It was an eventful first race of the season for the International GT Open, with a clear winner, the Team Lazarus Bentley Continental, driven by a pair debuting in the series: Ivan Peklin, the 19-year-old Ukranian at his debut in GT3, and Bentley works driver Jordan Pepper, from South Africa. The black Continental of the Italian squad is always competitive on fast track and seldom misses a good opportunity. After a win and two pole last year, it starts the season in the best possible way, eventually beating the two Inception McLarens 720S of Nick Moss-Joe Osborne and Brendan Iribe-Ollie Millroy, who preceded in the Pro-Am class the Balfe Audi R8 LMS of Shaun Balfe-Adam Carroll.
Jens Liebhauser-Florian Scholze started the season as they finished last, winning in the Am class, this time with a Mercedes ran by AKM Motorsport. The HP Racing Lambo of McKansy-Seyffert and the other Mercedes of Giuseppe Cipriani, in the colours of Il Barone Rampante, completed the podium.
The race was marked by the two accidents in the first stint, with most the first half of the race behind the safety-car.
THE RACE - At the start, poleman Nico Bastian has to fight to keep the advantage ahead of Spinelli and Jordan, who takes second in the initial string of corners, but drama strike right behind, as Schraml, who is rejoining the track after a slight excursion, misses breaking point in turn 3 and hits the JP McLaren of Christian Klien, almost flying over it. Luckily, there is no personal damage. First five laps are behind the safety car. Shortly after restart, Pepper steals the lead from Bastian, but action only lasts for two laps, up to the moment when François Grimm loses its car entering the Signes straight and hits the wall on the inside, with quite some damage to his Lambo R-EX. It’s again the safety-car taking control of operations, while Seyffert has to pit with a puncture.
Race restarts in lap 14, with Pepper in front of Bastian, Spinelli and Osborne, and the window for driver change opens immediately after, with the leaders delaying their stop as much as possible. After all stops, Sattler is in the lead, but passed by Peklin in lap 20. Moss is third ahead of Beretta, Millroy, Nemoto, Soucek, Carroll and Paverud. Cipriani leads in Am ahead of Liebhauser and McKansy.
Peklin extends his lead to 6 seconds, with Sattler keeping second ahead of Moss, Millroy, Beretta and Soucek, who has a nice fight to pass Nemoto. In Am, Liebhauser takes over Cipriani, who visits the pits in lap 25 with an ABS issue.
Saattler spins in lap 26 and drops to 9th. Peklin wins ahead of the two Inception McLarens and Soucek, who has bounced back to fourth in the closing laps.