Giacomo Piccini and Sergio Pianezzola stamped their authority onto the fifth round of the Le Mans Cup, while capitalizing on the sixth place finish by Mikkel Mac and Fabien Lavergne, to move to the head of the general standings on the eve of the final challenge at Portimao.
First hour. With the sun shining and temperatures hovering around thirty degrees on the asphalt and twenty-three in the air, the environment was perfect for the penultimate round of the Le Mans Cup. After having qualified his 488 GT3 in eleventh overall place, first in the GT3 class, Fabien Lavergne watched hopes of victory fade on the very first corner as he found himself locked between and subsequently sandwiched by two LMP3, resulting in a front left puncture. The French driver was forced to limp around the entire circuit, inevitably dropping to the bottom of the order. Sergio Pianezzola took full advantage of the situation, who, after a brilliant qualifying, grabbed the top spot ahead of Christoph Ulrich’s 488 GT3, chased down and then overtaken by Kessel Racing’s second Ferrari with Andrea Piccini at the wheel. However, the fine start from the Italian driver came undone when a broken power steering forced an early retirement on lap four. Ulrich, meanwhile, was having to fend off attacks from the Mercedes of Dexter Müller which he was able to do without great difficulties, even managing to build a small yet significant margin thanks to a steady, swift pace compared to his pursuer. From the rear, Lavergne – intent on bagging the biggest possible points haul – was lapping with notable times which allowed the driver to make up positions. After having out-manoeuvred John Hartshorne’s Kessel machine, Lavergne then went on the hunt of the Porsche of Paolo Venerosi, moving the car up to its rear. Thirteen minutes before the first hour struck, the Safety Car was deployed to allow the removal of debris on the Kemmel Straight, shed by a LMP3, before it re-entered ten minutes later, with almost all competitors coming in for the mandatory pitstops.
Second hour. After the driver swaps, Giacomo Piccini held the head of the course ahead of Ross Gunn and Yannick Mettler, but the Mercedes driver was forced in for a drive-through allowing Maurizio Mediani to take third place in the class. The other Ferrari machines still in the race lay in seventh, with Mikkel Mac, and Oliver Hancock in eighth respectively for the Luzich Racing and Kessel Racing colours.
Some 47 minutes before the chequered flag, a LMP3 span off causing a Full Course Yellow which froze the gaps, which, once the race had re-started, saw Giacomo Piccini having to shrug off the attacks of Gunn’s Aston Martin, while Mediani was able to manage a comfortable advantage in third over Yannick Mettler. Lapped, but nevertheless seeking to attack the fifth position, Mac was clocking up lap-times on a par with the front-runners, getting within 25 seconds of Mancinelli’s Porsche but exceeding the track limits on occasions which resulted in the black and white flag coming out. The race then experienced a tussle for the first position in the GT3 class, but Piccini managed to keep the assaults of Gunn firmly in check before crossing the finish-line ahead of the Aston Martin driver, with Maurizio Mediani, once again able to place the Spirit of Race 488 GT3 on the podium alongside team-mate Christoph Ulrich. Sixth past the chequered flag was the Ferrari courtesy of Luzich Racing while the Kessel Racing Ferrari posted seventh.
Standings and final round. The result sees the ranking change radically with reigning champions Kessel Racing, Sergio Pianezzola and Giacomo Piccini, at the top, climbing to 105. Next, come Fabien Lavergne and Mikkel Mac, who had arrived in Belgium at the head of the leader board. Christophe Ulrich and Maurizio Mediani drop to fourth spot, three points from Andrew Howard and Ross Gunn at 62. The final race of the Le Mans Cup, which will see a Ferrari crew take the top honours irrespective of the result, will play out on the splendid Portimao circuit in Portugal, October 27th.