Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin have taken victory in the second round of the Le Mans Series at Monza but only after a late race incident between Lamy and Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller.
Despite being forced to start the race from the pitlane after a mechanical issue en-route to the grid, the #2 R10 TDi Rockenfeller shares with Alex Premat had come into contention for victory thanks to clever strategy in the pits from the team which nullified the pace deficit the team had encountered in qualifying.
Indeed the strategy was good enough to see Rockenfeller leading the race when a monster accident for Stephane Ortelli in the closing stages led to a caution period, with Lamy hunting him down in the Peugeot.
The Portuguese driver made the mistake of lapping a car under yellow flags but while the teams waited for news on whether he was to receive a penalty, Lamy made a move for the lead at the opening chicane only to make contact with Rockenfeller's Audi.
The contact caused a puncture on the R10 and left Rockenfeller to limp back to the pits, in which time Lamy was able to circulate and take his drive-through penalty before going on to secure victory by more than 40 seconds. Having made it back to pitlane to change his tyre, Rockenfeller rejoined to finish in second for the second successive race.
The battle for third place in the race was an equally fraught affair, with the fight for the final podium position also being the one to see who could secure bragging rights amongst the petrol-powered brigade.
Having been moved over to the team's second car after Jamie Campbell-Walter's qualifying accident, Stuart Hall looked to set to give the Creation AIM team a fine third place finish although the young Brit found himself under pressure from the Pescarolo of Christophe Tinseau in the closing laps.
On the final lap, Tinseau made his move going into the opening chicane and despite Hall's best efforts to fight back, the Pescaralo man clinched the position to leave Hall settling for fourth.
As had been the case in Barcelona, there were problems for the other two diesel powered LMP1 machines which would eventually finish the race in fifth and sixth positions.
Pole-sitters Marc Gene and Nic Minassian in the #7 Peugeot had led the race through its early stages before losing time with a driveshaft issue that led to a lengthy pitstop while the #1 Audi of Allan McNish and Dindo Capello was lucky to see the finish at all after a huge accident for Capello in the opening stages when he was tagged by the Rollcentre Pescarolo with Vanina Ickx at the wheel and almost flipped on the run to the Parabolica.
Despite the car sustaining hefty damage, the Audi team managed to get the Italian back on track in less than 20 minutes although the time lost would ultimately prove crucial in the overall result. The Rollcentre car would eventually finish one place further back in seventh place.
The Charouz Racing Systems Lola-Aston Martin ran impressively again against the diesel cars in the early stages before eventually finishing down in 17th place following apparent fuel issues, while Frenchman Stephane Ortelli was lucky to escape with only a broken ankle following his horrific high-speed shunt in the Courage Oreca entry. It capped a miserable race for the team with the car of Nicolas Lapierre and Oliver Panis having retired early on.
The remainder of the top ten was completed by the leading LMP2 machines as Team Essex took its first win with the Porsche RS Spyder. The similar car of van Merksteijn Motorsport – the class winner at Barcelona and pacesetter in qualifying – had led the class before contact from the Snoras Spyker C8 led to a pitstop that left its rivals to secure a somewhat comfortable win. The Horag Racing Spyder completed the class podium – and the top ten overall – as the Porsche continued to lead the way in LMP2 in only its second race on European soil.
However, the old guard also served notice of its intentions as Mike Newton and Tommy Erdos finished fourth in class for RML in the venerable MG Lola having battled back from an engine failure in Friday practice. The Saulnier Racing Pescarolo took fifth in class, with the Kruse-Schiller Lola Mazda rounding out the top six.
In GT1, the decision to draft in factory Corvette driver Olivier Beretta looked like paying dividends for the Luc Alphand team as the Corvette he shared with Christophe Moreau and Patrice Goueslard looked like coming out on top in a two-way battle for victory against the Team Modena Aston Martin – which had set the pace during the opening part of the weekend.
However, Tomas Enge and Antonia Garcia eventually prevailed in the battle to secure a first win of the year with the Corvette taking second – where it was joined by the second C6.R entered by the French squad. However, the second Corvette and the IPB Spartak Lamborghini were both a number of laps behind at the finish.
In GT2, there was the unfamiliar site of no Virgo Motorsport Ferrari on the podium for the first time in more than a year after defending champion Rob Bell and team-mate Gianmaria Bruni were forced to retire after suffering a number of punctures that eventually took its toll on the car.
With the Ferrari out of the equation, it was left to the IMSA Performance MATMUT team to secure class honours for Porsche as Richard Lietz and Raymond Narac took their first win of the year leading a Porsche 1-2 as Lars Erik Nielsen, Allan Simonsen and Richard Westbrook took second for the Farnbacher Racing team.
Pierre Ehret and Pierre Kaffer completed the class podium in Farnbacher's Ferrari 430 with Stephane Daoudi and Ben Aucott fourth for JMB and Andrea Chiesa and Ben Leuenberger fifth in the Speedy Racing Spyker. The top six was completed by the second JMB Ferrari in the hands of Peter Kutemann and Maurice Basso.
In all, 29 of the 44 starters were classified as finishers, with Campbell-Walter's Creation being the only non-starter.
For full results, CLICK HERE