Round 4 of the International GT Open championship visited Imola for its annual race in the Italian heartland.
Loris Spinelli brought Bologna-based AKM Motorsport a home victory in the opening race at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Starting from pole position and driving the AKM Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 he easily kept the place heading into Tamburello for the first time. Having started from second on the grid, Michele Beretta in the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo kept up with his countryman in the opening laps but Spinelli was able to create a gap despite running wide on the exit of Rivazza 2 kicking up a face full of dust and gravel into the pack behind.
It was an uncharacteristic mistake for the Italian, although one that he would repeat later in the race, but it was not enough to damage his charge and by the pit stops his Mercedes-AMG GT3 held an 8-second lead over the chasing Lamborghini of Beretta.
Beretta was also running alone, several seconds ahead of Andy Soucek and Lorenzo Ferrari who were the first pair to be truly fighting for position. Ferrari, the young Italian driving an Audi R8 GT3 LMS GT3 with Audi Sport Italia, spent the whole of the first half of the race under the rear wing of the experienced Soucek in the Lechner Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R.
Ferrari tried everything he knew to force his way past Soucek but the Spaniard was up to the challenge and comfortably held Ferrari behind him up to the pitstops.
Further down the field Joe Osborne was finding it equally frustrating chasing Marcus Påverud in the Reno Racing Honda NSX GT3 Evo. For 30 minutes, the McLaren factory driver sat behind Påverud until a mistake on the entry into Piratella allowed the Inception Racing McLaren 720s GT3 to drive up the inside and take the Pro-Am lead.
Following the stops, Nick Moss took over from Osbourne in the McLaren andstepped into the Honda and it didn’t take many laps for the Norwegian to get past the Englishman and resume his place leading the Pro-Am category.
At the front, the lone Spinelli resumed the lead of the race but a change for second place saw the Lechner Porsche, now driven by Al Faisal Al Zubair, take over the position from Frederik Schandorff in the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini.
In the final stages, Al Zubair was wringing everything he could out of the Porsche to keep hold of second place. Bouncing over the kerbs and getting sideways out of Variante Alta saw him loose some time to Schandorff and within two laps the Dane was within a half second of the Porsche.
With 5 minutes remaining, Schandorff made his move with a clean pass around the outside of Tamburello which gave him the inside line into the second half of the corner and he was away building a 2-second cushion to Al Zubair at the end of the race.
At the front Spinelli was moderating his pace with the gap to second dropping to 4.4 seconds at the flag but this was all part of the race plan.
“The car was good, the pace was amazing,” said Spinelli after the race. “I tried to manage my speed in the race and look after the tyres and it worked very well and we’re looking forward to race 2 tomorrow.”
Race 2 saw the Lechner Racing Porsche of Al Faisal Al Zubair and Andy Soucek take victory having pitted early and making the most of their laps on new tyres. Starting from sixth on the grid, Al Zubair drove a strong stint to enter the pit window in fourth. Soucek took over the car and rejoined the race in seventh place. Some strong laps from the Spaniard saw him work his way to P1 by the end of the pit stops.
At the start it was Freederik Schandorff on pole in the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo he shares with Michele Berreta. Alongside him was Riccardo Agostini in the Audi Sport Italia Audi R8 LMS GT3.
A clean getaway in the opening lap saw Agostini drop a place to Ollie Millroy and almost lose a second position to Loris Spinelli. With a wheel in the gravel Spinelli backed off and let Agostini move on but they would come together again a lap later at Tosa. The lightest of nudges from Spinelli sent Agostini spinning into the gravel. Nick Moss had his own incident to join the Italian but both were able to escape from the gravel trap. For his efforts, the stewards awarded Spinelli a 5-second penalty to be applied at the end of the race.
Agostini then embarked on a strong recovery drive which ultimately got him up to sixth, however, his efforts were to be for nothing when an unscheduled visit to the pits for co-driver Lorenzo Ferrari in the second half of the race dropped him down the order to ninth place from which he was unable to recover.
At the front, Soucek had over seven seconds in his pocket over the chasing pack but Michele Beretta who had taken over from Schandorff in the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo wasn’t going to let him have it so easy and in the closing stages started taking chunks of time out of the Porsche.
Soucek responded by upping his pace in the subsequent laps but also had to deal with having the oldest tyres of the leading pack so had to watch his overall pace.
With 5 minutes remaining the gap at the front was down to 1.8 seconds but it was all that Berreta had and at the end Soucek crossed the line 1.5 seconds ahead of the Italian. Spinelli held onto third despite his 5-second penalty with Yuki Nemoto in the sister Vincenzo Sospin Racing Lamborghini unable to get close enough to benefit.
Ricardo Agostini finished ninth after his technical issues in the Audi Sport Italia Audi R8 LMS GT3 he shares with Lorenzo Ferrari. Lone Am driver Giuseppe Cipriani driving the Barone Rampante Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo rounded out the field.
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