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International GT Open: Barcelona, Race Reports

With the Super GT title already decided in favour of Villorba Corse’s Andrea Montermini at Monza, GT Open headed to the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona to crown its GTS-class champion for 2013 and wrap up what has been an enjoyable season of multi-class GT racing.

Race 1

Montermini said before the race that with the title in the bag, he was simply here to have fun – and what better way to do it than by nabbing pole position and leading V8 Racing’s Miguel Ramos away from the lights?

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His fellow Italian Giorgio Pantano had a less favourable start in the Bhai Tech McLaren, however – the GTS-class title contender had a trip through the gravel on the first lap and rejoined well down the order.

Ramos never looked like he could stay on terms with Montermini, and he was soon fending off an attacking Franck Perera (making his GT Open debut at this race in a Pro GT Porsche). The veteran Frenchman made short work of Ramos, passing the Corvette around the outside through Turn 5 to take second place overall and the lead of the GTS class – but co-driver Eric Dermont wasn’t working at the same level in his stint.

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Marco Frezza, co-driver to GTS title hopeful Lorenzo Bontempelli, had the Kessel Ferrari 458 running second in the class, but couldn’t hold off Russian Bears Ferrari man Kiril Ladygin and Novadriver Audi’s Cesar Campanico, losing two places in quick succession on lap five and leaving Bontempelli with some work to do once he took the wheel.

Elsewhere, Nicky Pastorelli’s younger brother Francesco (another GT Open debutant here, driving one of the V8 Racing Corvettes) had qualified well and was running fifth overall, until he ran wide and lost places to both his team-mate Diederik Sijthoff and Philip Peter in the Super GT-class Kessel Ferrari.

Peter was quickly on the tail of Ramos (who had been dropped by Montermini to the tune of a second per lap after 10 tours) and a small mistake from the Portuguese gentleman driver at Turn 10 saw the yellow Kessel Ferrari through into third overall.

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Montermini’s Ferrari was one of the first cars to pit when the driver change window opened. He had his third different co-driver of the season this weekend in the shape of 2012 European F3 Open champion and former Drivex Porsche pilot Niccolo Schiro. Unfortunately, the young Italian couldn’t make the most of this opportunity during his stint. He exited the pits just ahead of Nicky Pastorelli (who’d taken over from Ramos) and shortly afterwards their cars made contact, sending Schirro into the gravel and out of the race.

Peter, meanwhile, left it as late as possible to hand over to his co-driver Michael Broniszewksi, and with no pit handicap to serve, the Pole found himself at the head of the field when the order shuffled out after the stops. Pastorelli lost time in the coming-together with Schirro, but was able to carry on and fought his way back up to second at the flag, behind the victorious Kessel Ferrari.

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In GTS, Miguel Toril’s outside chance of winning the title went up in smoke when his Seyffarth Racing Mercedes retired with suspected suspension failure late in the race. Bontempelli passed Vyacheslav Maleev’s Russian Bears Ferrari with 15 minutes of the race remaining, but Maxime Soulet in the GPR Aston Martin kept Bontempelli from taking the title with a win by passing both the Russian and the Italian in the closing laps to clinch another GT Open GTS-class victory for the Belgian outfit.

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Post-race, Nicky Pastorelli lost his second position due to a 30-second penalty for his contact with Schirro, promoting Soulet and Bontempelli to second and third on the overall rostrum and the Talkanitsas’ AT Racing Ferrari to second place in the Super GT class. Pastorelli was classified third in class and 14th overall once the penalty was applied.

Race 2

Sunday’s event started with a bang as Peter Kox’s Leipert Lamborghini was sent spearing into a heavy front impact with the wall, bringing out the safety car for the first 10 minutes of the race.

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Nicky Pastorelli led the field at the restart, but soon found himself under attack from his new nemesis Schirro in the Villorba Ferrari.

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Behind these two, Russian Bears’ Roman Mavlanov was feeling similar pressure from an on-form Soulet, but the Belgian misjudged his braking and nerfed into the back of Mavlanov’s Ferrari at the apex of Turn 10. Both cars were able to continue, ahead of Bhai Tech McLaren’s Chris van der Drift, AF Corse Ferrari’s Emmanuel Collard (subbing for Matt Griffin, who was on WEC duty), French GT champion Morgan Moulin-Traffort in the Sofrev Ferrari and Alvaro Parente in the second Bhai Tech car.

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Any potential battles between this line-up were denied by the safety car coming out again – due to Balfe Motorsport’s James Swift hitting the Corvette of Wolf Nathan, which had been lying stationary in the track after a spin. The pit window opened with the pace car still on track, so the organisers elected to add five minutes to the driver-change period, leaving just a 15-minute sprint to the flag once everyone had swapped over.

Pol Rosell led after the stops, having taken over the Russian Bears car from Mavlanov, ahead of Fabio Onidi (AF Corse), Francesco Pastorelli and Bhai Tech team-mates Luis Razia and Giorgio Pantano. Less than five seconds covered this top five and all eyes were on Pantano to see if the former F1 man could take the GTS-class driver’s title.

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Pastorelli got his Super GT Corvette past Onidi’s GTS Ferrari on the pit straight without much trouble, and the Dutchman then pressured Rosell into a mistake through turn three. This handed him the lead of the race and eventual victory for himself and co-driver Jacky Camp.

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The other Super GT podium places would go to Cameron/Collard (AF Corse) and Montermini/Schiro in the Villorba Corse car.

Meanwhile, Pantano had been waved through by Razia, but left it until the last lap to deal with Onidi and clinch second place in GTS behind Rosell. That gave him eight points – enough to draw level with Lorenzo Bontempelli’s score and take the title by virtue of having scored more wins. A great result for the much-liked Italian in his first full season of GT racing and a real boost for the fledgling Bhai Tech team, too.

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Final championship positions – here

Stephen Errity (@83ste)

All images ©FOTOSPEEDY