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Frommenwiler & Costa Win Final Race In Barcelona

It was a victory in the last International GT Open race of the year for Philipp Frommenwiler and Albert Costa in the #54 Emil Frey Lexus RC-F GT3, while Giovanni Venturini secured the championship in the #63 Imperiale Lamborghini.

Pole-sitter António Félix da Costa (#51 Teo Martin BMW) maintained the lead as the race began, and would do so for the entirety of his stint. However, Fran Rueda did not have the best start in the #65 Teo Martin BMW, and soon dropped to fourth as Frommenwiler and Mario Farnbacher (#55 Farnbacher Lexus) both passed him in the first three turns. Venturini was sixth, behind Andrea Caldarelli in the #5 SF Racing Ferrari.

Further back in the field, Johnny Mowlem was sent into the inside barriers on the exit of turn five, after coming together with Nonô Figueiredo in the #12 Sports & You Mercedes. Mowlem’s #25 FF Corse Ferrari was too damaged to continue, and while racing continued initially, the Safety Car was deployed on lap three, five minutes into the race.

After three laps behind the Safety Car, with 14 minutes of the race completed, the green flags waved once more.

Rueda dropped away from the top three initially, but Mario Farnbacher was soon within reach. At turn five, Rueda lunged up the inside of Farnbacher, and made the move stick despite running wide. However, the inside line was left open for Andrea Caldarelli, who moved up to third at the expense of both Farnbacher and Rueda on the approach to the next corner.

Meanwhile, Giovanni Venturini was still sixth, and coming under pressure from Mikkel Mac in the #488 Spirit of Race Ferrari.

With 24 minutes completed, the 12 minute pit window opened. Fran Rueda made his stop at the first opportunity to hand the #65 Teo Martin BMW to Victor Bouveng.

On the next lap, Venturini was in to hand the #63 Imperiale Lamborghini over to Marco Mapelli. Following their victory in the previous day’s race, their minimum pitstop time was 90 seconds, some 20 more than the base time. Mapelli returned to the track in 14th.

António Félix da Costa was among the last to pit, handing over the #51 Teo Martin BMW to Lourenço Beirão da Veiga. As da Veiga exited the pits, Albert Costa (#54 Emil Frey Lexus) charged down the main straight, finding himself on the outside of the BMW into turn one. The pair remained side by side until the approach to turn five, where da Veiga managed to close the door. As the top two battled, Victor Bouveng looked to be chasing them down, but he would soon begin to lose pace.

Further back, Marco Mapelli was making his way through the order following his extended pitstop. Over the course of his stint, he dispatched seven cars including newly-crowned PRO-AM co-champion Rob Bell in the #22 Balfe McLaren. This ultimately left Mapelli in seventh as he took the chequered flag, which was enough for Giovanni Venturini to take the overall championship regardless of Victor Bouveng’s result.

To add insult to injury, title contender Bouveng fell away from the top two and into the sights of Christian Engelhart (#23 Imperiale Lamborghini) during the closing stages of the race. On the penultimate lap, Engelhart clipped the rear right quarter panel of Bouveng’s M6 GT3 at the final turn, sending the BMW into the gravel. Bouveng regained control and continued, but ultimately finished sixth.

Out front, with seven minutes to go, Albert Costa made his way past da Veiga under braking at the final chicane to take the lead. Costa would not look back, and took the victory to make amends for a disappointing retirement on Saturday for the Emil Frey Lexus. Da Veiga held onto second, while Christian Engelhart rounded out the podium. Dominik Farnbacher (#54 Farnbacher Lexus) finished fourth, and Raffaele Gianmaria (#1 Imperiale Lamborghini) rounded out the top five.

In PRO-AM, the #96 Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS of Bradley Ellis and Oliver Wilkinson took victory ahead of the #10 Jordan Racing Bentley of Jordan Witt and Michael Meadows. Rob Bell rounded out the podium in the #22 Balfe McLaren.

Marcio Basso steered the #12 Sports & You Mercedes to AM honours, ahead of 2017 AM class champions António Coimbra and Luis Silva in the sister #99 entry.

Newly-crowned champion Giovanni Venturini finished the season on 116 points. Rueda and Bouveng took an equal second on 105, while the final race’s victors Albert Costa and Philipp Frommenwiler took third in the championship on 98 points apiece.

Venturini’s early-season teammate Thomas Biagi took fourth on countback, sharing the tally of 90 points with Mikkel Mac and Miguel Ramos (#488 Spirit of Race Ferrari), who retired from the final race of the season late on, and lost two championship places as a result.

The winter break will now begin for the International GT Open, though several of the teams are expected to take part in the new GT Open 1000 event at Valencia on December 2nd.

(Photo: GT Open)

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