Another Italian WEC Race - Imola 6 Hours, April 2024

I had enjoyed my trip to Monza in 2023 so much that I decided I'd visit another WEC round in 2024.

You can skip straight to the race report by clicking here or read on.

Le Mans was out (cost, fully booked and, to be honest, I'd fallen out of love with the place when I stopped going - Too corporate with little regard for actual fans of sportscar racing) and Spa was my initial favourite, having always enjoyed visits to the Belgian circuit, but the tickets were over 50 Euros and I decided to look at the Italian round again as it had moved from Monza to Imola and from July, when the heat was stifling, to April.

I checked that it would be easy to get from Bologna (the nearest large airport) to Imola by train, having been greatly impressed with the Italian train service and reasonable prices.

After a bit of investigation, I decided to fly to Bologna, take the train and stay in Rimini (with a visit to San Marino and maybe a day's diving in mind), commuting back to Imola for the race.

I did consider travelling back to Bologna for Sunday night, but that was a lot more expensive hotel wise and also meant I'd have to carry all my luggage around during the race, something I wasn't keen to do. The downside was an early departure from Rimini to catch a 9:20AM flight back to the UK on the Monday after the race.

Thursday - Rimini bound

So, it was a 3:30 start to get out of bed to get to the airport in time.

The journey, car parking and checkin went smoothly although the flight was about half an hour late leaving.

I reached Bologna and hoped to take the 7 minute monorail into the main station and change there for the train to Rimini, but they chose the duration of my visit to close the monorail for maintenance, so it was a slow, crowded bus replacement service to the station, but luckily, I had no great hurry on the outward journey - I hoped things would run smoothly on the return!

The train journey to Rimini was comfortable and only 14 Euros and I followed the hotel's directions to them with ease, walking through a pleasant park for much of the the way from the station, although the sight of junkies injecting drugs in a spot under the railway line, beside an underpass made me wonder if an early morning walk through there would be the safest bet.

The hotel Ausonia was comfortable, with friendly helpful staff (the first receptionist, though, only spoke Italian and Russian, an indication of the resorts popularity, until recently, with Russians.

My small single room was quite sparse and basic, but served its purpose for my stay.

After dropping my luggage, I walked the short distance to the beach to find a broad expanse of sand (covered in sun loungers in sunnier times) and a rough Adriatic. My diving day was looking ever less likely.

The Adriatic didn't look very inviting during my stay.

I wandered along the sea front and then the main road behind it, picking up some groceries for my stay.

I was pretty hungry by then, not having eaten since before 4AM, and stopped in a cafe for a Piadina, a savour wrap, which made a great snack to tide me over until dinner time.

However, by 7PM, it was shattered, so just ate some snacks, watched a film on my iPad and got an earlyish night.

Friday - San Marino

My dad had always spoken well of Rimini and nearby San Marino, so I arranged to catch a bus to the tiny republic, stopping in a cafe near the station for a cappucchino and a croissant for breakfast.

The bus cost 6 Euros each way and took around 45 minutes to wind its way up the slope to San Marino's citadel.

Dominated by the three towers that have protected the tiny republic for centuries, it's a strange place, essentially a hilltop city with steep cliffs protecting it.

The bus dropped me a good way up the hill, but before the final climb into the old part of the city.

Scenery from from San Marino is worth a visit alone

The view up into the old town from the final bus stop

Once there I started climbing through the old streets, taking in views across the surrounding hills and back out to the Adriatic coast.

The old town features a lot of walking, mostly uphill!

Picturesque old buildings are the order of the day

In one direction was a snow capped peak and the other way was Rimini and the sea. For the views alone, it's worth the bus fare.

I wandered fairly aimlessly, with no map and little prior knowledge of landmarks, but passed numerous piazzas, viewpoints and impressive buildings, before seeing a sign for the '1st Tower'.

First tower from a terrace

I headed to that, with vague recollections of photos of step staircases leading to a ramparted building.

I found that I had to pay a modest fee to enter, but it covered both towers and, with more time, I could have chosen a ticket that allowed me entry to numerous museums throughout San Marino.

