Iron Lynx carried on its weekend domination of Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS’ annual visit to Paul Ricard by claiming what became a comfortable 1-2 victory in the 1000km race for the Ferrari team, thanks to a late safety car giving Miguel Molina the chance to move up to second behind the winning entry of Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon and Antonio Fuoco.
In reality, the win was hinted at from the very start as Serra led away from pole and held off a hard-charging Klaus Bachler to ensure he brought his Ferrari 488 GT3 through the first left-right sequence in the lead.
Bachler, in the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, didn’t take staying in second lying down, though, as he set about making Serra’s mirrors constantly filled by German machinery. Running right under his wing, it took Bachler just 13 minutes to move into the lead with a remarkable move round Serra’s outside in the twisty third sector.
Behind, the biggest mover in the opening hour was Emil Frey’s Mirko Bortolotti who had taken his Lamborghini Huracán GT3 by the scruff of the neck and was picking off all-comers as he moved up from fifth.
First, he dispatched the pair of Team WRT Audis in the top five – getting past Goethe and then out-muscling Weerts to lie third. Then, he pulled a stunning move on Serra – selling him a dummy down the inside on the Mistral, before cutting back to go round the outside heading to the entrance of Signes.
Up into second, Bortolotti took just five minutes to deprive Bachler of the lead and he did it in some style. Running close to the Porsche heading into the final corner, the Italian risked a dive up the inside at the tight right-hander and made it stick.
He held that lead until the first round of stops just after the hour mark. A slower stop from the Swiss team allowed Raffaele Marciello – who had been shadowing Bortolotti’s moves up the order – to assume the lead in his #88 AMG Team AKKODIS ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3.
From there, front-runners started dropping away. The first to fall victim to an early retirement was Bachler. Coming through the first sequence of corners, the German was caught unawares by a spinning Jonathan Hui in the Sky Tempesta Racing Mercedes and clipped him, damaging the Porsche too much to be able to get it back to the pits.
Also throwing a cat amongst the pigeons was a major incident with just over 90 minutes gone as Tuomas Tujula – in the Silver Cup Emil Frey Huracán – suffered a rear-left puncture, one of many during the race for Lamborghini teams, and went into the tyres at Signes. He was thankfully unhurt, but it called for a safety car which bunched up the field.
With Marciello having just a narrow lead of Jack Aitken – taking over from Bortolotti – and the #71 Iron Lynx Ferrari, it was apparent pitstops were going to be crucial.
And indeed they were, pitting later than the rest allowed Davide Rigon to move the #71 closer to the lead, and then a time penalty was slapped on the #88 for unsafe release to be served at the following pitstop.
That misfortune gave Rigon, and then Antonio Fuoco, a handy lead at the front of the field – aided by the #32 Team WRT Audi retiring after contact with a Mad Panda Mercedes caused suspension damage. They also benefitted from the #63 first not able to match the speed of the 488 out front, and then being slapped with a black flag in the final hour for not respecting a mechanical flag to repair non-working rear lights. Thankfully the car was allowed back out with some swift repairs.
Victory ended up being comfortable for the #71 crew, despite a late safety car with 20 minutes remaining to recover a broken down Winward Racing AMG. With plenty of cars between Fuoco and a recovering Jules Gounon, doing great work to capitalise on rival’s misfortune in the AKKODIS ASP entry, the ex-F2 racer ended up comfortably cruising to the flag.
He was no doubt helped by Gounon being mugged of his second place after the safety car restart with just eight minutes remaining. Miguel Molina was right behind in the sister Ferrari 488 GT3 and down the Mistral he pulled alongside Gounon. On the outside heading through Signes, he kept his nerve and exited the corner just ahead of the Frenchman and fought off a flurry of late attacks to ensure Iron Lynx took a memorable 1-2.
Just off the podium was the #50 ROWE Racing BMW M4 GT3. It was thanks to Max Hesse in all honesty, as he prevailed in a captivating battle with the #46 Audi R8 LMS EVO2 of Frederic Vervisch. The latter held the upper-hand for much of the race, but Hesse saw an opportunity to gain fourth and did everything he could to make it happen – finally making the decisive move in the closing laps.
Sixth ended up going to the #63 Emil Frey Racing entry, Albert Costa putting in great work alongside Aitken and Bortolotti. The trio could have had a podium if not for the late light failure, likely due to the accumulation of bumps and scrapes with rivals in the mega 53-car grid.
Al Manar Racing by HPT took seventh and the Silver Cup honours after a faultless race for Al Faisal Al Zubair, Fabian Schiller and Axcil Jefferies in their Mercedes-AMG GT3, a lap ahead of their rivals AKKODIS ASP.
Behind the battling Silver Cup Mercedes, in ninth overall, was the Gold Cup winning McLaren 720S of Inception Racing as Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy and Frederik Schandorff prevailed after a faultless race – benefitting somewhat from the retirement of the Winward entry which was a thorn in their side for some time.
Pro-Am Cup victory went to SPS automotive performance. Dominik Baumann, Valentin Pierburg and Martin Konrad ran second for some time in their Mercedes-AMG GT3, but benefitted for what appeared to be a mechanical issue which robbed long-time class leader Garage 59 of some speed late-on, Baumann able to get past Henrique Chaves in the final hour.
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