Monza in Italy welcomed the European Le Mans Series for the penultimate race of the championship’s 2020 season over the weekend, 10th/11th October, where Scotland’s Finlay Hutchison posted a top six finish in the LMGTE class with the JMW Motorsport squad.
Partnered by regular ELMS team-mates Gunnar Jeanette and Rodrigo Sales, 20-year-old Hutchison harboured high hopes of trying to match, or even better, the season-best fourth place he achieved during round one of the season at Paul Ricard in France.
As it transpired, sixth was the best the trio could manage in the No.66 Ferrari F488 GTE EVO during the fourth race of the ELMS campaign – a frustrating result for Dundee’s Hutchison who always enjoys the high-speed challenge of the legendary Monza track.
“It was disappointing we couldn’t come away from Monza with more”, said the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star, “If you look at our race runs, we’re doing the same pace at the end of the stint as we do at the start. We need to be able to get more from the tyres at the beginning, that’s where we are losing out and also in qualifying I think.
“The Ferrari was good to drive as always, and the team did a good job with the pit-stops. Rodrigo [Sales] started off on inters and it meant we made some progress but the track dried out pretty quickly and he dropped back – slicks were the tyre to be on. I was pretty happy with my stints and Gunnar did a good job at the end. Hopefully we can end the season well at Portimao.”
Jeanette took qualifying duties on Saturday afternoon and produced the sixth fastest LMGTE time in a very competitive 10-minute session. For Sunday’s race, Sales took the opening stint with a set of intermediate Goodyear tyres as the four-hour contest got underway on a damp track.
The notoriously tight Rettifilo Chicane resulted in an unsurprising bottleneck at the beginning, with several of the LMP2 prototype cars making contact. Following the resulting Safety Car period, the action resumed with around eight minutes elapsed and Sales continued to hold sixth in LMGTE.
At the end of the first quarter of an hour the battle over fourth intensified and soon after he moved up into fifth with the inters working well, before taking fourth. Unfortunately dropping back to fifth soon after as the track dried, he then slipped to sixth before pitting shortly after the half-hour mark.
Switching onto slick tyres, Sales rejoined in seventh but sixth became his when the No.60 Ferrari of Sergio Pianezzola was forced out of the race after a tangle with an LMP2 car. Sales then pitted to hand over the JMW car to Hutchison with around 90 minutes complete.
With a huge amount of work to do to try and make up time to the cars ahead, the Scotsman got on with the task and quickly improved the pace to set a best JMW lap of 1m49.727 seconds. Facing an unenviable challenge, Hutchison pressed on even so to try and close down the No.93 Porsche 911.
With one hour and 40 minutes to go the Hutchison Technologies, Evoson, and In-Home Displays backed driver pitted for his team’s third stop of the race, just as a Full Course Yellow period was to be called due to debris on the track, and remained behind the wheel for a double-stint.
Putting in another strong performance, lapping on similar pace to the Porsche for much of the stint, the gap between them stood at just under 80 seconds with 90 minutes to go. Reducing his personal best lap time to 1m49.670 seconds towards the end of his run, Hutchison then pitted to hand over the yellow and blue Ferrari to Jeanette with around 50 minutes of action remaining.
With fresh Goodyear tyres, the American got the lap times down below the 1m49 second bracket – setting a best of 1m48.781 seconds – and he largely matched podium pace throughout the final half an hour, but remained sixth to the chequered flag at the end of hour four.
The fifth and final round of the European Le Mans Series will take place at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, near Portimao in southern Portugal, on Sunday, 1st November.
Before then, Hutchison switches back to the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup for the third round of its season, the blue riband Total 24 Hours of Spa, which will be contested over the weekend 24th/25th October.
As the race takes place when the clocks go back in Europe, it will actually be contested over an extended 25 hours. Hutchison will be joined in the expanded four-driver No.55 Attempto Racing Audi R8 line-up by Nicolas Scholl, Alex Aka and Kim-Luis Schramm.
Source. Marc Orme/Photo. Jakob Ebrey Photography/ELMS