Come Ledogar narrowly led the 2016 Blancpain GT Endurance Cup race at Monza as the race hit 50% of its three-hour duration. With 90 minutes and another round of pitstops to go, the Frenchman (above) had less than five seconds of a lead on Jazeman Jafaar in the #84 HTP Mercedes, which was started from pole position by Dominik Baumann.
The start saw more than a few cars take to the escape road at the first chicane, but there were no impacts or spins and the first lap proceeded at pace. Baumann held the lead off the line, but had second-place man Lucas Ordonez in the #23 right behind him all the way around lap one.
As expected, Ferrari gentleman drivers Motoaki (#53 AF Corse, starting from third) and Pisarik (#34 Scuderia Praha, from fourth) lost places at the start. Motoaki was down to 19th by lap four, but Pisarik had a particularly fraught first lap and pulled into the pits, as did both the #41 and #42 CMR Sport Garage Ferraris and the #59 McLaren, started by Alex Fontana.
Rob Bell had started the #58 car, advanced to sixth from 16th on the grid and then got into a ding-dong battle with Fred Vervisch’s #1 WRT Audi. The British car eventually came out on top and Vervich would lose more places as the first stint went on.
Other winners off the grid were Andy Soucek (up to fourth from sixth in the #8 Bentley), who began to reel in third-place man Ordonez and Michel Broniszewski (up to fifth from 12th in the #11 Kessel Ferrari Pro-Am entry).
Up front, Ordonez’s pursuit of Baumann turned into a defence from Daniel Keilwitz, who got the #66 Black Pearl Ferrari (a Pro-Am entry) in front by lap five. He than drove right up to the back of Baumann. Out of Ascari on lap 15, Keilwitz got past Baumann when the latter was baulked by traffic on the run to the Parabolica.
A great battle for third then broke out between Ordonez, Soucek at Bell. A good exit from the first chicane allowed Bell through around the outside of the Curva Grande to take fourth, while he moved into third by mugging Ordonez on the brakes at the end of the start-finish straight. Soucek soon followed him through when the Nissan got stuck behind the lap-down Boutsen Ginion BMW on the way into Parabolica,
Sixth and seventh-place Broniszewski and Ahmad Al-Harthy (Oman Aston Martin) meanwhile held second and third in the Pro-Am rankings, with Vervisch’s Audi getting in amongst them, but Al-Harthy holding his own against the Pro-class competition.
Baumann pitted the HTP Mercedes a lap before Bell came in with the McLaren, while Soucek went a lap longer still in the #8 Bentley. With just under 90 minutes to run, Reip held third in that car behind Ledogar and Jafaar, with Takaboshi fourth in the #23 Nissan, Bonacini fifth overall in the #11 Ferrari and leading Pro-Am from Parrow in the #66 after passing through the Parabolica.
Dries Vanthoor was seventh overall in the #1 WRT Audi, having passed Marlon Stockinger in the #75 Audi (which had run longest of anyone in the first stint with Frank Stippler at the wheel). Antonio Garcia held ninth in the #4 WRT Audi, having himself passed Matteo Beretta, now 10th in the #19 Lamborghini.