Rino Mastronardi and Rui Aguas took their first Blancpain GT Series Asia victories on Saturday in the first of the series’ two races at Buriram, Thailand.
Driving the No. 38 Ferrari 488 GT3, the Spirit of Race drivers came home just 0.795 seconds clear of Maxi Buhk’s GruppeM Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
However, a 30-second penalty for a collision caused on the opening lap dropped the Mercedes to sixth in the final classification.
This gave the Spirit of Race crew a near-15-second lead over Phoenix Racing Asia’s Marchy Lee and Shaun Thong, driving the No. 5 Audi R8 LMS, who also won the Silver Cup honors.
Pole-sitter Anthony Liu kept the lead from fellow front-row-starter Mastronardi, until contact between Hunter Abbott and Mitch Gilbert sent the latter’s Audi into the pits, while the Mercedes would eventually be penalized.
Mastronardi continued to keep Liu honest over the opening 12 minutes before Terence Tse’s out-of-position TTR Team SARD Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR collided with the BBT Ferrari at Turn 3, which immediately ended the latter’s race.
The Porsche has been suspended from the remainder of the meeting, meanwhile.
The subsequent Full Course Yellow was soon upgraded to a Safety Car in order to clear three cars from the track, and when racing resumed just four minutes remained until the pit window opened.
Mastronardi’s lightning restart, coupled with a GT4 car between himself and his pursuers, meant the Italian was well up the road once the clock ticked past 25 minutes and the front-runners began to stop.
However, Spirit of Race elected to continue circulating for another three laps before swapping Aguas in, by which time Buhk was just 1.5 seconds behind.
The Mercedes loomed large in Aguas’ mirrors for a lap or so before the Portuguese driver slowly edged clear.
Further back a great battle had developed between the two Phoenix Racing Asia-run Audis of Yoong and Thong.
The latter’s co-driver, Marchy Lee, dodged the earlier incident and picked up places at the restart to run third before serving an additional five-second success penalty during his pitstop for finishing third at Sepang.
Nevertheless, newly-installed Thong pulled away from his pit box barely a car’s length ahead of Yoong in the sister Audi R8 LMS Cup entry with which Alex Au had made headway during the opening stint.
The pair circulated together with Alessio Picariello’s J-Fly by Absolute Racing Audi for company before all three passed Alberto Di Folco’s Lamborghini, which had emerged from the pits in third.
The trio of R8s eventually took the chequered flag covered by just two seconds, and were ultimately rewarded with second, third and fourth places in the final classification.
Victory in GT4 went the way of Taiwan Top Speed Racing Team’s Keo Chang and Jeremy Wang.
This came after Frank Yu and Jean-Marc Merlin, who had won the race on the road, were penalized for avoidable contact.
RESULTS: Race 1