on the clock when the #6 ANS Motorsport Ligier stopped in the middle of the track.
No sooner had the second Safety Car period had ended, for the third (and final) time, it was deployed once more. The team took a last-minute strategy change, pitting Mark slightly earlier than expected however, all remaining cars within the race opted to do the same, seeing a busy pitlane for the mandatory driver change.
As Alex headed out and the Safety Car came in the Optimum Motorsport-run Duqueine D08 moved up to ninth. A report from the stewards of speeding in the pit-lane saw Alex receive a drive-through penalty which he served a lap later and re-joined the field with 45 minutes remaining.
Alex found himself running in 16th within class after re-joining behind the GT3 of GMB Motorsport’s Honda NSX when once again, another drive-through penalty was to be served as Mark, during his stint, overtook under Safety Car conditions.
Drive-through penalties served, and Alex was chasing those in front setting the fifth fastest time of the race but unfortunately, the chequered flag fell and Optimum Motorsport finished round two in 16th place provisionally, with the final result seeing the Wakefield-based team secure a 14th place finish after penalties to teams had been applied after the race.
“I just want to say thank you to the team, they’ve been mega all week and did a great job in finding that pace, I’m sorry that we couldn’t bring them that top 10 finish!
“They all did a fantastic job in the pitstops as well, with everyone coming in to box at the same time under the Safety Car it was a real battle to get it done but as always, they delivered.”