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Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km

24th - 25th June 2016

Event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire

The Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km was the fifth round of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series marking the halfway point of the championship.

Even though plenty of drivers and teams used the six-hour race in the south of France as a dress rehearsal for the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the points on offer make the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km an appointment not to be missed.

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 001Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 002Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 003Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 004

The race

Temperatures were still hovering around 30 degrees when the Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km began at 18:00 local time.

The two Continentals of Bentley 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.

The first round was fatal to the Ferrari 458 Italia #333 (Ehret/Salikhov - Rinaldi Racing) and the Audi R8 LMS #4 (De Leener/Kox/Kaffer - Belgian Audi Club Team WRT).

The British cars then dominated much of the early running until the Bentley #7 (Smith/Abril/Kane - Bentley Team M-Sport) machine was struck with an ABS problem, leaving the Bentley #8 (Soucek/Reip/Soulet - Bentley Team M-Sport) to build a near-45s advantage after four hours.

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 005Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 006Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 007Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 008Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 009Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 010Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 011Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 012

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 Ferrari 488 #50 (Lathouras/Rugolo/Pier Guidi - AF Corse) 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.

Flames that have not spared the Porsche 911 GT3 R #77 (Mateu/Häring/Armindo - Attempto Racing) early in the race.

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 013Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 014Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 015Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 016Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 017Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 018Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 019Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 020Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 021Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 022Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 023Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 024

At the same time as the dramatic events were unfolding at Bentley, the McLaren 650 S #58 (Bell/Ledogar/Van Gisbergen - Garage 59) 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.

Thus the McLaren trio now lead the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, while Bell also returns to the top of the overall Blancpain GT Series driver standings. That was helped by Maxi Buhk and Dominik Baumann (Mercedes-AMG GT3 #84-HTP Motorsport) - leaders at the start of the meeting - retiring with transmission problems.

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 025Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 026Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 027Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 028Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 029Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 030Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 031Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 032Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 033Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 034Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 035Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 036

Behind the McLaren #58 and the Ferrari #50 was the Audi R8 LMS #3 (Baptista/Magnussen/Albuquerque - Belgian Audi Club Team WRT), which crossed the line in third, had qualified in a lowly 20th position, but faultless driving and some great strategic decisions pushed the best of the Audis into podium contention.

With the unlucky Bentley and the Nissan GT-R Nismo #23 (Ordonez/Takaboshi/Buncombe - Nissan GT Academy Team RJN) not far behind, the same number of manufacturers filled the top-five positions at the finish.

The first Lamborghini Huracan (#101 Babini/Niederhauser/Zampieri - Attempto Racing) close the top ten.

The Black Falcon up his Mercedes-AMG #56 (Morley/Toril/Engel) in 17th position while the first BMW F13 M6 (#12 Ojjeh/Darras/Grotz - Boutsen Ginion Racing) was only 20th, the top performing Porsche 911 GT3 R (#76 Narac/Cornac/Jousse - IMSA Performance) finished in 23rd place, with 123 laps the Emil Frey Jaguar G3 (Frey/Ortelli/Costa - Emil Frey Racing) will rank 42th.

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 037Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 038Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 039Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 040Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 041Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 042Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 043Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 044Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 045Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 046Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 047Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 048

Pro-Am Cup

In the Pro-Am Cup Matteo Malucelli in the Ferrari 488 #34 (Kox/Pisarik/Malucelli - Scuderia Praha) 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 Audi R8 LMS #2 (Leonard/Meadows/Frijns - Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) the Scuderia Praha Ferrari was too badly damaged, resulting in a lengthy pitstop. Top spot therefore fell into the Ferrari 488 #11 (Broniszewski/Bonacini/Rizzoli - Kessel Racing), 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.

The unique Aston Martin Vantage #44 (Modell/Al Harthy/Adam - Oman Racing Team), present in this category, finished 13th Pro-Am (35th overall).

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 049Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 050Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 051Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 052Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 053Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 054Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 055Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 056Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 057Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 058Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 059Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 060

Am Cup

The Am Cup looked set to go to the Ferrari 458 Italia #49 (Moiseev/Lemeret - Kaspersky Motorsport) 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 Ferrari 458 Italia #111 (Delhez/Earle/Perel - Kessel Racing), the Mercedes-AMG #87 (Ricci/Beaubelique/Vannelet - AKKA ASP) and the Ferrari 458 Italia #888 (Zanuttini/Gitlin/Talbot - Kessel Racing). 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.

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 061Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 062Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 063Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 064Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 065Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 066Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 067Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 068Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 069Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 070Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 071Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 072

Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 073Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 074Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 075Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 076Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 077Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 078Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 079Blancpain GT Series 2016 - Round 5 - Circuit Paul Ricard 1000 km (event report by Raymond Bonnello / photos R. Bonnello/F. Lemaire) - picture number 080

(Based on Blancpain GT Series press release)

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