Andrea Rizzoli and Damiano Fioravanti took the first GT Open victory of the year for the #12 Ombra Racing Lamborghini, while Mikkel Mac’s championship hopes have been heightened thanks to a great second stint from teammate Alessandro Pier Guidi at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
As the race began, pole-sitter Tom Onslow-Cole (#20 SPS Automotive Mercedes) lead the way with fellow front row starter Fabrizio Crestani holding second in the #27 Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini. Mac’s title rival Andrés Saravia (#47 Teo Martin BMW) had to cross the runoff at the first turns as everyone battled for space.
Over the course of the first stint, Saravia would struggle to make up positions from his 16th place starting position, and with 25 seconds of additional pitstop handicap awaiting he and teammate Fran Rueda at the pit window, the duo would be as low down the order as 22nd in the second phase of the race.
With eight minutes of the race in the books, Marco Cioci (#52 Luzich Racing Ferrari) and Jeroen Mul (#63 Imperiale Lamborghini) were in amongst a great battle in the low-teen positions. Cioci lost out in the exchange, and was then engaged in close-quarters racing for 14th by both Andrea Montermini (#11 RS Ferrari) and Saravia.
After some jostling with Montermini, Cioci gesticulated wildly at his fellow countryman through the ventilation hole of his car’s window, despite retaining his position. No action was taken on any element of the battle by the stewards.
Meanwhile, with a dozen minutes of racing complete, Tom Onslow-Cole was already 6.5 seconds clear of Crestani in second, with Fioravanti, Rik Breukers (#25 Imperiale Lamborghini) and Mac (#51 Luzich Racing Ferrari) following behind.
For Onslow-Cole, however, his stellar performance would ultimately be rendered null and void, as a safety car would be deployed with 17 minutes of racing completed.
The cause of the pause was Charles Finelli in the gravel at turn six, having spun the #111 Porteiro Motorsport entry.
Under the controlled conditions, Adrian Zaugg’s #90 Target Racing Lamborghini lets go in spectacular fashion, with the engine catching alight, forcing the ex-A1GP racer to abandon the car on the exit of Turn 3. This would extend the safety car period to the start of the pit window, with green flags waving as the first pitstops were made.
Among those in at the first opportunity was Andrés Saravia. Mac pitted on the next lap, and teammate Alessandro Pier Guidi would ultimately come through from the pitstop shuffle in 12th, with Saravia’s teammate Rueda in 22nd.
After the pit window, Valentin Pierburg led in the #20 SPS Automotive Mercedes he had taken over from Onslow-Cole, with Riccardo Agostini (#25 Imperiale Lamborghini) and Andrea Rizzoli (#12 Ombra Lamborghini) directly behind.
Agostini would soon take the lead from Pierburg at Turn 4, thanks in part to the Mercedes driver exploring the limits of the run-off at the prior corner. Rizzoli would also pass later in the lap, however, the Ombra Racing car was also technically in the lead, due to a five second penalty given to the #25 Imperiale Lamborghini, due to Rik Breukers being out of formation when the race began.
With 22 minutes to go Pier Guidi was up to ninth, and thus in position to score two points.
The Italian was catching a gaggle led by Marcelo Hahn in the #16 Drivex Mercedes. Di Amato spun out of the pack behind Rinat Salikhov (#333 Rinaldi Ferrari) at Turn 11, moving Pier Guidi up to eighth. Pier Guidi then quickly dispatched Miguel Ramos in the #27 Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini and Marcelo Hahn, moving up to sixth.
Out front, Agostini was pushing to break away from Rizzoli, having built a gap of almost five seconds.
However, with 11 minutes to go, both Giuseppe Cipriani (#28 Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini) and Marcin Jedlinski (#77 Olimp Audi) became stranded in separate incidents, with the latter beached in the gravel at turn three. This would ultimately force out the safety car for the second time.
The safety car came in just in time to initiate what would be a two-lap sprint to the flag, though guest driver Lucas Auer could not partake; the bonnet on his #36 Drivex Mercedes let go, covering his windscreen and forcing the DTM ace to slow down.
While the on-track order would remain largely the same, Mikkel Jensen (#17 Senkyr BMW) would pick the scalp of Pier Guidi at La Caixa on the last lap, moving the car of championship leader Mikkel Mac down to fifth in the final standings.
Once the five second penalty was applied to Riccardo Agostini, Andrea Rizzoli would be declared the winner in the #12 Ombra Lamborghini, just ahead of 2017 GT Open champion Giovanni Venturini in the #63 Imperiale Lamborghini.
Pro-Am victor Valentin Pieburg would finish third in the #20 SPS Mercedes, ahead of the re-classified Agostini and Jensen.
AM honours would go to the #91 Target Racing Lamborghini of Stefano Costantini and Christoph Lenz.
With Pier Guidi finishing sixth, and Rueda classifying 12th and out of the points, Mikkel Mac now has 112 points to his name, eight clear of Rueda and Saravia on 104. Alessandro Pier Guidi is third on the table with 96 points; as a reminder, the Italian missed a round earlier in the year due to a WEC clash.
There are 15 points on offer in tomorrow’s decider.
The Pro-Am battle has tightened up too, thanks to the victory for Pierburg and Onslow-Cole. The SPS Mercedes pairing will have a six point buffer to reset in order to take the championship from Daiko Lazarus pairing Fabrizio Crestani and Miguel Ramos.
The absence of Miro Konôpka and his ARC Bratislava outfit has guaranteed this year’s Am title to Giulio Borlenghi and Andrzej Lewandowski (#66 Sospiri Racing Lamborghini).
Qualifying for tomorrow’s decider will begin at 10:20 local time, with the race itself beginning at 14:15.
Image courtesy of GT Open