Nielsen Racing had the pace to win the second round of the European Le Mans Series which took place today (12 May) at Monza, Italy. However, misfortune in the timing of the first pitstop due to a Full Course Yellow, combined with a rare mechanical gremlin, resulted in a seventh-place finish for Tony Wells and Colin Noble in the #7 Norma LMP2 entry.
Following practice, qualifying was extremely close as expected with Colin running second fastest for much of the 15-minute session before claiming the provisional pole position. It wasn’t to be as a last gasp run saw him piped as the chequered flag flew bit it was a strong performance again with the #7 crew heading into race day in a positive frame of mind.
Lining up for the four-hour race second on the grid, Colin made a great getaway from the rolling start, ensuring that he took the race lead on the very first lap from the #19 M Racing entry. With the race there for the taking, Colin initially gapped the field to give himself a margin for the inevitable traffic in the 42-car field.
The first stint unfolded perfectly with Colin easing the gap out to 15 seconds before pitting just before the one-hour mark on lap 31. Unfortunately, just as he pitted a Full Course Yellow flew, meaning that Nielsen Racing’s rivals all effectively had a ‘free’ fuel stop.
Colin resumed in third position after all of the stops had played out and the racing resumed, quickly closing the gap to the #11 Eurointernational Ligier and then taking the position. At this point, the race leader was just eight-seconds ahead.
Showing the pace of the #7 Norma, Colin reeled in the race leading #9 Realteam car, before pitting at the two-hour window. Tony took over and continued the battle with the #9 entry, taking the position and then resuming the battle with the #11 entry once again.
Having recovered brilliantly from the early Full Course Yellow and bringing the #7 entry right back into contention for the victory, an electrical issue sent Tony to the pits after suffering a gear selection issue. Quickly diagnosed and rectified by the Nielsen crew, Tony was back out and underway. Hopes of a strong result were however over and Tony duly completed the race to take the chequered flag in seventh position.
The sister entry of Nobuya Yamanaka and James Littlejohn meanwhile endured a tough race. Starting tenth, Nobu ran at a competitive pace compared to the other Bronze-rated driver on track at the time. However, a moment of oversteer exiting the Ascari chicane caught out the ELMS rookie and the #8 Ligier made contact with the inside retaining wall, ending what had been a promising weekend for the true Am-Pro line-up.
Roger Bennett, Nielsen Racing ELMS Team Manager
“There’s no reason to be down about today’s result as it’s a case of ‘what might have been’ and we have demonstrated enormous promise for the rest of the season.
“Colin showed his undoubted talent as he took the lead and built that in the first hour and we were unlucky with the timing of the Full Course Yellow. Again, he challenged in the second stint and made huge gains before handing over to Tony. He was also right on the pave and put in a great stint before an electrical issue meant he was stuck in gear and couldn’t communicate with the pits.
“The team did a great job to diagnose the problem and return him to the race and as we finished the race seventh. The positive is we lost four minutes with the technical issue and finished the race the same time behind, so we can take a great deal from the race weekend.
“Nobuya took the start for the first time in European Le Mans and in what was his debut at Monza. It is a baptism of fire around here and he did an excellent job in the first 90-minutes. Unfortunately, he was caught out with the build-up of ‘marbles’ and that ended his race prematurely, but he’s unhurt and looking forward to racing at Le Mans next month.”