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WEC Imola 6 Hours - Toyota Win as Ferrari make Strategy Blunder, BMW Dominate LMGT3 with Rossi on the Podium

Written by Owen Bradley

Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship Social Media

Dandelions floating on a beautiful day of motorsport, the WEC 6 Hours of Imola. The FIA World Endurance Championship's Second round of eight, a long season ahead with many famous drivers and manufacturers competing for glory. Valentino Rossi, Jenson Button, Antonio Giovinazzi, Sebastien Buemi and many others across the main Hypercar class and LMGT3 class. A thrilling endurance race from the very beginning, this race had it all. This is the FIA World Endurance Championship Round 2 2024 at Imola.

Hypercar Top 5

1st #7 Toyota

2nd #6 Porsche

3rd #5 Porsche

4th #8 Toyota

5th #50 Ferrari

LMGT3 Top 5

1st #32 BMW WRT

2nd #46 BMW WRT (Valentino Rossi)

3rd #92 Porsche

4th #55 Ferrari

5th #27 Aston Martin

6 Hours of Imola - Race

Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship Social Media

A chaotic start to the race, with LMGT3 cars colliding before even reaching the first corner, and a major crash between the Hypercars with both Alpine's involved in the crash. The #91 Porsche LMGT3 had been spun around on the straight, before even making a corner.

The #15 BMW Hypercar was hit by the Peugeuot #94 of Paul Di Resta, causing a concertina effect for all the drivers behind. A right rear puncture for the #15 BMW of Marco Wittmann, as the #36 Alpine had its' front end completely ruined. #51 Ferrari Factory being driven by Antonio Giovinazzi overtook the #83 Ferrari AF Corse driven by Robert Kubica off the start, going around the outside at Turn 2, making it a 1-2 Factory Ferrari, and a 1-2-3 Ferrari Hypercar lead. A safety car deployed for the crash, just a few minutes later the field went racing once again.

Trouble would hit the #85 Iron Dames Lamborghini, slowing on the straight, as the #88 Ford Mustang LMGT3 had a major problem, the diffuser had come loose and was hanging from the rear of the car. The #88 would be given the black and orange flag to repair the car, costing them a lot of time.

The #92 Porsche would lead the LMGT3 class, with the #46 BMW of Valentino Rossi close behind, being driven in the opening stint by Ahmad Al-Harthy. The Ferrari's would lead the Hypercar class in the first half hour, with the #6 Porsche following a few seconds out, from the Toyota's and the #20 BMW.

#85 Iron Dames had a torque sensor issue, among other problems and needed to be put back into their box, a truly crushing opening start to their race. Nico Muller's #93 Peugeot would also have major gearbox issues, slowing down to a crawling pace after half an hour.

#54 Ferrari would be trapped in the gravel at Tamburello, causing a Full Course Yellow, a chaotic first hour with a lot of traffic getting in the way of the Hypercar class. Sebastian Buemi #8 Toyota was battling wwith the #20 BMW driven by Rene Rast, the pair of them about 10 seconds from the leaders and scrapping away over P7.

#59 United Autosports McLaren had a right rear puncture, slowing desperately to keep the car alive, debris on the sides of the circuit from that opening lap crash, making it much more difficult for cars to try and get past one another at certain corners.

One hour gone, an incredibly chaotic opening hour, with multiple cars out of the race or in the garage for heavy repairs. The rest of the field

The #83 Ferrari of Robert Kubica would jump the leaders heading into the pits, the #50 Ferrari had a slow stop, being jumped by a lot of cars including their sister #51 Ferrari driven by Giovinazzi. The #6 Porsche now suddenly thrown into the mix as well, a very fast pit stop put them into contention against the leading #51 Ferrari, as the #20 BMW also jumped the #50 Ferrari as well as the #5 Porsche - disaster for Ferrari in the pit stops.

The Iron Dames found trouble once again, having to come back into the pit box once again. The #83 Ferrari would be overtaken by the #7 Toyota and #6 Porsche. Ferrari #50 would be given a technical infringement, as the #83 Ferrari was given a Drive-Through penalty for a Full Course Yellow infringement, Ferrari suddenly struggling against other cars after just over one hour.

The #50 Ferrari would then overtake the #5 Porsche for track position, down the inside at Turn 1. The Iron Dames #85 would finally retire after re-joining the race several times, complete misfortune for the Dames, who retire as a result of the opening lap crashes.

Coming towards the end of the second hour, the #92 Porsche leading the LMGT3 class came into the pits, with the rest of the LMGT3 field following suite, Valentino Rossi now in the #46 BMW for his stint, his second race at Imola in a GT3 car.

The #11 Hypercar spun out and across the track in Sector 2, on fresh tyres not quite able to get enough heat into them, kicking up grass across the track. That was the first Hypercar on new fresh tyres, the undercut proving to be potentially effective for track position. The #11 would later run completely wide at the penultimate corner, locking up and being sucked into the gravel trap at rivazza.

The leading Hypercar of the #51 Ferrari had a minor issue, needing to be lifted on the jacks and costing them valuable time, the field now closing right up in Hypercar.

Credit: Luca Barsali

#55 Ferrari LMGT3 seized the lead in the pit stops, battling against the #92 Porsche with the #46 BMW driven by Rossi only a few seconds away from the leaders, and picking up speed rapidly.

