The #12 Audi Sport Italia Audi R8 LMS GT3 claimed the 2021 Campionato Italiano Gran Turismo Endurance title taking victory at Monza in a race dominated by the #63 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Drivers Mattia Drudi, Lorenzo Ferrari and Riccardo Agostini benefited from a late rain shower that gifted them the win along with the Endurance championship title.
It was the title challenging #63 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Andrea Amici, Alberto Di Folco and Stuart Middleton which controlled the race and seemed destined for victory, at one point being nearly 40 seconds ahead of their nearest competitor. With the #27 Scuderia Baldini Ferrari 488 GT3 of Stefano Gai and Daniel Zampieri holding second place on the road and second place in the championship, the Audi squad had to at least finish in second if the Imperiale team won the race.
It wasn’t the best start for the #12 Audi, starting in second: with Agostini behind the wheel, the Sammarinese team lost two places at the start when it was forced to cut the first chicane. Having got back to third place after the first lap, the top 3 settled down to Amici leading in the #63 Lamborghini and Zampieri holding second place with no more than 1.5 seconds between first and third for much of the first stint.
Most of the action was occurring behind the leaders with a fight developing for fifth place between a train of Ferraris and the sole BMW M6 GT3 of Ceccato Racing’s Marius Zug.
The pack was being led by the #3 Easy Race Ferrari 488 GT3 of Max Hofer but a challenge from the #25 RS Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Daniele Di Amato around the outside at the first chicane saw the pair fighting all the way around to the first Lesmo. By this point the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT of Niccolò Schirò joined the fray and was able to take advantage by squeezing past the pair as all three went into the first chicane line abreast.
The #7 Ceccato Racing BMW M6 GT3 of Marius Zug, sharing driving duties with Stefano Comandini and Bruno Spengler, also benefited from the battle, pushing the battered and bruised #3 Easy Race Ferrari down to ninth place.
Things briefly settled down but towards the end of the first hour the #8 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 of Sean Hudspeth had been caught by the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Schirò and the #25 RS Racing Ferrari of Di Amato – having dropped the BMW of Zug – and were circulating together. However, a move by Schirò at the first Lesmo on Hudspeth gave Zug the opportunity to close up on the three Ferraris. By Ascari, Zug had got around the Ferrari of Hudspeth who in the space of three corners found himself dropped from fifth to eighth.
At the front Amici in the #63 Lamborghini was the first of the leaders to pit, handing over to Stuart Middleton just before the hour mark and giving championship leader Agostini an opportunity to hustle Zampieri along in second place.
With a pitstop success time needed to be paid at the first stop, Middleton returned back on track just behind Filip Salaquarda whose #14 Audi Sport Italia R8 LMS GT3 had followed the Lambo into the pits. Needing to get ahead of the Czech to push to retake the lead after the pitstops, the young Brit saw his opportunity when Salaquarda made a small mistake coming out of the pits and braking for the Variante del Rettifilo and took it.
By the midpoint of the race Middleton held a 17.6 second lead over the #27 Scuderia Baldini Ferrari of Stefano Gai. The championship leading #12 Audi driven now by Lorenzo Ferrari was in fourth following his teammate Salaquarda.
By the end of his stint Middleton had stretched the lead to over 30 seconds over Gai whilst Ferrari had passed Salaquarda and made it up to third.
In the third and final stint it was now up to Mattia Drudi in the #12 Audi to get past Daniel Zampieri who was doing his second stint in the #27 Ferrari. Second place would give the championship to the Audi but Zampieri knew that the title could be his and Gai’s if both Di Folco and Drudi had a problem.
Unfortunately for Zampieri, Drudi was in no mood to lose the title at this stage and quickly made up the 15-second deficit to the Swiss driver. Showing his determination, Drudi forced his way around Zampieri at the Ascari chicane, the two cars touching before running neck and neck down the straight to Parabolica where Zampieri did well to defend from around the outside of the corner. The battle finally ended at the first chicane where Drudi had the inside line and second place.
This appeared to give the championship to the Audi team but by then, with 20 minutes remaining, the heavens opened forcing the leaders to pit for wet tyres. Zampieri with nothing to lose was the first onto wet tyres followed a lap later by the leader Di Folco – appearing to be on his way to claim a sovereign victory.
Having now gained the lead, Drudi gambled and stayed out having inherited a 31-second lead with just 15 minutes of the race remaining. As the rain continued to fall, Drudi on his slick tyres was losing up to 5 seconds a lap to the chasing Lamborghini but as the rain did not increase, he was able to keep his Audi on the track and at the line he took victory with Di Folco just 6 seconds behind him in second.
Behind the #27 Scuderia Baldini Ferrari 488 GT3 of Zampieri and Gai, the #14 Audi Sport Italia of Filip Salaquarda, Daniel Mancinelli and Vito Postiglione finished fourth, with the #7 Ceccato Racing BMW M4 GT3 of Marius Zug, Stefano Comandini and Bruno Spengler giving the M4 its Italian GT farewell with a fifth place.
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