In a breath-taking final race, where the title was decided only in the penultimate lap, Giovanni Venturini became the 2017 champion of the International GT Open. Starting the race with a high handicap (25”) after yesterday’s win, the Italian driver had to suffer until his team mate Marco Mapelli crossed the finishing line in 7th to celebrate his success. “The second stint was really stressful, I just closed my eyes and waited”, he commented, “I cannot express how I feel”.
Fran Rueda-Victor Bouveng (Teo Martín BMW) fought until the very end, but a difficult start of the race meant they were not masters of their destiny; a contact between the Swede and Engelhart in the penultimate lap wiped the last chances.
Albert Costa-Philipp Frommenwiler (Emil Frey Racing Lexus) took a perfect revenge on yesterday’s disappointment by taking a brilliant win, the fourth this season, ahead of the Teo Martín BMW of Lourenço Beirão-Antonio Da Costa and the other Lexus of the Farnbacher brothers. Imperiale Racing secured the Teams’ title, beating BMW Team Teo Martín by 2 points.
In Pro-Am, it is a British triumph with the Jordan Racing of Jordan Witt-Michael Meadows taking a win ahead of Brad Ellis-Oliver Wilkinson (Optimum Racing Audi), after a close final lap fight and a 5” penalty for the Audi, and the McLaren of Balfe-Bell. It is maiden win in Am also for the Russian duo Sergei Borisov-Rinat Salikhov (Rinaldi Racing Ferrari).
THE RACE – Poleman Da Costa takes perfect start and so do the two Lexus of Frommenwiler and M.Farnbacher, with Rueda getting a little bit trapped. Caldarelli is fifth ahead of Venturini, Mac, Ledogar and Postiglione, but in lap 3 there are two separate incidents, involving Hamaguchi who runs off-track and Mowlem who spins and hits the barriers at turn 6.
The safety-car is out to allow rescuing the Ferrari. At the restart, Da Costa is leading ahead of Frommenwiler, while a tight fight between Farnbacher, Rueda and Caldarelli sees the Italian take third and the Spaniard also pass the Lexus. Venturini is sixth ahead of Mac, Ledogar and Postiglione. Soon after Knoll hits Benham who spins and gets stuck in the gravel in turn 5.
In lap 13, the window for driver change opens, with Rueda Mac and Postiglione being the first ones to stop, while Da Costa, Caldarelli and Ledogar delay the stop and continue at the top. When Beirao is out of the pits, there is a fierce duel with Costa but the Portuguese holds the position, which is the lead.
After all changes, Beirao leads by 0.5 seconds on Costa, then Bouveng at 2”, Engelhart, D.Farnbacher, Giammaria, Witt, Ellis, Songyang and Hahn. Mapelli is 12th, 28 seconds behind the leader. He’ll become 10th in lap 24, by passing Hahn and Bell. One lap later he takes 9th fropm Salikhov. In the lead, Beirao and Costa are still separated by less than one second, while Bouveng (3rd) starts feeling Engelhart getting closer.
In lap 27, Costa takes the lead, and Beirão starts to lift up; to let his team mate pass and take 2nd is a condition for Bouveng to take the title. The Swede though is under heavier and heavier attack by Engelhart, on the third Imperiale Lambo. In the penultimate lap, the German gets in contact with the BMW in the last corner, a very slight touch that sends Bouveng in the gravel. It will finish 5th behind Farnbacher and Giammaria, while Engelhart gets a 5” penalty. The incident won’t have a direct consequence on the outcome, as Mapelli manages to take 7th in the last lap, which would have been sufficient anyway to clinch the title, even with the BMW 2nd. In the meantime, Ramos and Hahn collide and get off track.