26 giugno 2016
Le Castellet, 26 June 2016 - An eventful final hour of the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 Km resulted in two wins and three podium finishes for the Ferrari customer teams with Kessel Racing and AF Corse cars that were always in contention for the win.
The start. Temperatures were still hovering around 30 degrees when the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 Km began at 18 local time. The two Bentleys of Team M-Sport started the race from the second row, but by the end of the opening lap were leading the race after emerging victorious from a four-wide tussle along the Mistral Straight that also involved the #50 Ferrari of Pasin Lathouras, Michele Rugolo and Alessandro Pier Guidi. The British cars then dominated much of the early running until the #7 machine was struck with an ABS problem, leaving the #8 to build a near-45s advantage after four hours. But during one of the Full Course Yellow periods Maxime Soulet did not slow down quickly enough, resulting in a drive-through penalty, which was served by Andy Soucek. The Spaniard emerged with a six-second lead over Pier Guidi whose #50 AF Corse Ferrari had been rapidly closing in. But it all finally went pear-shaped for the leading Bentley during its final pitstop when fuel leaked on to the hot brake discs, triggering a flash fire. The flames were quickly extinguished but a lap was lost and the Bentley dropped to fourth.
Key moves. At the same time as the dramatic events were unfolding at Bentley, the #58 Garage 59 McLaren also stopped for the final time. Since it was taken during a Full Course Yellow period, Shane Van Gisbergen emerged having overturned the team’s deficit to the leading Ferrari. Indeed, Pier Guidi left the AF Corse box two laps later some 27 seconds down on the Kiwi. Despite an inspired charge during the final hour of the race, the Italian never managed to close the gap completely, leaving Van Gisbergen, Ledogar and Bell to score their second victory of the year after also winning at Monza.
Pro-Am Cup. In the Pro-Am Cup Matteo Malucelli in the #34 Scuderia Praha Ferrari was the man of the opening hour. The Italian even managed to briefly put his car between the two leading Bentleys. After the first driver changes his co-driver Jiri Pisarik held on to the class lead, but after contact with the #2 Audi of Belgian Club Team the Scuderia Praha Ferrari was too badly damaged, resulting in a lengthy pitstop. Top spot therefore fell into the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari’s lap, the car of championship leader Michal Broniszewski. The Polish driver had endured a difficult start to the race, but together with his co-drivers Alessandro Bonacini and Andrea Rizzoli kept his cool to record a fourth win in five races in front of the other 488 GT3 of AF Corse driven by Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Davide Rizzo.
Am Cup. The Am Cup looked set to go to the #49 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari, the car with which Stephane Lémeret was making his debut. Together with Alex Moiseev the Belgian ran away from the competition, but with just over two hours left the white Ferrari came to a heartbreaking halt on the Mistral Straight. Its retirement paved the way for a three-way fight between the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari, the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes and the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari. Eventually - and thanks to an inspired drive by Liam Talbot in the final hour of the race - it was the latter that secured the win. The thirds spot on the podium went to the Classic and Modern Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Romain Brandela, Christophe Hamon and Thomas Nicolle.