It was a double podium for Rowe Racing this afternoon in the opening round of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS at Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Nick Yelloly brought the #98 Rowe Racing BMW M4 GT3 home some 13.5 seconds ahead of the #998 Rowe Racing BMW M4 GT3 of Dan Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen whilst third went to the Italian #63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Andrea Caldarelli, Mirko Bortolotti and Jordan Pepper.
The #98 Rowe Racing BMW M4 GT3 with Phillip Eng starting from P2 on the grid took the lead from the start in a race that saw some early safety cars and some big names failing to finish.
At the start, Eng took the lead into turn one with Valentino Rossi slotting into second place in the #46 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3. It looked like all would negotiate the first chicane safely however at the back of the field #3 GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 and the #38 ST Racing with Rinaldi Ferrari 488 GT3 came together resulting in a safety car before the leaders had even got halfway around the track.
A further full course yellow and safety car followed moments after the restart when again at the first chicane Rolf Ineichen in the #19 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 was the filling in an Audi sandwich which saw his Lamborghini beached on the apex of the chicane.
At the restart, Rossi was caught napping, breaking very early into the Rettifilo chicane and allowing Maro Engel in the #777 Mercedes-AMG Team AlManar Mercedes-AMG GT3 to mug him around the outside. Engel was himself on a charge having started from the 5th row and within several corners of the start found himself up to P3 with Sheldon van der Linde following him close behind in the #32 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3.
Dan Harper rounded out the top five in the #998 Rowe Racing BMW M4 GT3.
48 minutes into the race it all went wrong for Rossi in the #46 Audi. Following an outstanding run in the opening hour, Rossi suddenly found himself struggling to turn the car into Rettifilo. Bouncing over the kerbs the nine times Moto GP champion found himself in the wrong gear on the exit of the turn and could only watch as the antis-stall kicked in and a quarter of the field streaked past him eventually dumping him down to P14.
The problems didn’t end there for the #46 crew following the pitstops and with Augustus Farfus taking over the BMW from Rossi when with just a lap completed a puncture saw a return to the pits and the end of the team’s race as the car was retired.
Elsewhere the #777 having swapped from Engel to Fabian Schiller saw Schiller make a mistake into Rettifilio which saw Engel’s hard work undone and dropped the Mercedes back to P7 where it joined the back of a huge battle for P4.
At the head of the battle was the #88 Akkodis ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Timur Boguslavskiy with Sandy Mitchell in the #6 K-Pax Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 fighting hard for the position with Andrea Caldarelli in the #63 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracán GT3 sitting behind looking to pick up whatever came his way.
An attempt up the inside into turn 1 from Mitchell was too ambitious and saw the Scot cut the corner and had to give back the place to Boguslavskiy on the run down to the second chicane whilst Caldarelli harried him from behind.
On the following lap Mitchell tried again this time into the second chicane. Minor contact saw Boguslavskiy take to the escape road as Mitchell jumped the kerbs. Caldarelli took his opportunity and Boguslavskiy was down two places and into the clutches of Dennis Marschall in the #40 Tresor Orange 1 Audi R8 LMS GT3 who had taken the place from the luckless Fabian Schiller in the #777 Mercedes.
Schiller’s race ended at 90 minutes after driving into the back of Marschall after he was caught out by Boguslavskiy slowing up through turn one. The Mercedes carried on for half a lap before dropping back and pulling into the pits to end the race.
With Schiller out of the race Christopher Mies in the #25 Saintéloc Junior Team Audi R8 LMS GT3 joined the back of the battle as Marschall made his move on Boguslavskiy at the second chicane. An untidy overtake saw Marschall take the position and as Mies took a look up the outside of the Mercedes on the exit of the corner, Boguslavsky made an aggressive move across the track to defend which saw contact between the two.
Almost immediately smoke began to pour off the right rear of the Mercedes as body work started to rub against the tyre. Bizarrely Boguslavskiy failed to pit and unsurprisingly saw the tyre fail along the pit straight forcing him to complete a full lap on 3 wheels and would ultimately see the retirement of the car.
At the final pitstops the #6 K-Pax Racing Lamborghini which had been running in P4 and looking at a possible podium place, left the pitlane with a mis-fitted front left tyre which left Marco Mapelli having to limp back around to the pit lane.
With 25 minutes remaining the second placed #32 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 of Dries Vanthoor was forced to pit to replace a front left tyre which seemed to have a slow puncture. This gifted second place to the #998 Rowe Racing BMW which was some 14 seconds back with Max Hesse behind the wheel. Mirko Bortolotti followed in P3 just 6 seconds back despite strong pressure from Patric Neiderhauser in the #25 Sainteloc Junior Team Audi.
In the other classes, it was a double victory for Comtoyou Racing who saw their #21 Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Nicolas Baert, Max Hofer and Maxime Soulet come home in P7 taking the win in the Gold classification whilst the #12 of Sam Dejonghe, Loris Hezemans and Finlay Hutchison took the Silver victory.
Pro-Am victory went to the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Rob Collard Adam Balon and Dennis Lind after Lind made a late pass to take the win for the team.
The Bronze class saw victory go to the #911 Pure Rxcing Porsche 911 GT3R of Alex Malykhin, Joel Sturm and Klaus Bachler.
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