D’Ansembourg victorious in truncated first Masters Endurance Legends race at Barcelona
Christophe d’Ansembourg proved triumphant in a Masters Endurance Legends race at Barcelona that was split in two halves. In the first of two races on the weekend of the Espíritu de Montjuïc event, Jamie Constable’s first-lap off in his Pescarolo-Judd 01 caused a lengthy safety-car period and an eventual red flag, as the car couldn’t be freed from its spot in the gravel trap.
On the restart, D’Ansembourg’s Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2 charged past the pole-sitting Peugeot 908 of Kriton Lendoudis, the Greek subsequently keeping the Belgian honest right up until the chequered flag. In the meantime, both were passed on the road by Martin O’Connell in the Lola-Mazda B12/60 who had taken over from Steve Brooks during the mid-race break. Although O’Connell took the flag in first position, his 20-second elite driver penalty still needed to be applied, and this dropped him down to fifth behind Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S and Steve Tandy’s Lola-Judd B12/60.
“That was a very strange race”, said D’Ansembourg. “When I saw the red flag, I didn’t even know if I was first or last! But after the restart I got Kriton quite quickly and then fought to keep him behind. The Peugeot is much faster out of the slow corners because all of its torque, but the Aston is faster on the straights.”
“One more lap, and I would have got him back”, said a despondent Lendoudis. “I’m unhappy, but there’s another chance later today.”
“It was very confusing!” said Frieser, “but it was quite good. I got besides the Mazda two or three times but couldn’t get past – it was fun!”
In seventh overall, Stuart Wiltshire took P2 class honours in his Ligier JSP2 while the Stephan Joebstl/Andy Willis Ligier JSP3 won in P3. In GTs, Jason Wright’s Ferrari 458 GT3 won from Fergus Paton’s Mosler MT900R.
“It was very lonely”, said Wright. “I thought I would be able to catch one of the P3 cars but not today…”
“It would have been nice to have had some more GT opposition”, said Paton about being unable to follow Wright’s Ferrari. “There’s a few years of development between Jason’s car and mine, and I think it shows.”
On an uncannily chilly Barcelona spring morning, ambient temperatures reaching no higher than an abysmal 3 degrees, the cars went sent on their way after a safety car start, with Lendoudis storming away from the front while Brooks was ambushed from behind by D’Ansembourg and Constable.
Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S was up next, followed by Stuart Wiltshire in the leading P2 car, Tandy in the Judd-engined Lola B12/60, Newton in the second P2 car, Lukas Halusa’s invitational Group C Porsche 962 and Antoine D’Ansembourg in the ex-Didier Theys Dallara-ORECA DO05. Behind the younger D’Ansembourg, Stephan Joebstl led Craig Davies in the battle of the Ligier JSP3s, while Wright’s Ferrari 458 had kept ahead of Fergus Paton in the Mosler MT900R.
But soon the safety car was back out, as Constable’s race had lasted no longer than some ten seconds, the Pescarolo-Judd 01 having spun off on cold tyres at turn 2. As the car was stuck in gear and proved impossible to move, the minutes ticked away, and with 24 minutes left on the clock, the red flag was out. With parc fermé rules applying initially, the cars were stopped on the main straight, with neither pitstops nor driver swaps allowed, but shortly after, the pit window opened, creating the possibility for tyre and driver changes.
For those drivers having done the opening stint, it was a shame that their actual racing action proved to be just two corners long, but that’s part of racing too… 15 minutes later, the race was restarted behind the safety car, with 12 minutes left on the clock. Right from the first green flag, D’Ansembourg had the bit between his teeth and moved to the front ahead of Lendoudis and Martin O’Connell, now in the Mazda-engined B12/60 started by Brooks. Frieser had jumped Wiltshire at the restart to be fourth, with Tandy, Halusa, Newton and D’Ansembourg Jr up next.
Aaron Scott, having taken over from Rick Carlino in the ORECA LMPC, had moved ahead of the Ligier JSP3 battle between Andy Willis (in Joebstl’s car) and Ron Maydon (in the start started by Davies), with Wright still leading Paton in GTs.
Next time around, O’Connell had moved past Lendoudis too, to chase after the Lola-Aston in the lead. On lap 11, O’Connell had closed the gap to a second and was ready to pounce. Indeed, the B12/60 passed the DBR1/2 halfway into lap 12 to immediately draw out an advantage of some two seconds. Lendoudis was still not far away in third, while only five seconds down on the leader, Frieser was looking to profit from any mistake ahead while having to keep an eye on his mirrors for Wiltshire and Tandy just behind the Canadian.
O’Connell used the two remaining laps to eek out a 5.7-second lead over D’Ansembourg before taking the chequered flag. D’Ansembourg only narrowly kept Lendoudis at bay, the Belgian staying ahead of the Greek by just three tenths. Frieser was fourth, while Tandy and Halusa each stole a place from Wiltshire on the final lap. Next up were D’Ansembourg Jr, Newton and Scott. But when the elite-driver time penalties of 20 seconds were added, Brooks/O’Connell were dropped to fifth, while Carlino/Scott fell behind the Ligier JSP3s of Joebstl/Willis and Davies Maydon. Jason Wright led the GT class all the way from Fergus Paton.
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