Fran Rueda and Andrés Saravia took victory in the first International GT Open race of the weekend at Monza, putting the Teo Martin BMW duo equal on points with long-time title leader Mikkel Mac.
Saravia could only find a time good enough for 12th place in qualifying, adding to the impressive nature of the performance from the drivers of the #47 BMW M6 GT3.
As the race got underway, Daniele Di Amato (#11 RS Racing Ferrari) held the lead from pole as they approached the first chicane for the first time. Giovanni Venturini (#63 Imperiale Lamborghini) held second, but in third, Riccardo Agostini (#25 Imperiale Lamborghini) spun coming out of the first part of the first chicane, triggering the usual Monza bottleneck. Agostini spun because the #90 Target Lamborghini of Loris Spinelli tapped the back of Agostini’s Huracan.
Further down the order, the #3 Teo Martin BMW of Lourenço Beirão da Veiga failed to accelerate off the rolling start, and pitted at the end of the first lap. It later re-joined the race, but would ultimately not finish.
It took just eight minutes for the Ascari chicane gravel trap to claim a scalp – it was Oliver Wilkinson in the PRO-AM class Optimum Motorsport Audi, who appeared to come to blows with the #333 Rinaldi Ferrari of Rinat Salikhov before ending up beached, forcing a Safety Car.
Within five minutes the Safety Car released the field, and Di Amato gained a few tenths over Venturini in the first corners of the lap. Then, coming out of the second Lesmo corner, Venturini slowed up significantly, falling to sixth by the time the car fired back into life.
A few moments later, the Safety Car was summoned back to the track, as Alexander West found himself in the gravel in his #71 Luzich Racing Ferrari.
Again, the Safety Car period was brief, though it would not be the last outing for the diligent race official behind the wheel.
On the first flying lap, Venturini again slowed, this time coming out of the first chicane. The 2017 GT Open champion managed to get the car moving again, but only briefly, ultimately pulling into the gravel at Curva Grande, and triggering a third Safety Car.
This third pause ended just as the mandatory pitstop window opened; incidentally, this window would be extended by five minutes from the regular 14 due to the multiple pauses in the action.
In the #47 Teo Martin BMW pit, Fran Rueda and the team were ready to receive eighth-placed Andrés Saravia at the first possible opportunity. This paid off, as Rueda would ultimately be in the lead after the pitstops, after muscling past Andrea Montermini, who had taken the #11 RS Racing Ferrari over.
While Montermini was visually pushing at times, he could not keep close to the BMW around the high-speed Monza layout after Rueda got by, and would have to settle for second behind Rueda. Rik Breukers would finish third in the #25 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini that faced the wrong way after the first corner of the race, ahead of the #12 Ombra Lamborghini of Stefano Gattuso.
The fifth-place finisher was Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Luzich Racing Ferrari – this result put teammate Mikkel Mac on 92 points, the same score as race-winners Rueda and Saravia, while Pier Guidi himself is on 76 points, having missed Paul Ricard due to FIA WEC duty earlier in the season.
Nicklaus Nielsen finished sixth overall in the #52 Luzich Ferrari, scoring PRO-AM victory in the process, while AM honours went to the #7 Teo Martin BMW entry of Guilherme Salas and Márcio Basso.
Photo courtesy of GT Open