What a difference a day makes! Saturday’s race one of the French round of the 2016 International GT Open championship held at Circuit Paul Ricard ended in despair for Orange 1 Team Lazarus as their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 was spun out of contention for victory, late in the race. In a twist of fate, twenty four hours later, the very car that spun Thomas Biagi‘s Lamborghini out of race one, that being the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3, was itself a victim whilst battling for the lead on the penultimate lap of race two and the benefactor was the bright orange Huracan.
Duncan Tappy ensured a Garage 59 qualifying clean sweep at Circuit Paul Ricard as he planted their McLaren 650 S GT3 on the pole in the morning session and in so doing, achieving what the sister car had done yesterday for race one in the hands of Côme Ledogar.
He duly converted this into a lead that he kept until lap eleven, just before the pit stop window opened, when Marco Cioci driving the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 went passed him, having attempted a move previously on lap eight which did not quite come off and resulted in slight contact. Cioci and the TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in the hands of starting driver Euan Hankey had followed Tappy in close proximity throughout the opening stage of the race. The three ‘pro’ drivers building a sizeable advantage over the rest of the battling pack consisting of Andrea Caldarelli in the FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 , the two BMW Team Teo Martin M6 GT3’s of Roldán Rodriguez and Fernando Monje , Phil Keen‘s Balfe Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 and brace of Lamborghini Huracan’s of Orange Team 1 Lazarus and Ebimotors driven by Thomas Biagi and Fabio Babini respectively.
After all the changes had taken place during the pit stops, Michael Benham, who had received the Garage 59 McLaren from Tappy lead the TF Sport Aston Martin now being piloted by the ever improving Turkish driver, Salih Yoluc. In third place was the AF Corse Ferrari which was now in the hands of Piergiuseppe Perazzini, having had a lengthy stop due to being held for fifteen seconds thanks to the success time penalty incurred from the teams race one second place.
Two of the fastest cars on the track in the final third of the race were running in fifth and sixth place, those being the Orange 1 Team Lazarus Lamborghini Huracan with Fabrizio Crestani at the wheel and the BMW Team Teo Martin M6 GT3 driven by Gustavo Yacaman. The quick duo dispensed of Perazzini and homed in rapidly on the leading McLaren and Aston Martin, seeming set to catch them on the final lap. Michael Benham and Salih Yoluc had to try and hold off the increasing pressure from the two chasing drivers, particularly Crestani.
On the penultimate lap, Benham ran wide exiting the Courbe des signes in his McLaren, spun and collected the TF Sport Aston Martin of Yoluc who tried desperately to avoid him. Crestani took the lead and went on to claim victory, being his, Biagi’s and Lamborghini’s first win of the International GT Open season with the Teo Martin BMW of Yacaman and Monje taking second place. Salih Yoluc was able to recover and take the final position on the podium, with Perazzini bringing his Ferrari home in fourth. Benhams McLaren sustained heavy damage and was unable to continue, but was classified with a fourteenth place finish, two laps down.
The GT – AM class was won once again by Filipe Barrreiros and Max Braams in their V8 Racing Renault RS01 GT3 from the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of John Dhillon and Stéphane Lémeret.
With this victory, Orange 1 Team Lazarus take the lead in the championship by ten points from the Balfe Motorsport pair of Shaun Balfe and Phil Keen.
The next round of the International GT Open championship takes place on July 23/24 at Silverstone.