The first tower is the most impressive with multiple towers and rooms to explore, with the highest point reached by a steep ladder, which I somehow doubt would be allowed in the UK (maybe health and safety has gone a little mad?).

The first tower from within the walls

Second tower from the first

I walked onto the second tower, but as a lot of people were going in, I decided to walk onto the third and visit the second on my way back.

One of the iconic views (a steep set of stairs leading to a tower) are on the way back from the third to second tower and I had to descend some way to reach the, closed and small, third tower, where I paused only long enough to take in the views and a few photos.

The closed third tower

The iconic view up the steps to the 1st tower, from the second tower.

I returned to the second tower and found it included San Marino's museum of ancient arms. Inside were a few rooms featuring arms and armour from the 1500s to the late 1800s (there's another, modern weapons museum in the town, but it was closed).

Some of the armour on display in the second tower

It was pretty interesting, especially if you're interested in ancient firearms and claims to have over 2,000 weapons, including edge weapons as well as the guns.

The first tower from the second

One thing that struck me was that San Marino has not one, but at least two, museums of torture! Seemingly torture was very popular in medieval San Marino and continues to hold visitors interest!

The stunning view back towards the Rimini and the coast from San Marino

Heading back towards town, it was definitely getting busier and I was getting hungry, so I stopped in a restaurant with a terrace perched on the cliff looking back towards the coast.

Climbing through the old town

I enjoyed a pizza and a pint of Fransizkaner Weissbier (not very Italian, I know, but I do like it and I couldn't resist!) and then headed back to wander around the town for an hour or so, before returning to catch the (very busy) bus back to Rimini.

I was possibly lucky, as San Marino was relatively quiet on a Friday in April, but I thought it a wonderful place, well worth the modest bus fare to visit and I could see why my Dad has always raved about it.

View over the town and surrounding countryside from the top of the first tower

After returning to my hotel, I decided to walk down to the harbour to see if I could find the dive centre I'd spoken to.

They hadn't contacted me again and the sea was brown, so I wasn't expecting to go diving, but it was a somewhere to walk to.

It was quite a walk, past Rimini's ugliest building, the seemingly mandatory inappropriately tall building that mars the view from all directions (Naples has one as well!), and the sun was beginning to set as I walked along the quay to the lighthouse and a big wheel on the seafront.

San Marino is still a busy working port, with a lighthouse.

I decided I didn't really need dinner after my pizza, so returned to my hotel and planned to have a lie in as I had nothing really planned for the Saturday.

Saturday - Rimini

The dive centre confirmed there was to be no diving, so I had a spare day and decided to explore Rimini a little more.

I headed through the park towards an impressive Roman archway I had seen from the bus on the way to San Marino, which a map I picked up from the hotel suggested led into the main part of town.

Arco di Augusto

As I walked through the archway, into the town centre, I realised Saturday was market day, as all the streets were crammed with stalls.

Attractive streets amongst the modern town

The cafes were busy as I wandered without any particular goal, through the streets, a mixture of ancient and modern.

Eventually, I reached a large piazza, which housed a large church and some municipal buildings of considerable age and I found a small cafe with a few less people in it nearby and ate a croissant and drank a coffee for breakfast.

Piazza Cavour

I consulted the map I'd picked up and decided on a few places to try and see, once being a bridge at the end of the street with the archway on the other end.

This turned out to be a bridge of Roman antiquity, now closed to traffic, but passable on foot.

Ponte di Tibero

The weather was looking like it would probably rain and I spent a bit of time around the bridge before moving on through the town centre.

About lunchtime, I decided to head back to my hotel and maybe grab some lunch along the sea front.

In the end, I took another visit to the supermarket and ate some snacks for lunch.

Rimini seafront, looking a bit more appealing under blue skies than when I arrived.

Later on I wandered back down to the seafront, which was looking less fierce than it had on my arrival two days previously, and later on I wandered down to a nice looking restaurant I'd seen the previous evening where I enjoyed a decent Carbonara with rigatoni and a beer, before topping off my meal with a huge ice cream from the shop next door - I paid for a single, but I think, being late, the man was looking to get rid of as much as possible, so gave me three portions! I was excellent ice cream, though, and I enjoyed it as I walked back along the sea front and got an earlyish night.

