A red letter weekend for the Ferraris 488 GT3 and 488 GTE competing in the main GT championships. One overall victory, three class wins and four podiums confirmed the competitiveness of the cars from Maranello.
Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup – SMP Racing triumph at Silverstone
At the end of a race as exciting as it was intense, the Ferrari 488 GT3 of SMP Racing driven by Mikhail Aleshin and official Competizioni GT drivers Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina stamped their authority on the third round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, disputed today at the British circuit of Silverstone.
Immediate Safety Car. At the start the group managed to pass unscathed through the test of Copse, but were less fortunate at Maggots and Becketts, where the middle of the pack became the scene of a spin and contacts, resulting in a multiple collision, eliminating from the race, among others, Rinaldi Racing’s Ferrari number 488 of Pierre Ehret and forcing the Safety Car onto the track. The operation for removing the cars proved to be lengthy and the race was able to restart some 2h37′ from the end. Aleshin, at the wheel of SMP Racing’s car, occupied eleventh position, while Chris Buncombe and Hommerson, twentieth and twenty-second respectively, were first and second in Pro-Am.
At the stroke of the first hour, the Ferrari of HB Racing, with Jens Liebhauser behind the wheel, ended up in the sand at Luffield, causing a Full Course Yellow, forcing the Safety Car back out on track. At the restart, Molina, who in the meantime had replaced Aleshin, after climbing to third spot, attacked and outflanked Ezequiel Perez Companc in the Audi and tried to close down the six second deficit with leader Phil Keen in the Lamborghini.
Six minutes later the race again went Full Course Yellow after an accident involving a Lamborghini, subsequently calling out the Safety Car for a third time. Eleven minutes before the stopwatch signalled the second hour, the race resumed its normal course and Molina, after seeing his attack on Keen fended off, had to endure being overtaken by Caldarelli and Mauron.
Rigon on the attack. Fifty-two minutes from the chequered flag, Molina went in for a late pit stop for the driver change, handing over to Davide Rigon. When the Italian driver got back on the track and the situation in the standings had stabilized after the pit stops, the Ferrari number 72 was holding second position behind Venturini’s Lamborghini. After catching his rival up, Rigon and Venturini began a twenty-minute duel, culminating seventeen laps from the chequered flag with a splendid overtaking manoeuvre by Rigon at Luffield. Once he had taken the lead in the race, the official Competizioni GT driver stretched the distance over his pursuers and crossed the finish line in first place, handing the SMP Racing team and the Ferrari 488 GT3 their first success of the year in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. The result sees Mikhail Aleshin, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina climb to second place in the standings, just one point off the top.
Podium in Pro-Am. In the Pro-Am class, after so many disappointments and bad luck, the AF Corse Ferrari entrusted to Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini finished second in the race less than three seconds behind Ram Racing’s Mercedes, while the 488 GT3 of Tempesta Racing of Chris Buncombe, Jonathan Hui and Chris Froggatt, after the victory in Monza, completed the three-hour race in fourth position.
Ferrari narrowly missed out on the podium in the Silver Cup, with Rinaldi Racing and its crew of Rinat Salikhov, Denis Bulatov and David Perel fourth past the chequered flag, while in the AM class the Maranello cars finished in fifth and sixth place, with the HB Racing and Rinaldi Racing teams.
Round 4. The next round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup will be staged at the Le Castellet circuit with the Paul Ricard 1000 km scheduled for May 31st and June 1st.
Blancpain GT Asia – HubAuto Corsa wins in Buriram
A GT3S victory in Race-2 and a Pro-Am class podium in Race-1. This is the result with which the Ferraris come away from the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand at the end of the second round of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia. A good weekend for the cars from Maranello and, in particular, for the car of the HubAuto Corsa team whose result in Race-2 sees them progress well in both the driver and team standings.
Middle group. High temperatures, humidity around 60%, overcast skies but without risk of downpours set the scene for Race-2. The Ferraris, once again forced to start mid-group, pulled off a comeback which saw them involved in some deft overtaking moves. Setting off from seventeenth position, New Zealander Andre Heimgartner, very effective in Race 1 and just a whisker away from the podium, started very well at the start and managed to move up five positions before handing over the HubAuto Corsa’s 488 GT3’s wheel to Yuya Sakamoto, while Haryanto took the Ferrari of T2 Motorsports from fifteenth to eleventh place before leaving the space for team-mate David Tjiptobiantoro.
