Lamborghini claimed first blood with a dominant victory at the first race of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza.
Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Christian Engelhart in the #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 enjoyed an unchallenged run at their home circuit at Monza as rival encountered problems.
The race had to be re-started due a multi-car pile up on the main straight caused by Guy Smith in the #7 Bentley shoving the #19 Grasser Lamborghini onto the grass causing it to spin into the tightly packed field of 50 cars.
The resulting accident eliminated eleven competitors and with cars pilled up on both sides of the track, the race was stopped.
After a 25 minute delay, the race restarted and Miguel Molina in the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari led away with Smith second but the Yorkshireman was soon handed a 15 second stop-go penalty.
Bentley tried to contested the penalty and kept Smith out, but with the stewards not budging, Bentley went over the required two laps to serve the penalty and was black flagged.
When the Bentley finally came in, instead of stopping the car rumbled through the pitlane without taking it’s stop and hold, resulting in the car’s exclusion from the results.
M-Sport, who runs the Bentleys, at the time blamed this due to a misunderstanding, they believed that while they protested what they considered to be a harsh penalty, they were allowed to continue racing.
This was not the case however, and the farce has severely dented their championship challenge.
Grasser Unchallenged at the Front
This allowed the remaining Grasser Lamborghini, the #63 of Bortolotti, into second place as the two Italian cars raced off into the distance.
However the positions were changed at the first pitstops, as the Grasser team performed a much shorter stop and emerged ahead with a five and a half second lead.
Caldarelli managed built up a comfortable half minute lead over his pursuers before handing over to Engelhart who held this advantage to the finish.
Behind him the #72 Ferrari was gradually caught by the chasing pack lead by the #75 ISR Audi and the pole-sitting #50 AF Corse Ferrari.
Pasin Lathouras had started that car from pole but during fell to 16th by the end of his opening stint, but the pace of Michele Rugolo and Alessandro Pier Guidi bought the car right back into contention for the podium.
Pier Guidi gained third place when Davide Rigon in the #72 car was given a drive-thru penalty for overtaking under yellow flags but was unable to find a way past Clemens Schmid‘s Audi for second.
However with just six minutes left on the clock, the Audi suffering a left rear tyre blowout and was forced to retire, gifting second to the Ferrari.
This also allowed Maximilian Buhk to take third in the #84 HTP Mercedes after a quiet, uneventful but impressive run.
Pro-Am Battle Goes Down to the Wire
While the Pro race was more or less settled after an hour, the battle in Pro-Am went down to the wire and featured the drive of the day from Jonny Adam.
The #97 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin of Adam shared with Ahmad Al-Harthy claimed category pole and ran in the top six early on as the Omani put in a marathon double stint.
By the end of his second stint Al-Harthy was challenged by Matteo Cressoni in #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari, last year’s Pro-Am champions, which had been delayed in the first lap crash.
After handing over to Andrea Rizzoli, the Ferrari took the lead at the beginning of the final hour and pulled away.
When Al-Harthy finally came in, Adam had 50 minutes to overcome a 27 second lead in order to win.
The factory Aston Martin driver’s charge resulted in setting the fastest lap of the race and with six minutes to go he was right on the Ferrari’s bumper.
When Rizzoli made a mistake at the second chicane, Adam pounced taking the lead at the first Lesmo with just three minutes to go.
The #961 AF Corse Calling for Lebanon sponsored Ferrari of Alex Demirdjian, Abigail Eaton and Davide Rizzo took Am honours, despite very nearly failing to start the race due to a last minute gearbox change.
The Ferrari finished a lap ahead of the #177 Lamborghini which was the only other finisher in the category.
The long-time leader of the category Pierre Ehert and Rino Mastronardi in the #488 Rinaldi Ferrari retired during the car’s final pitstop with a smoking engine.