It was another fantastic weekend for the DKR Engineering and Kessel Racing squads, as both teams repeated their first-round performances to take their respective Le Mans Cup class wins in Monza, Italy.
Under the blue skies at the famous northern Italian circuit, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Leonard Hoogenboom and Jens Petersen brought the #3 DKR Engineering Norma-Nissan home to take another 25 championship points and a first-place trophy home to Germany and The Netherlands.
Petersen started the race from fifth on the grid but soon moved into 3rd position on the opening lap. After being passed by the #21 DB Autosports Norma of Nicolas Schatz, the German moved into second place after making a pass on the #25 Lanan Racing Norma of Michael Benham following a safety car period. Schatz took full advantage of clear air and disappeared up the road at the head of the field.
The #99 N’Race Ligier of Thomas Accary was running in place 4th but had to serve a drive-through penalty for overtaking before the start. The #30 CD Sport Norma of Eric Debard also went off at turn 1, hitting the barriers before rejoining the track.
As the pit stops approached, the front-runners began to box, just after the first hour of the race. Nicolas Schatz came down the pitlane in the leading #21 DB Autosport Norma, but incredibly the driver was waved through by his team. As the car approached turn one, it slowed and then stopped in the runoff area, apparently out of fuel and out of the race.
Leonard Hoogenboom took over the #3 DKR Norma and was now leading the race, just 1.2 seconds ahead of the #2 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Ligier with James Littlejohn at the wheel having taken over from Tony Wells.
A few minutes later a Full Course Yellow was declared as the #25 Lanan Racing Norma, which had started from pole position and now had Duncan Tappy behind the wheel, went off into the gravel at turn 11 after challenging the #44 SPV Racing Ligier of Andy Cummings for third place. The Norma got back onto the track, but Tappy retired the car at turn one before the end of the Full Course Yellow.
When the race went green again, Hoogenboom pulled away from the chasing pack of cars, with Littlejohn’s Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Ligier 8 seconds behind with 30 minutes of the race remaining. Job van Uitert in the #14 RLR MSport Ligier had also made good progress after the pitstop and was up to third and slowly gaining ground on the second placed car.
As the clock counted down to the last lap, the #3 DKR Engineering Norma cruised to the chequered flag. Hoogenboom crossed the line 19.8 seconds ahead of the #2 Ligier of James Littlejohn, with Job van Uitert finishing the race just 2.8 seconds behind the second placed car to claim the final LMP3 podium place.
In the GT3 class, Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini took their second win of the season in the #8 Kessel Racing Ferrari F488 GT3, the pair collecting 51 points out of a possible 52 from the two races at Le Castellet and here at Monza.
The #88 Ebimotors Porsche 911 GT3 R of Paolo Venerosi started from pole position, with the Italian being caught and passed by Pianezzola’s Kessel Racing F488 after a hard charge at the start from second place on the GT3 grid. The #8 Ferrari was reported to the stewards for going offline at the start, but no penalty was deemed necessary, and Pianezzola continued to pull away from the rest of the GT3 field.
After the first safety car, the #8 Ferrari held a 6-second advantage over the #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Piergiuseppe Perazzini, with the Ebimotors Porsche a further 8 seconds behind in third place.
The GT3 cars all pitted for their driver changes, and Giacomo Piccini was able to increase the gap even further in the #8 Ferrari. The #71 Ferrari now had Marco Cioci behind the wheel, but Cioci was 18 seconds behind Piccini and 14 seconds ahead of the #88 Ebimotors Porsche, which now had Alessandro Baccani at the wheel.
As the clock counted down, Piccini continued to open up a gap, and by the chequered flag, the #8 Ferrari was over 20 seconds ahead of the rest of the field to claim the team’s second win of the season and to take the championship lead.