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International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard

4th - 6th May 2018

Event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello

The 2018 International GT Open is ready for an exciting second round of the 2018 season and for its traditional Spring rendez-vous at Le Castellet.

International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 001International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 002

Free practice sessions

23 cars took the track this friday, with the only absence of the Optimum Audi, due to a binding commitment of one of the drivers.

Sunny and even warm weather marked the morning for frist session.

Thomas Jäger / Mario Plachutta (Lechner Racing #72 - Mercedes AMG GT3) posting the best time in 2.02.879 ahead of Mikkel Mac / Marco Cioci (Luzich Racing #51 - Ferrari 488 GT3), 257 thousandths behind.

While strong showers marred the afternoon session.

On wet track but before the storm intensified, the best time was set by Allam Hellmeister / Marcelo Hahn (Drivex School #16 - Mercedes AMG GT3) in 2.05.979 ahead of Miro Konôpka / Konstantïn Calko (ARC Bratislava #9 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3).

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Qualifying Driver 1

Saturday May 5th morning, Michele Rugolo (Luzich Racing #71 - Ferrari 488 GT3) took the pole with a best lap time of 2.01.897.

Domenico Fioravanti (Ombra Racing #12 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3) beaten by only 35 thousandths shared first row.

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Race 1

At the start, with few drops of rain falling, Michele Rugolo keeps the advantage of the pole but there is confusion at first corner, with contacts and Rik Breukers (Imperial Racing #25 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3) spinning, touched by Andrea Montermini (RS Racing #11 - Ferrari 488 GT3).

Soon after, an aggressive Fran Rueda (RACE/BMW Team Teo Martin #47 - BMW M6 GT3) took the lead. The BMW is first at first lap. In lap 3, David Perel (Rinaldi Racing #333 - Ferrari 488 GT3) passes Montermini for fifth.

In the lead, Fran Rueda has pulled away and now leads with 2.2 seconds over the group.

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Marcelo Hahn and Lourenço Beirão da Veiga (RACE/BMW Team Teo Martín #3 - BMW M6 GT3) got in contact in lap 5; they were in a lively group with Fabrizio Crestani (Daiko Lazarus Racing #27 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3), Raffaele Giammaria (Imperiale Racing #19 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3), Stefano Costantini (Target Racing #90 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3) and Nicolas Costa (Vincenzo Sospiri Racing #6 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3), fighting for P7; one lap later, Andrea Montermini stops in the pits.

In the meantime, Marco Cioci has passed Michele Rugolo for second, and David Perel steals 4th from Damiano Fioravanti. Fabrizio Crestani, Raffaele Giammaria and Lourenço Beirão da Veiga extract themselves from the fighting group to take 7th, 8th and 9th, while Marcelo Hahn holds 10th for a while before running wide and having to let Stefano Costantini and Rik Breukers past, and a contact with Nicolas Costa, who also passes him.

In the lead, Marco Cioci is closing on Fran Rueda and catches him by lap 13, right before the window for driver change opens, with the first two diving immediately into the pits, leaving the provisional lead to an inspired David Perel, who has passed Michele Rugolo as well.

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After all changes, in lap 20, Andrés Saravia (RACE/BMW Team Teo Martin #47 - BMW M6 GT3) leads with 12 seconds over Alexander West (Luzich Racing #71 - Ferrari 488 GT3) and 15 on Fernando Rees (Ombra Racing #12 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3), followed further away by Mikkel Mac, Juan Cruz Álvarez (RACE/BMW Team Teo Martín #3 - BMW M6 GT3),Giovanni Venturini (Imperiale Racing #63 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3), Vadim Kogay (Rinaldi Racing #333 - Ferrari 488 GT3), Tom Onslow-Cole (SPS Automotive Performance #20 - Mercedes AMG GT3), Jiatong Liang (Imperiale Racing #19 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3) and Miguel Ramos (Daiko Lazarus Racing #27 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3).

Attention though is all for the furious battle between four Huracans (Kang Ling, Jiatong Liang, Riccardo Agostini and Alberto Di Folco) for 9th. The Mercedes of Allam Hellmeister and Thomas Jäger are also involved in a nice family battle for P12.

In the top positions, Andrés Saravia has a comfortable margin (18”) over Fernando Rees now 2nd, with Mikkel Mac 3rd and Alexander West 4th, chased by Juan Cruz Álvarez. In lap 27, with less than 15 minutes of race left, the rain starts to fall, while Giovanni Venturini stops on track with a fuel pressure issue.

By then, the rain has become stronger, prompting the intervention of the safety-car until the end of the race.

International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 031International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 032International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 033International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 034International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 035International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 036International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 037International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 038

Qualifying Driver 2

Thomas Jäger stunned everybody this sunday morning in Qualifying 2 by taking a superb pole in the closing minutes of the session, which took place on a dry track.

The German driver posted a time of 2.01.042, beating by a mere 20 thousandths Mikkel Mac, who led most of the session.

International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 039International Open GT - second Round - Paul Ricard (event report and photos by Raymond Bonnello) - picture number 040

Race 2

Thomas Jäger keeps the advantage of the pole at the start, and the battle is all for second between Andrés Saravia and Mikkel Mac, with the Guatemalan winning the duel.

Fourth is Daniele Di Amato (RS Racing #11 - Ferrari 488 GT3), ahead of Juan Cruz Álvarez, Giovanni Venturini, Allam Hellmeiste, Tom Onslow-Cole and Toby Sowery (Daiko Lazarus Racing #28 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3).

Alexander West pits to change a tire, after a contact with Vadim Kogay, who also go back to the pits shortly after, while Ling cuts a chicane in lap 2.

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In lap 3, it’s both Giovanni Venturini and Riccardo Agostini having to pit to change a rear tire each. Konstantïn Calko is leading in Am in the initial laps.

By lap 10, the advantage of Thomas Jäger is 2.8 seconds but with the first seven within 8 seconds, things remain pretty open: Andrés Saravia is second followed by Mikkel Mac, Daniele Di Amato, Juan Cruz Álvarez, Tom Onslow-Cole and Allam Hellmeister.

Andrés Saravia is the first from the top group to stop when the driver change window opens, in lap 12.

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After all changes, Mario Plachutta (Lechner Racing #72 - Mercedes AMG GT3) leads with 3 seconds over Lourenço Beirão da Veiga and 5 over Andrea Montermini.

Follow Frau Rueda, Marcelo Hahn, Damiano Fioravanti, Giuseppe Cipriani (Daiko Lazarus Racing #28 - Lamborghini Huracan GT3) and Marco Cioci.

In lap 21, Lourenço Beirão da Veiga and Andrea Montermini pass Mario Plachutta and start battling for P1, with Frau Rueda soon third and charging back.

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In lap 23 Mario Plachutta goes off-track and retires, as did Valentin Pierburg (SPS Automotive #20 - Mercedes AMG GT3) a little bit earlier, for technical reasons.

The last minutes of the race are thrilling, with Andrea Montermini taking the lead as Lourenço Beirão da Veigaopens slightly the door in one of the fast corners.

The veteran Italian keeps up the pressure of the two BMWs, with Frau Rueda not attacking his team mate and staying in third, and nets what is his 20th success in the GT Open. Damiano Fioravanti takes fourth ahead of Mikkel Mac and Marcelo Hahn, who wins in Pro-Am despite a 5-second penalty for cutting the pits exit lane.

Miro Konôpka, on his side, holds perfectly to take victory in Am.

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Next round at The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

(Based on International Open GT Press release)

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