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GT3 Rookie Lawson Wins Monza Season-Opener for AF Corse

AF Corse Ferrari driver Liam Lawson becomes first winner of DTM’s new GT3 era…

Photo: GruppeC Photography/DTM

Sports car racing debutant Liam Lawson made history by becoming the first race winner of the DTM’s new GT3 era at Monza, where the 2021 season kicked off on Saturday.

Lawson, driving the Red Bull AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020, overtook pole-sitter Vincent Abril shortly after the Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG driver exited the pits to take a lead that would be maintained until the checkered flag.

In addition to becoming the DTM’s first winner in FIA GT3 machinery, 19-year old FIA Formula 2 ace Lawson also confirmed himself as the championship’s youngest-ever racer to stand on top of the podium, as well as Ferrari’s first winner.

Abril finished one second ahead of his HRT teammate Maximilian Goetz, who took third, while Red Bull Formula 1 reserve driver Alex Albon made up 10 positions on his starting spot to finish fourth on his GT3 debut in the AlphaTauri AF Corse Ferrari.

After scoring his first DTM pole on Saturday morning, Abril kept the lead into the first chicane from GruppeM Racing’s Daniel Juncadella and Goetz, who overtook Lucas Auer’s Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG at the start.

Abril led through to his tire change pit stop after 11 laps, while Lawson and AF Corse elected to pit their Red Bull-liveried Ferrari slightly earlier from fifth.

The earlier timing turned out to be favorable, as Lawson consolidated his team’s quick service with a series of fast laps to reach net second in the order.

He then battled past Abril as the Monegasque driver exited the pits on colder tires.

Abril brought the gap down slightly as the second stint played out, with Lawson running on comparatively older Michelins, but the New Zealander’s advantage was never placed under threat.

Goetz tailed Abril to the line but avoided a HRT intra-team positional battle.

Albon needed to defend fourth place from Juncadella, who was pushing to create a gap to sixth-placed Kelvin van der Linde after receiving a five-second penalty for tapping Nico Mueller’s Rosberg Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo into a spin at the second chicane.

Albon made up ground in his opening stint and on pit road after starting 14th on the 19-car grid.

The double Grand Prix podium finisher emerged from his tire change stop in net sixth, but quickly passed van der Linde’s Audi at Turn 1 before powering past Mueller at Curva Grande.

Van der Linde also lost a place early in the second stint to Juncadella, who ran second behind Abril at the start before losing time in the pits.

The South African Audi driver ended up fifth courtesy of Juncadella’s penalty being extended by another five seconds after the finish. Maximilian Buhk was seventh in the Muecke Motorsport steer-by-wire Mercedes-AMG, ahead of Mueller’s Audi in eighth.

Marco Wittmann pushed BMW up the order after the German manufacturer’s best entry only qualified 15th.

Wittmann steered his Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 to ninth, beating Audi stalwart Mike Rockenfeller and Esteban Muth in the No. 10 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo run by T3 Motorsport.

Muth and Wittmann engaged in an entertaining side-by-side battle into the second chicane that saw the BMW driver get the edge into the first Lesmo right-hander.

Sheldon van der Linde was 11th in the best of the ROWE Racing BMWs, ahead of second-row starter Auer who lost 30 seconds in the pits due to a slow tire change.

Auer’s Winward Racing teammate Philip Ellis retired with an as-yet-unidentified technical problem.

Team Rosberg Audi driver Dev Gore also failed to finish the race after being spun around by Timo Glock’s BMW at the left switchback part of the Rettifilio chicane.

RESULTS: Monza Race 1

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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