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International GT Open: Monza, Friday Practice & Paddock Notes

The Ferraris were looking strong on home turf as the International GT Open grid completed its two one-hour practice sessions at a mild but overcast Autodromo Nazionale Monza on Friday. Maranello machinery occupied four of the five fastest spots in the morning session, while eight of the top 10 cars in the afternoon session were 458s.

No less than 18 Ferrari GT racers have entered this round, spread across the Super GT (aka GT2) and GTS (aka GT3) classes. Series regular Michael Lyons declared himself happy with the day’s running; “It was a great start to the weekend – we were on the pace straight away, whereas usually at Monza you need to do an eight-to-10-lap run to find the time,” he said. Lyons and his AF Corse co-driver Matteo Berretta remain strong contenders for the GTS class title, just five points behind Kessel Racing’s Lorenzo Bontempelli, who leads the class solo due to having changed co-drivers during the season.

Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron also remain in contention for the title in the top Super GT class, although the gap to leader Montermini is a yawning 32 points right now. Griffin is currently basking in the glow of his European Le Mans Series GT title with Ram Racing, but reckoned there was still some work to do on the AF Corse Ferrari ahead of tomorrow’s race; “We’re satisfied enough with the lap time, but not so happy with the feel of the car just yet,” he declared. Over at Villorba Corse, championship leader Montermini was happy, too – but like much of the grid, wary of rain that’s forecast for Saturday and Sunday mixing up the order.

Also showing good pace were the Bhai Tech McLaren 12Cs, racing on the team’s home turf at this round. Rafael Suzuki and Giorgio Pantano went second-quickest in the second session, three-tenths off the Villorba Ferrari’s time, while Luiz Razia and Chris van der Drift were eighth in the same period. “Practice has gone well, although the turbocharged engine doesn’t have as much torque at low revs, so we’re struggling on the exit of slow corners,” said Razia. “The car is nice and stable in the high-speed stuff, though, and we haven’t put on brand-new tyres yet, so that’s not our ultimate pace,” he added.

Nicky Pastorelli’s V8 Racing Corvette did manage to beat the Ferraris in the first session, but his time of 1:48.836 was put in the shade by the Villorba Corse 458 of Andrea Montermini/Davide Rigon in the second session, with a time of 1:48.290. “The Ferraris are 7km/h quicker in a straight line,” Pastorelli told us, clearly expecting a tough weekend. His sentiment was shared by Rinaldi Racing Porsche man Marco Seefried, who’s been quick in every stint he’s done at the wheel of the 911 so far this season; “We’ve had a performance adjustment that reduced the diameter of our air restrictor, and with the Porsche being such a large, wide car anyway, we’re now really struggling for top speed, so I don’t think it’s going to be a good weekend,” the German admitted.

Another man with a BoP bee in his bonnet was young Belgian Enzo Ide in the GPR Aston Martin V12 Vantage. He and co-driver Maxime Soulet have run very strongly at the two rounds they’ve entered so far this year (Paul Ricard and Spa), but Ide said they won’t be returning for the Barcelona season finale if things stay as they are. “It’s s**t,” he stated bluntly just ahead of the second session. “We are so slow on the straights, it’s a joke.”

Things weren’t going smoothly in the Leipert Lamborghini team’s garage, either, but a more conventional mechanical failure was to blame, rather than performance balancing. “The alternator belt came off,” reported a disappointed Peter Kox. “It’s a shame, because normally the Gallardo would struggle for speed here, but we’d found a good setup and it’s frustrating not to get more running today.” Kox and Fabian Hamprecht’s car, which first appeared in the championship at the Silverstone round and was also seen at Spa, has been joined at Monza by a second Gallardo GT3 for FIA GT star Stefan Rosina and German Eduard Leganov.

Other new and returning entries at this round include the DriveX Porsche 911, which suffered a serious engine fire at Jerez but is now back, piloted solo by Portugal’s Carlos Viera in place of former pairing Archie Hamilton and Niccolo Schiro. Elsewhere, Marco Frezza has been confirmed as partnering Bontempelli here and at Barcelona, following the pair’s victorious Spa outing for Kessel Racing. Portuguese GT team Sports&You has brought its Mercedes SLS AMG to Monza for Antonio Coimbra and Luis Silva.

AF Corse has added a GT2 car to its gaggle of GT3 Ferraris, with Indian Vimal Mehta and WEC regular Marco Cioci at the wheel, as well as an additional GT3 car at this round for Czech driver Filip Salaquarda and Italian Fabio Ondini.

With Jan Magnussen on ALMS duty, his place alongside Danish gentleman driver Johnny Laursen at Kessel racing has been taken by Blancpain Endurance Series frontrunner Cesar Ramos. Kessel has also added a GT2 car for this round, but solo driver Michael Broniszewski only took part in the morning session today.

Finally, Alessandro “360 degrees” Per Guidi is sharing an Esta Motorsports GT3 Ferrari with Russian Aleksandr Skryabin, while Stefano Gattuso has shown up at Ombra Racing alongside Stefano Costantini.

Stephen Errity (@83ste)