The 2020 GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup ended with victory in both the 1000km of Paul Ricard and the championship for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3. Driven all season by Alessandro Pier Guidi and supported in the final round by Tom Blomqvist and Côme Ledogar, the Italian squad took the win with a late strategic move to launch itself to the top of the team and drivers’ championship. Mathieu Jaminet, Patrick Pilet and Matt Campbell led the majority of the race in the #12 GPX Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R, but had to settle for second. Now former champions Andrea Caldarelli, Marco Mapelli and Dennis Lind claimed the last podium spot in the #63 Orange1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
The top ten on the grid was turned upside down right after the lights went green. Tom Blomqvist in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari snatched the lead from AF Corse teammate Toni Vilander in the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3. Behind them, fourth-placed Christopher Mies in the title contending #32 WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 was pushed into a spin, dropping him to 17th. In the chaos behind that spin, Giacomo Altoè in the #163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 catapulted himself up to third, followed closely by Kim-Luis Schramm in the #66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 who started 13th (!). Later, Schramm was penalised for having jumped the start.
In the opening phase of the race, Altoè put the pressure on Vilander. It took the Italian 15 minutes to make his move, surprising Vilander into the last corner. Another 15 minutes later he was even given the lead when Blomqvist missed his braking point and went wide, allowing the Lamborghini through. Schramm, who also got passed Vilander, held the momentum and immediately took second.
A new battle for the lead emerged in the second hour between Giacomo Altoè, Mattia Drudi – having taken over the Attempto Audi from Schram – and #12 GPX Porsche’s Matt Campbell. Running up to the #74 RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, Drudi took the opportunity to take the lead from Altoè. The Lamborghini pilot also had to give up second a couple of turns later as he chose the wrong side to lap the backmarker, where Campbell took the inside.
In the 45 minutes of the second hour that remained, attention went out to Mies in the #32 WRT Audi. The German worked himself up after his first-turn spin back to fifth and then to second within half an hour. Having gotten by the #63 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Dennis Lind, he closed the gap to Altoè, his next victim. Third place was thrown in his lap as the drive-through for the leading #66 Attempto Audi was confirmed. Right after, Mies got passed Altoè to take second.
Edging towards the half-way mark, Campbell began stretching his legs while behind him Charles Weerts had taken over the WRT Audi from Mies and Andrea Caldarelli took the wheel of the #63 FFF Lambo with the latter grabbing third with an overtake around the outside of Weerts into the first turn.
Meanwhile, #51 AF Corse Ferrari guest driver and 2016 champion Côme Ledogar regained the ground lost in the first two hours and worked himself back up the order to third with quick and decisive overtakes. Caldarelli was able to resist the Frenchman longer and managed to stay ahead of the Ferrari until the next round of stops.
Despite the track being declared wet in the third hour and a slight drizzle making for somewhat slippery conditions, the race was not all too affected by the damp surface.
Patrick Pilet handed the #12 GPX Porsche over to Mathieu Jaminet for the remaining two hours. Behind the leader, a late and fast stop of the AF Corse crew got Alessandro Pier Guidi, who was now in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, out ahead of Dennis Lind who was back in the #63 FFF Lamborghini. Ten seconds down the road, Maro Engel in the #4 Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 was put under pressure by Dries Vanthoor in the #32 WRT Audi. A ten-second penalty had dropped the #31 WRT Audi of Mirko Bortolotti back to sixth.
After 20 minutes, a couple of tries and going door-to-door later, Vanthoor finally found a way past the AMG of Engel. The battle, however, had cost the duo another ten seconds to Dennis Lind.
With 75 minutes to go, and just ahead of the last round of stops, Jaminet was still in the lead, ten seconds in front of the Ferrari of Pier Guidi and the Lamborghini of Dennis Lind. Vanthoor, Engel and Bortolotti were running almost 20 seconds behind Lind.
Right before the final round of stops, with some 50 minutes still on the clock, Dennis Lind turned up the pace again and surprised Alessandro Pier Guidi in the last corner. Pier Guidi then waited to make his final stop, pushing it back until only 40 minutes were left. Opting to change only the left-hand side tyres to shave off over eight seconds, AF Corse managed to come out just ahead of former leader GPX Racing. Caldarelli in the #63 FFF Lambo now faced an eight-second gap towards the leaders. Fifteen seconds back, Vanthoor was driving in no-man’s land as he himself also had a fifteen-second advantage to Bortolotti. The final stops had helped Bortolotti in the #31 WRT Audi past the #4 HRT Mercedes-AMG and into fifth place.
Attention in the last half hour of the race had to be divided between the overall battle for the lead between the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 of Alessandro Pier Guidi and the #12 GPX Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R of Mathieu Jaminet, and the fight in the Pro-Am class between Leo Machitski in the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 and the #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 with Marvin Kirchhöfer behind the wheel. The latter was decided some 23 minutes before the flag when Kirchhöfer got a better run onto Mistral Straight and overtook the Lamborghini. He then set about to make himself a comfortable gap to Machitski for the race and championship win for Garage 59.
The duel between Pier Guidi and Jaminet was regularly broken up by backmarkers and never really ignited. In the last 20 minutes, the gap was about two seconds and seemed easily controlled by the candidate champion. The Italian took the chequered flag ahead of Mathieu Jaminet and thereby also crowned himself the lone 2020 Endurance Cup champion. Caldarelli finished third, 9.5 seconds behind the winner. Vanthoor and Bortolotti secured fourth and fifth for WRT, ahead of Maro Engel who took sixth for Haupt Racing Team, Sergey Sirotkin in the SMP Racing Ferrari and Albert Costa (Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini), Mattia Drudi (Attempto Racing Audi) and Matteo Cairoli (Dinamic Motorsport Porsche).
Both the Silver Cup and the Pro-Am class were won by British teams – like AF Corse winning both the race and the championship. Patrick Kujala, Alex MacDowall and Frederik Schandorff finished first in the Silver Cup aboard the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 while Alex West, Marvin Kirchhöfer and Chris Goodwin in the #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 outmatched the competition in Pro-Am. Lacking competition in the final race, Stéphane Tribaudini went home with the race win and Am Cup title in the #108 CMR Bentley Continental GT3 shared with Philippe Chatelet and Nicolas Misslin.
Despite going into the final round leading the Endurance Cup standings, #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 pilots Raffaele Marciello and Timur Boguslavskiy – racing in Paul Ricard alongside Felipe Fraga’s substitute Maximilian Buhk – were unable to retain first place, finishing the race in 18th having never been a factor in the on-track title fight all day. 20-year-old Timur Boguslavskiy, however, did claim victory in the overall GT World Challenge Europe championship title.
1. #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 (Alessandro Pier Guidi/Tom Blomqvist/Côme Ledogar)
2. #12 GPX Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Matt Campbell/Patrick Pilet/Mathieu Jaminet)
3. #62 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (Andrea Caldarelli/Dennis Lind/Marco Mapelli)
4. #32 WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Dries Vanthoor/Christopher Mies/Charles Weerts)
5. #31 WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Kelvin van der Linde/Mirko Bortolotti/Rolf Ineichen)
6. #4 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Maro Engel/Luca Stolz/Vincent Abril)
7. #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 (Toni Vilander/Antonio Fuoco/Sergey Sirotkin)
8. #163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (Giacomo Altoè/Mikkel Mac/Albert Costa)
9. #66 Audi Sport Team Attempto Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Mattia Drudi/Kim-Luis Schramm/Fred Vervisch)
10. #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Sven Müller/Christian Engelhart/Matteo Cairoli)
Race report by Rick Kiewiet.
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