Daniel Zampieri, Davide Rigon and Miguel Ramos took their Kessel Racing Ferrari to victory in the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Prancing Horse’s spiritual home of Monza.
While Alessandro Pier Guidi had qualified the #70 SMP Racing Ferrari at the head of the 60-car grid, it was MRS McLaren driver Philipp Eng who continued his impressive speed during the weekend to take the lead at the first corner ahead of fellow fast-starter Alex Buncombe of Nissan GT Academy Team RJN.
The leading pair, both from the Pro-Am class, were alone up front during the first hour, with Buncombe eventually finding a way into the lead. Further down the road were the leading Pro Cup contenders, with Antoine Leclerc third in his ART Grand Prix McLaren. Marc Hennerici went off into the gravel at the first chicane in his Prospeed Porsche out of fourth place after ten laps, handing the place to Rigon’s Ferrari, who was in-turn chased by Rob Bell’s Gulf Racing UK McLaren.
As the leading two cars hit trouble at their first pitstops and fell out of contention, it was Ramos who emerged in the lead of the race after taking over from Rigon. He held a comfortable margin up front, which was then extended considerably with another quick turnaround at the third stop, when Zampieri took over.
The former Ferrari Academy driver took the checkered flag at the end of three hours with an 18 second advantage.
The Gulf and ART McLarens were battling over second place in the hands of Nico Verdonck and Mike Parisy respectively before the second and final stops. Both cars however were beaten back out on track by the #3 WRT Audi of Edward Sandstrom, sharing with Frank Stippler and Christopher Mies.
Former Formula 2 champion Andy Soucek was now in the ART machine and found a way past Sandstrom when the Swede ran wide exiting the Lesmos. Soucek crossed the line a fairly lonely second, as Sandstrom fell into the clutches of Adam Carroll, the third Gulf driver.
Andrea Bertolini in the Pro-Am-leading AF Corse Ferrari joined a titanic three-way battle for the final podium spot, which Carroll eventually came out on top of with a move at the Parabolica on the very last lap, pipping the Audi to the line by just 0.028s.
Bertolini finished close behind to give co-drivers Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels a winning start to the season as they try to claim a third straight Pro-Am title.
After a puncture forced an early final stop, Maxime Martin brought the #3 Marc VDS Racing Team BMW up as high as sixth towards the end. A lack of fuel caused by that early stop saw Martin lose a couple of places before the end, before a 30 second penalty for outside assistance post-race relegated the car he shared with Yelmer Buurman and Bas Leinders to tenth.
Markus Winkelhock took sixth place in the #16 Phoenix Audi also driven by Enzo Ide and Anthony Kumpen, while TDS Racing enjoyed a strong debut to take seventh overall and second in Pro-Am with their BMW driven by Henry Hassid and Ludovic Badey. The second Phoenix car of Oliver Jarvis, Harold Primat and Christopher Haase and the Black Falcon Mercedes of Adam Christodoulou, Klaas Hummel and Steve Jans were eighth and ninth respectively.
The SOFREV-ASP team completed a clean sweep of the class victories for Ferrari at Monza, the car of Patrice Goueslard, Jean-Luc Blanchemain and Jean-Luc Beaubelique taking the Gentleman Trophy honours in 19th place overall.