Miguel Ramos and Roldán Rodriguez took their BMW Team Teo Martin BMW M6 GT3 to a hard-fought victory in race one, becoming the first repeat winners of 2016 as the International GT Open Championship reconvened at Circuit Paul Ricard for round three of what is turning out to be an ultra competitive season.
From the start, pole winner Côme Ledogar took the lead and drove away from the field at a rate of two seconds per lap in his Garage 59 McLaren 650S GT3, building an advantage of fifteen seconds over the Team Lazarus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 that had been started by Fabrizio Crestani. A rear left puncture, twenty minutes into the seventy minute race, ended any realistic hopes of victory the team had. By the time Ledogar had limped the car back to the pits for a new set of Michelins and to hand over to Alexander West for the remainder of the race, far too much time had been lost to recover.
With the McLaren hitting trouble, Crestani was promoted to the lead with Juan Cruz Alverez in the Drivex School Audi R8 LMS now in second place having passed the first of the Teo Martin BMW’s of Gustavo Yacaman.
Teams began pitting during the mandatory window to change drivers but Crestani stopped out longer than the other front runners to try and build a lead before having to hand the Huracan over to Thomas Biagi.
After all the stops had been completed with just over half an hour of the race to go, slick work from BMW Team Teo Martin had got Roldán Rodriguez, who took the car over from Miguel Ramos into the lead and his team-mate, Fernando Monje, taking the wheel from Yacaman, up into third and sandwiching the Lazarus Lamborghini of Biagi with the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Euan Hankey in fourth place.
Trouble hit the third placed BMW however, alternator issues forcing the car into retirement which allowed Hankey up into third and a team making its debut in GT Open, FFF Racing with their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 being driven by Andrea Caldarelli up to fourth and Marco Cioci driving an AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 in fifth place.
This developed into a very closely fought five way battle for the lead during the final fifteen minutes and as the clock ticked down, Rodriguez held a slender advantage as they all ran closely together under each others rear wings.
With just over three minutes of the race left to run, the battle for victory became that of a four way fight as Euan Hankey bumped Thomas Biagi at the first chicane sending the Lamborghini into a spin and out of contention for the win.
The final lap was incredible, four different marques of supercars in a close quarter fight, often touching, forcing each other wide through the corners and racing three wide down the Mistral Straight for the lead! Marco Cioci made a fantastic move on the Aston Martin of Euan Hankey to take second place but could not find a way around Rodriguez who held on to take a wonderful victory.
Hankey lost another place to Caldarelli during that final lap and had to settle for fourth place with Biagi fifth, Fabio Babini in the Ebimotors Lamborghini Huracan GT3 finishing in sixth and Phil Keen bringing home the Balfe Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia he shares with Shaun Balfe in seventh.
In the AM class, victory went to the pairing of Fillipe Barreiros and Max Braams driving V8 Racing’s Renault RS01 GT3 from the Sports and You Mercedes AMG GT3 of Antonio Coimbra and Luis Silva.