Up on the podium. Sakamoto continued the task his partner had started and, taking advantage of some retirements, moved into fourth overall place. The race seemed to be heading towards an end without any major shocks when, twelve minutes from the end, the Safety Car entered the track to allow marshals to remove a hazardously positioned stationary car. Competitors, after some effort, regrouped and, once the operation had been completed, the race resumed with just five minutes remaining. Sakamoto, second in the Pro-Am class but fourth overall, had set his sights on the maximum achievable goal, the bottom step of the podium. The Japanese driver staged a decisive attack with three minutes to go, overtaking the Audi of Bhirombhakdi to celebrate third place overall, second in the class. David Tjiptobiantoro, in the T2 Motorsports Ferrari, crossed the finish line in eighth place in the Pro-Am class, sixteenth overall.
Post-race. A few hours after the end of the race, the disqualification of Bo-Lester’s Absolute Racing Porsche, second overall and first in Pro-Am, which had been deemed underweight during technical checks, moved the Ferrari of Sakamoto-Heimgartner onto the top of the podium.
Standings and round 3. This is the second podium of the season for the 488 GT3 of HubAuto Corsa after the one in Race-1 at Sepang and, with the result, Sakamoto and the Taiwan team take a significant leap forward in their respective rankings. The Japanese is now second, with 53 points, 10 points shy of Roelof Bruins; HubAuto Corsa, on the other hand, lies in third at 53, less than ten points off second spot.
The next round of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia is scheduled for Suzuka, Japan, on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd June.
ELMS – Two Ferraris on the podium at Monza
At the end of an intense 4 Hours of Monza, the Ferraris concluded second and third in a race where the ballast aboard the Luzich Racing (30kg) and Kessel Racing (20kg on the number 83) cars and the Balance of Performance applied to all 488 GTEs affected the final outcome. It was, nevertheless, an upbeat race for the cars from Maranello who managed to be protagonists in each phase of the race.
First hour. At race start, Lavergne, at the wheel of Luzich Racing’s 488 GTE, got away to an umpteenth flying start, propelling him into second position behind Ried’s Porsche but ahead of Cameron, who had preceded him on the grid. In the early stages, Lavergne got involved in a vibrant duel with, first, the Porsche of Ried, then Perfetti, in third. There was no lack of tussling among the GTE class cars behind the leading trio, with Lu’s Ferrari in contact with Cameron’s at the first Variant. The 488 GTE of JMW, slowing down at the exit from the left-hander, got hit by the Ferrari of Manuela Gostner as well. The two cars were able to resume the race, although with some bodywork damage, particularly to the Kessel Racing car, while the Canadian JMW driver picked up the inevitable drive-through. Lavergne, meanwhile, with an incredible overtaking manoeuvre, was able to get the better of Ried’s Porsche at the Ascari Variant. Nevertheless, a few laps later, the Frenchman was forced to concede the race leadership to Perfetti. Shortly before the end of the first hour, the Ferraris competing in the race began to make their first pit stops. No sooner had operations been completed when a Full Course Yellow was declared in order to clear away a prototype which had spun off at the second Lesmo curve.
Second hour. Segal’s Ferrari held a swift pace and the Spirit of Race driver was able to overtake Ried’s Porsche, taking third place behind Lavergne. Halfway through the second hour the Safety Car was back on the scene due to an accident of a prototype coming out of the Variante Ascari and the Ferrari teams took advantage to pit and swap drivers. In the 488 GTEs of Kessel Racing, Sergio Pianezzola took over from Schiavoni, while Michelle Gatting replaced Gostner. When the Safety Car re-entered the pit lane 2h19’ from the end, the LM GTE class standings saw three Ferraris lying in the top three positions: Segal held a 7″891 advantage over Gatting with the other cars a lap behind due to the stop and Safety Car. The Luzich Racing car bore the brunt of the penalization, slipping to seventh position.
Third hour. With the two Ferraris still in the lead, there was a dog fight going on between tightly-bunched pursuing cars. The damaged bodywork sustained during contact at the first Variante was beginning to manifest itself for the pink crew of Kessel Racing and their 488 GTE which got called into the pits by race officials, communicated by the display of black and orange flags, in order to carry out the repairs. The Swiss team took advantage of the unexpected stop to swap drivers, with Rahel Frey taking over from Gatting. Thirteen minutes before the end of the third hour, the race went Full Course Yellow with the Ferrari teams recalling their cars to the pits for a splash and driver change. For the JMW Motorsport car, Matteo Cressoni replaced Wei Lu at the wheel, while the Luzich Racing car was handed over to the official Competizioni GT driver Alessandro Pier Guidi. Once the race was again underway, just five minutes shy of the third hour, Pianezzola span off the track at the second Lesmo curve.