Sadly, my plans to get to sleep early was spoilt by a group of young, drunk Italians who stayed the night and spent a few hours, into the early hours, banging on each others' doors and holding loud conversations in the hall way on my floor.

Luckily, I'm a good sleeper, so when they finally stopped, I did get a few hours sleep.

Sunday - Imola

I had booked a 9:20 train to Imola, so packed my rucksack with refreshments for the day, swapped my camera lens for a longer one and set off to the station.

The train was on time and I settled down to the hour long journey to Imola, with sunshine in the sky.

Unlike Monza, the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, is an easy walk from the railway station (About half a mile, I'd guess) and it's a pleasant walk through old buildings and residential streets.

Imola is a picturesque town in its own right

I could hear the Lamborghini support race before I saw the circuit entry and stopped for a coffee in a nearby cafe, before making my way into the track itself.

I showed my e-ticket and walked along a road that provided a glimpse of the car roofs as they rushed by, before dipping below the track.

Imola circuit

I decided to head towards the stands first of all, passing through the Fanzone, where there were manufacturers' displays, food and drink stalls, a large stage (with a big screen behind, which later showed the race) and plenty of merchandise stands, although 50 Euros for a T-shirt or baseball cap seemed expensive, so I had no problem resisting.

Ferrari in the Fanzone

I walked up into one of the stands near the start/finish line, with the intention of watching the race start from there, but decided to move further down to another stand before the start, to get a better view of the pits.

Imola's famous control tower

Eventually, the time for the race start came and the cars set off behind a pace car in sunshine, returning quickly to be despatched at high speed.

I'm sure if you're interested that you would have seen the race highlights by the time I posted this a couple of weeks after the race, so I won't be spoiling it to say mayhem ensued as the Hypercars headed into Tamburello for the first time.

It seems that the Isotta Fraschini was surprised by the hard braking ahead, hit an Alpine, which cannoned into an Peugeot which hit a BMW (or some variation thereof!) resulting in a number of cars being damaged - Amazingly they all continued or resumed after repairs, but for some their races were already ruined. Meanwhile a Porsche 911 GT3 car had managed to crash on the start straight.

Needless to say, we got the first Full Course Yellow.

Cars lined up for the start

The start, before the mayhem began

Peugeot 9X8 Evo

Isotta Fraschini




When the race resumed, the 2 works Ferraris continued the domination they'd shown in qualifying, but the privateer car started to drop behind other works teams.

Initially, at least, the Toyotas, BMWs and Porsches had nothing to offer the Ferraris, much to the pleasure of the local fans, while Cadillac, Lamborghini, Peugeot, Alpine and Isotta Fraschini never really looked on the front running pace, but looked good and made for 19 hypercar field.

The racing was exciting for the first couple of hours, with the lead changing with pit stops and some FCYs while errant cars were recovered from the gravel traps, mostly to continue on, but the two works Ferraris held sway at the front, with Porsche and Toyota scrapping for a podium place.

Corvette wasn't particularly quick in GT3

BMW heads towards Rivazza

Porsche 963 in classic livery

D-Station Aston leads Porsche, BMW and Toyota hypercars into Rivazza

I walked around the circuit, clockwise (unusually the cars race anti-clockwise) first heading down to Rivazza where a steep hill leads you up to the Variante Alta, although as a spectator, you have to leave the circuit for a while and re-enter near that chicane, but it did provide some great photo opportunities.

Aston at Variante Alta

Lamborghini at Variante Alta

Lexus at Variante Alta

Porsche 963 bounces through Variante Alta

BMW closes in on a GT3 McLaren

GT3 Ferrari 296

Ferrari 499SP

AF Corse 'privateer' Ferrari 499SP

From there I followed the track down to Acque Minerale, a tight uphill right hander with more great photo opportunities.

