James Calado described his and Alessandro Pier Guidi’s second place in the 6 Hours of Monza GTE-Pro battle as a “tough one to take” as the Ferrari duo conceded their points lead to Porsche’s race winners Kevin Estre and Neel Jani.
A late splash for fuel after a strategy call to stay out of the pits during a final-hour Full Course Yellow period meant the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo pairing couldn’t prevent the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 crew from taking a second win of the season.
Estre and Jani led up until two hours and 20 minutes, when the event’s only safety car receded and Calado muscled past Jani into the Rettifilio chicane. Jani returned to the lead half an hour later with a faster pit stop, establishing the Porsche’s winning position.
A gripping duel between the two factory cars entered a crucial stage in the last hour, with Estre running a handful of seconds up the road from Pier Guidi after Jani eked out a gap on the top Ferrari during the fourth hour of racing.
When an FCY occurred for debris with half an hour to go, Porsche brought both of its cars in for fuel while the factory AF Corse Ferrari squad only ordered its No. 52 car to pit.
Pier Guidi’s gamble to stay out didn’t leapfrog him over Estre, but the Italian had moved right onto his fellow former WEC champion’s tail for the resumption of racing.
The Ferrari chased the Porsche through the closing green flag laps until Pier Guidi was forced to pit for an emergency fuel top-up with two minutes left on the clock.
Estre and Jani’s victory returned them to the lead of the world championship after Calado and Pier Guidi jumped ahead following their success in round two at Portimao.
“A tough one to take,” said Calado. “Probably the most disappointing second place I’ve ever had. We really wanted to win this one, but Porsche just seemed to have a little edge.
“It was so close, but we just missed one lap of fuel at the end. We took the risk hoping that there would be a slow zone or Full Course Yellow at the end, but it was not to be.
“Congratulations to them for winning on our territory, but it’s good points and going into Le Mans we’ll try even harder.”
Pier Guidi suggested that Ferrari would have needed another intervention such as a third Full Course Yellow of the race in order to have any chance of beating the No. 92 Porsche, after Estre stayed ahead following his last stop under FCY conditions.
Pier Guidi found himself pushing to find a way past Estre, which contributed to his car’s fuel load depleting before the end of the race.
“I think they knew that they had good pace, so they could be more safe,” said Pier Guidi.
“They showed they could do one lap more than us in the stint. They could go longer on fuel and they had a bit more speed, so it was very difficult today for us.
“I think we did a good job, and we tried everything. But in the end, if another FCY appeared for any reason, we would have been fine. We tried everything and gambled a bit.
“It didn’t pay, but we didn’t lose anything because we had a huge gap behind.”
Estre added that he hadn’t experienced such a relentless fight between two cars for GTE-Pro class honors in a long time.
The Manthey-supported Porsche factory team arrived at Monza expecting Ferrari to be the stronger GTE-Pro manufacturer. But after trailing in opening practice on Friday, different Porsches led the next two sessions before Estre planted the No. 92 on pole.
“Even though we had pole position, I think we were still the challenger because Ferrari was a little bit better than us the whole weekend until that point,” said the Frenchman.
“I think we took it perfectly. We just did the perfect race in the pit stops and the strategy. We were very fast.
“Very pleased because it was a very tough one. I can’t remember in the last four years having such a tight fight the whole race in GTE-Pro.
“It doesn’t matter how many cars you have, if you win by this small margin.”