Fourth hour. At the start of the final hour, the standings in LM GTE showed the Porsche of Pera leading ahead of the Ferrari of Cressoni, separated by eight seconds, while the 488 GTE of Pier Guidi had achieved fourth spot 57 seconds off the leader. The sixth, seventh and eighth places, meanwhile, were occupied by the cars of Spirit of Race and the two from Kessel Racing. Twenty-four minutes from the end, a bold attempt by a prototype to lap Piccini’s Ferrari ended with both cars spinning off the track forcing another Full Course Yellow. Once again the pits became centre-stage with all most all crews stopping for tire changes and a splash. At the restart of the race, the gap of the Ferraris from the race leader was too lengthy to think of attacking and the positions remained unchanged until the chequered flag, handing second and third spot to the cars from Maranello. Behind was the Porsche of Pera-Ried-Cairoli, with the 488 GTE of JMW Motorsport of Segal-Cressoni-Lu separated by 24 seconds and the twin car of Luzich Racing with Pier Guidi-Nielsen-Lavergne, despite 30kg of additional ballast, on the bottom step of the podium. Sixth place for Kessel Racing’s pink crew, with Gostner-Frey-Gatting forced in twice near the end for splashes, and seventh place for the Spirit of Race car of Cameron-Griffin-Scott, who had been in the fray for top positions during the middle phase of the race.
Le Mans Cup – Ferrari monopolises the podium at Monza, maiden victory for Luzich
With an authoritative triple, Luzich Racing’s Ferrari 488 GT3, Kessel Racing and Spirit of Race prevailed in the second round of the Le Mans Cup, held today at the Monza circuit. Celebrating on the top step of the podium were Mikkel Mac and Fabien Lavergne, flanked by current champions Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini and the team drivers from Spirit of Race, Christoph Ulrich and Maurizio Mediani.
First hour. The Monza asphalt managed to drain the light rain which had fallen between qualifying and the race as the cars took the start-line equipped with slick tires. At the green light, as had happened on previous occasions, Fabien Lavergne got off to a flying start that gave him the race lead, while poleman Sergio Pianezzola was overtaken at the first turn by Calamia too. Even greater difficulties befell the two Ferraris of Hartshorne and Ulrich, who closed the grid. The Swiss driver, spun off during the first lap, set about a furious comeback which soon saw him back in fourth position, twenty-third overall. Meanwhile, in the lead, with Lavergne opening up a gap over his pursuers, Pianezzola got into a notable duel with the Mercedes of Calamia, before the Swill driver got called into the pits for a penalty following a jump start. A few laps later, the entire pitwall of Kessel held their breath when the car of the current champion got rear-ended, luckily non-violently, by a prototype that had braked late at the Roggia chicane, just as the Italian was heading for the first curve to the left of the chicane.
The grey sky which had characterized the start of the race, made way for the sun a few minutes from the opening of the window for the mandatory driver change. The first to pit was the Kessel Racing car, followed a lap later by that of Luzich Racing. The duel that had seen Lavergne and Pianezzola lock horns, was now taken up by two different protagonists, Mikkel Mac and Giacomo Piccini.
Second hour. The final half of the race opened with a Full Course Yellow which offered Luzich Racing’s 488 GT3 tenth overall and leadership in the class, followed by the Ferraris of Kessel Racing and Spirit of Race. After removing the prototype which had provoked the neutralization phase, which span coming out of the second Lesmo curve, the race resumed its normal course some 45 minutes from the chequered flag. As the sky once again began to threaten and the wind began to increase in intensity twenty minutes from the end, Mikkel Mac was able to count on a reassuring advantage of almost 35 seconds over Andrea Piccini, while Mediani’s Ferrari maintained its third position with a good margin over Gunn’s Aston Martin.
Fifteen minutes from the end of the race, the rain began to hit the Lombard circuit and the pits again became the protagonist for hasty tire changes and, with it, the Full Course Yellow needed to safely remove a prototype which had spun off at the second Lesmo curve. Six minutes from time, hostilities resumed but, in spite being forced to drive in extreme conditions, the drivers crossed the finish line without any further hitches and, significantly, with three Ferraris in the first three places.
First success in the category for Luzich Racing, with Fabien Lavergne and Mikkel Mac, ahead of Giacomo Piccini and Sergio Pianezzola (Kessel Racing), while Christoph Ulrich and Maurizio Mediani (Spirit of Race) posted third. Sixth place for the fourth 488 GT3 in the race, that of Kessel Racing in the hands of John Hartshorne and Oliver Hancock.
Standings and dates. The overall ranking is dominated by the Prancing Horse teams which occupy the top two places: Kessel Racing is first with 44, while Luzich follows with 41. Similar scores, of course, in the drivers’ standings which currently awards Piccini-Pianezzola over the Mac-Lavergne duo. Next calendar date is scheduled for June 13th and 15th with the Road to Le Mans, on the legendary La Sarthe track.