BMW M4 heads a Penske Porsche 963 into Aqua Minerale

Ferrari 499s battle for the lead through Aqua Minerale

In the GT3 class, a Porsche 911 dominated the early going, with the two BMW M4s keeping them honest, one of the Aston Martins and a Lexus sometimes creeping into the top 3 at pit stops.

D-Station Aston Martin exits Aqua Minerale

Ford Mustang in Aqua Minerale

I'm not sure if I missed a path somewhere, but I never found Piratella or Tosa and ended up at the Variante Villeneuve and then worked my way back to the pit straight when everything changed as the threatened rain arrived, though.

It was never torrential, but it was enough around the 2.5 hours to go mark, to make the choice of wet tyres seemingly inevitable.

Toyota blinked first and swapped to wets, but Ferrari, surprisingly, left both their cars out on slicks, which the drivers were reporting as manageable.

Where it went wrong for the home team, was when the team over-ruled the drivers and called them in for wets.

Making the stop, robbed them of their lead and dropped them half a lap behind the leading Toyota and Porsche cars.

Toyota on the finish straight in the wet

Ferrari's tyre strategy cost them any chance of a podium

Penske Porsches took 2nd and 3rd

As the track dried out towards the end of the race, one of the Ferraris managed to pass the second Toyota for 4th on the very last lap, but it was poor reward for an event they looked certain to win easily.

Up front, the number 7 Toyota fended off the number 6 Porsche in the last dozen laps to take victory with the number 5 Porsche rounding out the podium.

The second Toyota was 5th, behind the leading Ferrari, with a late off potentially costing the BMW not involved in the first lap chaos 4th.

Porsche 911 GT3 in the wet, passes the pits

D-Station Aston passes the pits in the latter stages of the race.

In GT3, the Porsche team somehow managed to drop a lap to the BMWs as the rain fell and so it was a BMW 1-2 with the 911 completing the podium, followed by a 296 Ferrari and an Aston Martin.

GT3 winning BMW at Variante Alta mid-race.

It had been an enjoyable race overall, although the rain was a bit of a shame for us spectators, even if it did liven up the latter part of the race.

I left quickly after the race finished at 7PM, just making it to the station in time to catch my train back to Rimini (I could have caught a later one, but the next few were very slow, stopping services).

I got back to my hotel as the light began to fade, packed ready to live early the next morning and got an early night, ready for a very early start the next morning.

Monday - Homeward bound

It was another pre-5AM rise to get to the station for a 5:20 train to Bologna, taking a route along a main road to avoid the drug addicts' hangout by the park underpass.

The train took about 90 minutes to Bologna, picking up increasing numbers of people as it neared the city.

On the return leg, though, I quickly found the monorail exit (still not running...) and from there the bus replacement service, which was much quieter at 7:00AM than it had been on the way out.

I made my way to security, where building work caused a large, but consistently moving queue and was at the gate with an hour to departure.

Oddly, there seemed few people there and I experienced something I've rarely, if ever, done before. I was first person on the plane!

By the 9:20 departure time, the plane was pretty much full though and we made good time back to Gatwick.

Things ran smoothly there too, with no circling and I passed through passport control (no luggage to collect) quickly to find my car park bus arriving just as I got to the bus stop.

There were only 3 of us waiting, so I expected him to hang around for more people, but within 5 minutes we were off and car pick up and the drive home were also quick and trouble free, getting me home by 12:30, just in time for lunch!


While I hoped it wouldn't be as hot as my trip to Monza in 2023, I was a bit disappointed with the April weather (apparently it had been warm and sunny the previous week), but that didn't spoil my trip overall.

Rimini, especially out of season, was so-so, but San Marino was well worth taking the time to visit and, despite a feeling that Imola was somehow a lesser track to Monza before I went, I came away far preferring it, due to it's undulating circuit and great opportunities, in places, for taking photos.

Highlights of the race if you didn't see it.

I think I would probably stay in Imola (or a town one stop away on the train) or Bologna itself if I visited Imola again at this time of year.

I would definitely come back for a sportscar race in the future, but at the moment, I think I'll be watching them on TV for a while.

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