Having secured pole position in the dying moments of qualifying for the fifth round of the 2017 24H SERIES powered by Hankook, the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 Cup R (#911, Daniel Allemann / Ralf Bohn / Robert Renauer / Alfred Renauer) had established a comfortable lead during the opening stages only for a puncture to drop the German squad back down the field. Now 2nd overall after a fighting drive through the field, the #911 Porsche currently holds an 18-second advantage over the 3rd-placed GP Extreme Renault RS01 FGT3 (#27, Frederic Fatien / Jordan Grogor / Nicky Pastorelli), but solid running from Car Collection Motorsport means the #32 Audi R8 LMS Dimitri Parhofer / Max Edelhoff / Horst Felbermayr Jr / Toni Forné) has led all but two laps since the third hour. The Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#30, Tom Onslow-Cole / Remon Leonard Vos) lies 3rd in the A6-Pro class, and had threatened the leaders before serving a time penalty for ‘abusing track limits’.
As well as holding the overall lead with a third of the race already in the bag, the #32 Car Collection Audi also leads the SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#24, Alexandre Coigny / Iradj Alexander / Richard Feller) in the A6-Am class, despite the latter slowing dramatically on the formation lap. The sister Car Collection Motorsport Audi (#34, Johannes Dr. Kirchhoff / Gustav Edelhoff / Elmar Grimm / Ingo Vogler) sandwiches the Mercedes, and lies just over a minute behind on-track.
Joint-series leader PROsport Performance (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Joe Foster) holds a comfortable advantage over the MSG Motorsport Porsche 991 Cup (#92, Petar Matic / Philipp Schlegel / Martin Gasser / Boris Miljevic) in the 911-class, and looks set to extend its lead in the overall standings over closest rivals Hofor-Racing. More on that in a second…
The Porsche Lorient Racing Porsche 991 Cup (#64, Philippe Polette / Frédéric Lelievre / Frédéric Ancel) currently heads a Porsche 1-2-3 in the SP2 category, holding a one-lap gap to the pursuing 911s of APO Sport (#80, Alex Osborne / Paul May) and B2F competition (#35, Benoit Fretin / Bruno Fretin / Michel Mitieus) with two-thirds of the 2017 12H IMOLA left to run. Further back, the Optimum Motorsport Ginetta G55 GT4 (#231, Adrian Barwick / Dan O’Brien / Julio Martini) continues to lead in SP3-GT after a
strong run in qualifying netted the class pole position. The JR Motorsport BMW E90 M3 (#114, Martin Lanting / Bob Herber) and Team Africa Le Mans Ginetta G55 GT4 (#555, Jan Lammers / Sarel van der Merwe / Greg Mills / Graham Vos) continue their pursuit.
The TTC Racing Seat Leon TCR meanwhile (#103, Daniel Schilliger / Fredy Suter / Klaus Kresnik) holds a tenuous lead in the TCR category ahead of the chasing Speed Factory Racing Audi RS3 LMS (#109, Jesus Fuster / Miguel Abello / Jaime Fuster / Mirko van Oostrum), despite the latter making a quick trip into the gravel at Rivazza in the early stages.
The fight for A2 honours continues between the Team Cooksport Renault Clio Cup (#172, Alex Sedgwick / Oliver Cook / Josh Cook / Adam Hatfield) and the Endurance Team Romania Toyota GT86 (#173 Sergiu Nicolae / Fabrizio Broggi / Viorel Nicolae), the former now holding a key advantage after the Toyota suffered significant impact damage with less than 30 minutes to the flag.
As expected, the 2017 Hankook 12H IMOLA has not been without drama. The Scuderia Praha Ferrari 488 GT3 meanwhile (#11, Jiri Pisarik / Josef Král), having dropped to 4th up at the rolling start, made brief contact with the #27 GP Extreme entry, an impact that would buckle the Ferrari’s passenger door and send the United Arab Emirates entry to the pits with a puncture. This ‘love tap’ paled in comparison though with the struggles faced by the sister GP Extreme machine (#28, Jean-Pierre Valentini / Tiziano Carugati / Bassam Kronfli): having replaced the engine in its entirety after qualifying, significant gearbox maladies means the #28 Renault had still not completed a lap by the time the chequered flag had been flown.
The Hofor-Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 meanwhile (#1, Michael Kroll / Chantal Kroll / Roland Eggimann / Kenneth Heyer / Christiaan Frankenhout) suffered ill-fortune during its first race in the A6-Pro category. Brief contact on-track shortly after the first hour was enough to break the radiator and send the reigning 24HSERIES champions to the pits for almost 40 minutes. The team currently lies 27th, well behind fellow standings leaders PROsport Performance.
Further down the field, the Team Altran Peugeot 308 Racing Cup (#308, Guillaume Roman / Thierry Blaise / Kim Holmgaard) came incredibly close to wiping out the #29 Forch Racing powered by Olimp Porsche 911 GT3 – which had been running 2nd – after spearing into the gravel trap at Rivazza. A broken driveshaft for fellow TCR runners Cadspeed Racing meanwhile (#108, Erik Holstein / Jason Coupal / James Kaye) lost the Audi RS3 LMS almost two hours on pit-road. Similarly, the SP2 class lead was held comfortably in the opening stages by the LMS Engineering Audi TTRS2 (#206, Stefan Wieninger / Ulrich Andree / Stéphane Kox) only for severe engine and gearbox problems to strike just 30 minutes into the 12-hour extravaganza.