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International GT Open: Monza, Race 2 Report

Russian Bears duo Roman Mavlanov and Pol Rosell led home an all-Ferrari, all-GTS podium at the weekend’s second GT Open race from Monza. They were followed home by the Esta Motorsports pairing of Alessandro Pier Guidi and Aleksandr Skryabin in second, while Lorenzo Bontempelli kept his GTS-class championship bid on track with a strong run to third, sharing with Marco Frezza in the Kessel Ferrari.

And while the combination of wet weather and Monza’s big braking zones meant the Super GT cars were never going to feature at the sharp end in this race, Andrea Montermini (Villorba Corse Ferrari) nonetheless did just what he needed to do further down the field to clinch the 2013 GT Open driver’s championship with one round remaining.

A steady shower minutes before the start led to organisers declaring a wet race, requiring everyone to change to wet tyres on the grid. The race also started under the safety car, which pulled in after three laps, leaving polesitter Matt Griffin (AF Corse Ferrari) to streak into the lead. He soon came under pressure from Davide Rigon in the Villorba car, however, and outbraked himself into the Variante della Roggia, dropping to third behind Rigon and Michele Rugolo’s Kessel Ferrari. Rugolo was on the attack almost immediately, taking the lead from Rigon with a ballsy move around the outside of the first Lesmo.

Further down the top 10, Nicky Pastorelli was desperately trying to keep his and Miguel Ramos’ Super GT championship hopes alive in the V8 Racing Corvette. After passing Mavlanov’s Ferrari, he turned Matteo Cressoni’s Drivex Porsche around entering the first chicane, but was able to keep going. The incident saw him slip to seventh place overall, behind eventual podium finishers Mavlanov and Frezza in fifth and sixth.

Mavlanov himself was looking racy, attacking Stefano Gattuso’s Ombra Racing Ferrari in a bid to grab fourth, but up front, the Super GT runners were re-asserting themselves: Rigon passed Rugolo to lead again, and third-place Griffin was rapidly recovering from his earlier error, demoting Rugolo himself a few laps later.

Another man on the move was Jan Seyffarth, whose Mercedes SLS AMG had been struggling for pace all weekend. He got past a struggling Frezza with a robust move to take ninth (Frezza would shortly afterwards lose another place to Skryabin) and then set about chasing AF Corse team-mates Filip Salaquarda and Matteo Beretta, who were disputing seventh and eighth. The flurry of passing moves continued as Skryabin briefly traded places with Seyffarth and a recovering Pastorelli renewed his attack on Mavlanov.

The Bhai Tech McLarens were having a race to forget after yesterday’s triumph. Struggles with wet setup became academic for Luiz Razia when the #66 car ground to a halt with a puncture just ahead of the pit window, while Rafael Suzuki and Giorgio Pantano in the other car could only manage seventh overall.

Rigon stopped to hand over to championship challenger Montermini fairly early in the pit window, leading to the Villorba Corse car rejoining in the thick of the still-raging Gattuso-Mavlanov-Pastorelli battle. Montermini managed to stay out of trouble here, but his run to the drivers’ title wasn’t over yet. Pastorelli got ahead of Mavlanov just before the stops, and the V8 Racing Corvette emerged with Ramos at the wheel just ahead of the Villorba on the track – enough to keep the title win from Montermini until the next round at Barcelona.

With no pit handicap to serve due to yesterday’s fourth-in-class finish, Griffin’s co-driver Duncan Cameron emerged third overall after the stops, but soon found himself subsumed by a wave of GTS-class cars. First Toril in the Seyffarth Mercedes got past, then Bontempelli in the Kessel Ferrari. Those two then set about catching leading pair Stefano Costantini (who’d taken over the Ombra Ferrari from Gattuso) and Rosell.

Salaquarda’s co-driver Fabio Onidi also passed Cameron on his way to a fourth-place finish at the flag, but he could do nothing about the pace of Pier Guidi, chasing down his second podium finish of the weekend. At this point, it looked as though Costantini, Rosell and Toril would take their cars to the podium, but the rain had now stopped and a rapidly drying track was taking its toll on the wet-weather tyres. Both Costantini and Toril suffered punctures in the closing laps, promoting Rosell to a lead he would take to the end, and handing second and third respectively to Pier Guidi and Bontempelli’s Ferraris.

Meanwhile, Montermini seemed determined to take the title on home soil, harrying Ramos’ Corvette hard through the first chicane with just minutes of the race remaining. He very nearly lost it through the first Lesmo, kicking up dirt at the the edge of the track, then finally made a pass stick with two laps to run.

The delighted newly crowned champion (who previously won the overall title in 2008) was hoisted into the air to cheers from his friends, supporters and mechanics in the pitlane. “Unfortunately Ramos was not very fair towards the end, but I tried to stay out of trouble,” he said amidst the celebrations. “With a 45-second stop, 12th overall was the best we could do here, but of course I’m delighted to win the championship.” Race winner Pol Rosell was happy after a problem-filled Saturday. “To win our class as well as take the overall victory is very special,” he beamed. Co-driver Mavlanov declared it had been a “good but very tough race.”

With the overall title decided, the main focus of GT Open’s final races of the season at Barcelona on November 9-10 will be the destination of the GTS championship honours. After Monza, Kessel Racing’s Bontempelli is tied with Bhai Tech’s Suzuki and Pantano on 48 points apiece. Seyffarth Mercedes man Miguel Toril has 39, while Ferrari crews Rosell/Mavlanov and Lyons/Beretta are tied on 37 each.

Stephen Errity (@83ste)