23 ottobre 2016
Estoril, 23 October 2016 - A second place finish for the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 of Aleksey Basov and Victor Shaytar meant the Russian duo took the Michelin GT3 Le Mans Cup Drivers’ crown.
The start. The race started dry with Edigio Perfetti in the No. 88 Mentos Racing Porsche getting a good start from pole to lead into the first corner. Salih Yoluc in the No. 34 TF Sport Aston Martin moved ahead of Aleksey Basov in the SMP Racing Ferrari on the opening lap. After a few laps Basov made a move on Yoluc to regain third and then took second place from Hamaguchi (FFF Racing McLaren) with a move down the inside of Turn 1, with Yoluc also moving ahead of the Japanese driver by following Basov through the corner. The no72 Ferrari then caught the leading Porsche to challenge for the lead. Perfetti was defending his lead when Basov moved down the inside but ran wide and there was contact, knocking the Porsche off the track.
Tricky conditions. Basov had a 2.8 second lead ahead of Yoluc, with the McLaren in third that had to defend his position from the two Ferraris of Stevie Hiesse (No. 8 458 Italia by Villorba Corse) and Adrien De Leener (No. 14 458 Italia by AF Corse), with Johnny Mowlem’s FF Corse Ferrari 488 also getting in on the action. The leading SMP Racing Ferrari suddenly went off track at Turn 4 skidding across the gravel trap before rejoining in second place behind the Aston Martin. Three laps later Basov was off again and this time he was forced to engage reverse gear and he regained the track in eight place 22.8 seconds behind the leader. Adrien De Leener was now lying in second place when he, Stevie Hiesse and Johnny Mowlem all passed the No. 55 McLaren, with De Leener catching the leading Aston Martin as the pitstops approached.
Pitstops and rain. Yoluc didn’t put up much resistance when De Leener caught the Turk but as the Belgian driver swept into the lead the Aston Martin headed to the pits to hand over to Euan Hankey. This started the rest of the field heading for the mandatory pitstop. After the pitstops Hankey set about establishing his lead in the TF Sport car, setting the fastest lap of the race as he built up a 20 second lead to the FF Corse Ferrari of Ivor Dunbar before the Scot was passed by Victor Shaytar in the SMP Racing Ferrari and Klaus Bachler in the no88 Mentos Racing Porsche. At this point it started to rain and the teams were forced to make a decision whether to stay out on slicks or pit for wet tyres. The leaders decided to stay out and it seemed to be a good call for Hankey as he extended his lead to over 30 seconds and was pulling away from the battling Shaytar and Bachler.
Final laps. As the race entered the final stages the rain began to ease but the battle between the SMP Racing Ferrari and the Mentos Racing Porsche continued to rage. The battling between the Russian and Austrian drivers allowed the No. 7 Ferrari 458 Italia by BMS Scuderia Italia of Matteo Cressoni to catch up. Bachler was forced to switch from offensive to defensive modes to protact his hard won podium position. This battle raged all the way to the chequered flag, with Bachler taking the place by just 0.4 seconds at the end of 2 hours of racing. At the chequered flag it was the TF Sport Aston Martin of Euan Hankey who secured the second victory of the season for the British team and the GT3 Le Mans Cup Teams’ title. Hankey finished 43 seconds ahead of the SMP Racing Ferrari of Victor Shaytar, whose second place was able to secure the 2016 Drivers’ title for himself and Aleksey Basov.