Leader Babini in the #19 Lamborghini and Vautier in the #10 ASP Ferrari stayed out quite late – as did Meadows in the Leonard Aston Martin, Juncadella in the #98 ROWE Mercedes and Stippler in the brand-new #2 Audi R8. Babini finally came in after an hour and four minutes – just six short of the maximum stint time – to hand over to young American Andrew Palmer.
Things weren’t going so well for the sister #63 Lambo, however, as Venturini picked up a drive-through for improving his times under yellow – and then another for speeding in the pitlane.
Once final stoppers Juncadella and Vasiliev (in the #71 GT Russian Mercedes) came into the pits to hand over to Indy Dontje and Marko Asmer respectively, the order was as follows: Palmer led Siedler’s #333 Rinaldi Ferrari by 23.7 seconds, with Lyons in third a further 15 seconds behind in the #11 Kessel Ferrari. Up next, just under 10 seconds off Lyons, was ex-Caterham F1 tester Robin Frijns in the #1 WRT Audi, who’d taken over from Jean-Karl Vernay.
Behind him, Meyrick and Griffin were running close together in the #7 Bentley and #51 Ferrari in fifth and sixth, but the main action as the second stint got going was the battle for seventh, where Katsumasa Chiyo in the #23 Nissan was having a fine scrap with Primat in the #84 Bentley, eventually getting past into the Parabolica on lap 39.
Griffin (third in Pro-Am) got ahead of Meyrick unseen by the TV cameras on lap 41, while the top 10 at this point was rounded out by Steve Parrow (in the car that Kaffer had led with initially) and the #2 WRT Audi, now with Ortelli on board.
As the race approached half-distance, Griffin had managed to close right up on Frijns through heavy lapped traffic – his far greater GT experience clearly showing against the young F1 convert. He made a straightforward pass under braking into the first chicane, moving into fourth overall.
The top three Pro-Am runners (the #333, #11 and #51 Ferraris) were now second, third and fourth in the overall classification, with Frijns and Chiyo second and third in Pro, fifth and sixth overall. Henrik Hedman in the #100 DragonSpeed Ferrari was transformed into a rolling chicane by a puncture on lap 51, while Fabien Thuner spun the #55 Attempto McLaren into the gravel at Parabolica after a clout from the Team Russia BMW.
The race settled down as the second hour continued, with the top six all lapping at roughly the same 1:49-1:50 pace and fairly big gaps separating each car. On lap 57, with an hour and quarter remaining, the first full-course yellow (a new procedure in Blancpain this season) was then called to allow the retrieval of some debris off the track from earlier incidents.
Once the circuit went back to green, Meyrick was on the move, chasing down Chiyo for sixth place overall. Ortelli was also making progress, taking eighth in the #2 Audi from Primat. Garry Kondakov then went off at Lesmo 2 in the #50 AF Corse Ferrari, bringing out a local yellow.
The leader and second-place cars then both made their final stops – Siedler handing the #333 Ferrari back to Salikhov and Palmer swapping out of the leading Lambo in favour of Dutchman Jeroen Mul, with Griffin handing back to Cameron shortly after. At the same time, WRT retired the #3 Audi, which hadn’t been a major factor in the race thus far.
Images: Dan Bathie