After a great qualifying performance from Craig Dolby, it was the #39 Wessex Vehicles Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX of he and team debutant Seb Morris that took victory in the first International GT Open race of the weekend at Monza.
Dolby started out strong, out-dragging Rob Bell (#22 Balfe McLaren) on the run to the first turn. As is common at Monza, there was some drama at the Variante del Rettifilio chicane, with several cars coming into contact and short-cutting. This included Dolby, who received a tag from Duncan Tappy’s #24 Garage 59 McLaren. This prompted the former to cut across the grass without gaining an advantage, but maintaining the lead.
Tappy may have sustained damage in the incident, as he fell out of the top ten during his stint.
Dolby kept the lead for the majority of his stint, utilising the straight-line speed of the Reiter-developed Lamborghini to fend off the advances of Victor Bouveng (#65 Teo Martin BMW) early on. Bouveng eventually lost touch with Dolby, and yielded to Marco Mapelli in the #63 Imperale Lamborghini Huracan with ten minutes of the race complete.
Mapelli closed in on Dobly as the mandatory pit window loomed near, and eventually outbraked the Brit at the first chicane, just seconds before the window opened at the 28 minute mark. Behind them, Bouveng held off Bell despite a strong challenge from the McLaren driver. Bouveng pitted at the earliest possible opportunity, handing over the #65 to Fran Rueda.
On the next lap, Dolby made his stop, handing over to series debutant Seb Morris.
With the Wessex Vehicles entry out of the way, Mapelli put in some extremely fast laps to compensate for the 85 second pitstop allocated to his car. The Lamborghini factory driver pitted in at seconds before the pit window closed, handing over to championship leader Giovanni Venturini.
Unfortunately for the Italian pairing, both Shaun Balfe (#22 Balfe McLaren) and Seb Morris were ahead of the Huracan once Venturini exited the pits. Balfe, who briefly held the lead, had a 75 second stop to serve; Morris had no success penalty added to his stop, and thus only had to be in the pits for 70 seconds.
Balfe briefly led the way following the pitstops, but before the end of his outlap, Morris passed him at Parbolica for the lead. Balfe would also lose out to Venturini, but held on to third overall and the Pro/Am victory.
Venturini consistently closed in on Morris throughout his stint, shrinking a gap of over eight seconds to less than two. However, it wouldn’t be enough to overhaul the Gallardo, which took the chequered flag for a second time with Wessex Vehicles in GT Open, after their victory at Silverstone last year.
Balfe finished third, ahead of Fran Rueda in the #65 Teo Martin BMW. The top five was rounded out by Mikkel Mac in the #488 Spirit of Race Ferrari.
Second in Pro/Am and sixth overall went to Côme Ledogar in the #88 Garage 59 McLaren, who took over the 650S GT3 following a strong stint from Alexander West. Valentin Pierburg (#20 SPS Mercedes) finished third in class and 11th overall.
Luis Silva crossed the line 17th to take the AM win in the #99 Sports & You Mercedes.
While victory went to Dolby and Morris, Giovanni Venturini could prove to be the real profiteer from today’s race. With 45 points left to score in the season, Venturini (90 points) now has a 12 point advantage over Fran Rueda and Victor Bouveng (#65 Teo Martin BMW) in the race for the title.
Photo courtesy of GT Open