The Porsche's had overtaken many of the Ferrari's that had led the race in the first couple of hours, however with a third of the race gone, it seemed as though the Porsche's had all found their rhythm as we approached half distance.

#46 BMW LMGT3 driven by Rossi would absolutely hound the #55 Ferrari for P2, the pair of them had blue flags waved for the Hypercars to come through, as Rossi chased his first ever WEC podium, in just his second ever race in the championship.

Callum Ilott of the #12 Jota Porsche would lock up and slide across the gravel and into the wall, losing a lot of time and a couple of places unfortunately for the Briton, however with no visible damage.

Nyck De Vries would climb aboard the #7 Toyota, who were fighting for a podium in Hypercar approaching the half race distance, setting good lap times and closing on the leading Ferrari's gradually.

#20 BMW had some reports of potential rain at the half distance mark, another element of the race, as the leading #51 Ferrari also started reporting similar precipitation worries with rain.

Valentino Rossi's #46 BMW would finally get ahead of the #55 Ferrari LMGT3 in the pits, a great stop from the BMW WRT squad who are battling for victory in the LMGT3 class.

Antonio Giovinazzi now out of the #51 Ferrari as the #50 Ferrari battled them for the lead at half distance, the cold tyres taking so long to heat up and giving others a real shot at them for a couple of laps. Drops of rain would start, as Valentino Rossi #46 BMW was overtaken by the #55 Ferrari briefly.

Nyck De Vries aboard the #7 Toyota would attack the #50 Ferrari for track position just over the half distance mark, The #11 Hypercar would slide off the road whilst straddling the kerbs in the chicane just before the final couple of corners, with one of the Porsche Penske's also skipping across the chicane. Yellow flags would initially be waved, with the Full Course Yellow then deployed.

Ferrari #51 would be under investigation for a technical infringement, as the race got restarted the #7 Toyota of De Vries would overtake the #50 Ferrari for P2. Meanwhile the #94 Peugeot skipped across tamburello and lost a lot of time.

The #12 Porsche would also very nearly have a big crash, getting out of shape heading into the final couple of corners and sliding across the gravel, ending up beached for a few laps. The #94 Peugeot would once again cut across tamburello as well, debris went all over the circuit at turn 1, and this brought out a VSC.

Credit: James Moy

#51 Ferrari pitted under the VSC, saving a lot of time and pitting for tyres. #7 Toyota would be investigated for an illegal overtake, as the #50 Ferrari also pitted under the VSC. The VSC would then be upgraded to a full Safety Car, bunching the entire field back up as the rain was falling.

The track would be declared wet with just a couple of hours remaining, Valentino Rossi handed the #46 BMW over to his extremely fast teammate Maxime Martin who would finish their race in the hopes of getting a victory in just the #46's second race in the World Endurance Championship.

The #7 Toyota led the way under Safety Car conditions, with the entire field debating to pit onto the wet tyres. Chaos as every car was sliding all over the circuit on the restart of the race, no grip for the hypercars as most of the Hypercars came into the pits, the leading Ferrari's #50 and #51 stayed out under heavy wet conditions, with cold tyres. The Ferrari pit wall revealed that they didn't think the rain would last long enough to warrant a pit stop change.

The #55 Ferrari LMGT3 would be given a 5-second penalty, massively assisting the #46 BMW who were defending their podium from the #55 Ferrari.

Both leading Ferrari Hypercars would then pit for wet tyres, giving the lead to the #7 Toyota indefinitely, and costing them a lot of time. The #15 BMW would then spin in Rivazza, ending up beached in the gravel, bringing out the Full Course Yellow once again.

The #92 Porsche LMGT3 came back in for more wet tyres, giving the lead of the race in LMGT3 to the Valentino Rossi #46 BMW driven by Maxime Martin. Jenson Button #38 Porsche was battling Earl Bamber #2 Corvette for the final points position

Multiple drivers sliding off the circuit as the dry line began to form, the #7 Toyota lead out front with the Porsche #6 only around 5 seconds behind with just half an hour remaining

Credit: Luca Barsali

#46 BMW slid off the road slightly, allowing for the #32 sister BMW to come through and seize the lead of the race in LMGT3 with just half an hour remaining. The #46 BMW would come right back at the #32, however the #46 BMW driven by Maxime Martin would be given a drive-through penalty for a VSC violation, costing them the victory and what would have been a thrilling final 20 minute race shootout between the BMW pair.

The #6 Porsche would close right up to the back of the #7 Toyota with only 15 minutes remaining in the race. However, dramatically the #6 Porsche would have a 5-second penalty added onto their pit stop or race time, an incident which would ruin their race, and the fight at the front for the Hypercar win. Unfortunately with penalties deciding both the Hypercar and LMGT3 front battle,

With 5 minutes remaining and the #6 Porsche trying to get 5-seconds clear from the leading #7 Toyota, a battle ensued, with the #6 Porsche giving it everything, running off the side of the road and over the kerb, unfortunately losing a lot of time.

But the Toyota #7 driven by Nyck De Vries would come home to take Hypercar victory at the Imola 6 Hours, with the #31 BMW coming home to win in the LMGT3 Class.

Valentino Rossi would score his first ever FIA World Endurance Championship podium, with a P2 finish at his home race, very nearly coming home to even take the victory. But what did you make of the Imola 6 Hours? let us know in the comments below!


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