Following an exciting Endurance season opener at Enna-Pergusa, the Italian GT Endurance Championship visited the Tuscan track of Mugello for an excited dry-wet-dry three-hour race.
While the two Audi Sport Italia R8s of Karol Basz and Lorenzo Ferrari were busy battling with each other, Stuart Middleton swept his #63 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo around the outside of the first corner and into the lead. With Basz on his tail, Middleton led the opening lap while the young Ferrari lost a position to Matteo Greco – driving the #3 Easy Race Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo – only to retake third place on the second lap.
Lorenzo Ferrari’s stint in third place would be short lived: having already lost third place to the #25 RS Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo of Daniele Di Amato, the Audi spun off into the gravel at the highspeed downhill Savelli turn under pressure from Greco after only twelve laps, retiring the car.
The same fate befell the #33 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo of David Fumanelli – although Fumanelli’s retirement came after a get-together in the final corner with the #7 Ceccato Motor BMW M6 GT3 of Stefano Comandini which cost the BMW squad a lengthy repair. Comandini seemed to be struggling with the car for a while, prompting Fumanelli to place an attack halfway into the first hour. Missing the apex, the Ferrari smacked into the side of the BMW and as it came across its bow, Fumanelli got turned around and sent off into the gravel.
Meanwhile, Di Amato had bridged the gap to Basz and began to pressure the Pole for second. A safety car to recover the beached Fumanelli put a temporary halt to his attempts.
Middleton led the field back to green with Basz, Di Amato, Greco and David Perel – aboard the international #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo – following. The latter two would fall off the lead group while fighting for fourth, a battle won by Perel with a slipstream pass on the long uphill start-finish straight.
While that happened, Middleton had to fight off Basz who attempted an overtake for the lead into San Donato. The failed attempt opened the door for Di Amato, who immediately put his Ferrari next to the Audi on the next left-hand Luco turn, slotting in between Middleton and Basz.
Free of the grey-yellow Audi ahead of him, Di Amato went straight to work on Middleton, putting the Brit under pressure by getting closer and going side by side into Biondetti before yielding to the Lambo driver.
Recognizing Middleton was not only fighting Di Amato but the car as well, the Imperiale Racing team immediately called their pilot in for the first pitstop of the race 8 minutes to the end of hour one.
As Di Amato took off into the lead, Perel had reached the back of Basz’ Audi and began looking for a way past but had to wait until the 29-year-old veered off into the pits.
After the pitstop for the #63 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo, Andrea Amici had to fend off the #3 Easy Race Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo now driven by Fabrizio Crestani.
The reshuffled field saw the #25 RS Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo emerge in the lead – a job well done by Di Amato who stretched his stint to give Am co-pilot Alessandro Vezzoni a healthy margin as he joined the race. Vezzoni, however, could stay ahead of Filip Salaquarda – in the #14 Audi Sport Italia R8 LMS GT3 and five seconds ahead of the fighting three of Andrea Amici, Fabrizio Crestani and Simon Mann (#21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo) – for a couple of laps, letting the highly skilled Czech racer pass him without opposition.
Rain hit the Mugello Circuit mid-race and caused confusion amongst teams which tyres to choose. While some opted for wet-weather tyres, most continued on slicks.
Crestani quickly found his way past Amici and within a few laps had closed the gap to Salaquarda as well. A short but fierce fight for the lead brought Crestani the lead for a few corners until he ran wide through the gravel while trying to lap Erwin Zanotti – the #77 Nova Race Honda NSX GT3 Evo driver being almost a lap down but pacing as fast as the leaders. The increasing rain, eventually, did cost Crestani second place when he made a second trip through the gravel, dropping back to fourth behind the #27 Scuderia Baldini Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo of Daniel Zampieri and Di Amici. Correcting his mistakes, Crestani managed to get back into the lead with relative ease a couple of laps later.
Daniel Zampieri, too, was making headway in the rain. A pitlane accident had prevented the #27 Scuderia Baldini Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo from setting an official time in qualifying, forcing the Ferrari purists to start from the very end of the grid. Undeterred by his starting position, Stefano Gai was up into seventh place before handing over to Zampieri. When the first rain shower eased up, the #27 Ferrari was in second position.
The closing stages of hour two saw Andrea Amici dive down the inside of Filip Salaquarda to take over third place after the two were seen battling closely around the Tuscan circuit for well over ten minutes. The Czech driver did not give up, however, with Salaquarda trying to overtake Amici around the outside of San Donato corner three laps later, but with heavy rain fall Salaquarda slightly lost control of his Audi and the pass turned unsuccessful.
Just a few minutes later Fabrizio Crestani in his #3 Easy Race Ferrari braked late coming into San Donato and entered the gravel trap but was able to get out quickly and carried on but lost the lead to Scuderia Ferrari’s Zampieri. Crestani later came into the pits and handed over his seat to teammate Luca Filippi, who came out of the pit lane just behind Vito Postiglione in the #14 Audi R8 LMS GT3.
With the Scuderia Baldini Ferrari 488 GT3 coming into the pits and Giancarlo Fisichella taking over driving duties, Postiglione took over the lead with 45 minutes left and managing a ten-second lead over Filippi and Fisichella. All three drivers were not ready for what came ahead, however, as a fast-charging Andrea Di Folco in his #63 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini joined the mixed.
Di Folco eventually caught Filippi first and overtook the driver on the inside on San Donato but with slight contact, causing a tyre puncture to Filippi’s Ferrari and forcing the #3 Easy Race driver to come into the pits. Three laps later and Di Folco caught up to Fisichella, but the Scuderia Baldini did not make it easy for the Imperiale Racing driver.
With Matteo Cressoni joining the mix in his #21 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo, Di Folco had to decide whether to risk a pass on Fisichella or risk being overtaken. Di Folco decided the best thing to do was to pass Fisichella, and he did so on the outside of Luco and jumped to the second spot 12 seconds behind leader Postiglione.
As the chequered flag dropped, it was Postiglione who crossed the finish line first, however, the team had been given a 15-second time penalty due to an irregular driver change during one of the team’s pit stops. This meant Di Folco and the rest of the #63 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini squad was given the victory shortly after crossing the finish line finishing ahead of the Scuderia Baldini and the AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3.
Vito Postiglione and teammates Filip Salaquarda and Karol Basz would eventually be classified fourth overall in their #14 Audi Sport Italia R8 LMS GT3, while Andrea Piccini, Claudio Schiavoni, and Rino Mastronardi closed out the top five in their #60 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo.
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