Emil Frey Lexus Racing gave the Lexus RC F GT3 its first ever Blancpain GT Series victory with a final-lap pass in Saturday evening’s Paul Ricard 1000km.
Albert Costa took the car to the line after overtaking Jules Gounon’s Bentley Continental GT3 on the final lap of the thrilling six-hour race into the darkness.
The car started from fourth and ran in the top five for most of the race as Costa shared the driving duties with Marco Seefried and Christian Klien.
The Swiss team had an initially difficult start to the season with the new car but picked up a podium finish at Silverstone two weeks ago before giving the Japanese manufacturer its first series win on Saturday.
As well as being the car’s first series win, it is also long-time Blancpain GT team Emil Frey Racing’s first overall victory.
Gounon crossed the line second, missing out on the chance to give the new-for-2018 second-gen Bentley Continental GT3 its first win.
He led for most of the final stint and survived a brief full course yellow period in the final 15 minutes but was caught by the quicker Lexus gradually over the final few laps.
Steven Kane and Jordan Pepper co-drive the Bentley with Pepper completing his first race as the replacement for Guy Smith.
Garage 59 and SMP Racing had looked set to challenge the Bentley for the win until both were taken out of contention early in the final stint.
The No. 58 McLaren 650S GT3 led most of the first five hours but was dealt a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement, dropping it down to third at the line.
Soon after the penalty was given to the McLaren, AF Corse’s SMP-backed Ferrari 488 GT3 lost a wheel, taking Miguel Molina out of the race.
Raffaele Marciello made it up to fourth in his No. 88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 while Matt Parry completed the top five for GT Sport Motul Team RJN in the new-gen Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3.
Romain Dumas and Tom Blomqvist were both given a drive-through penalty converted into a 30-second time penalty for speeding at the end of the last FCY period, pushing the two cars down to 10th and 11th.
Barwell Motorsport’s Martin Kodric led Black Falcon driver Gabriele Piana to the line in the Silver Cup to take the win with the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 he shares with Michele Beretta and Sandy Mitchell.
Matt Griffin, Duncan Cameron and Gianluca de Lorenzi came out on top in a battle of attrition in Pro-Am, meanwhile.
Garage 59 took its second Am Cup win in a row with the No. 188 McLaren driven by Chris Goodwin, Chris Harris and Alexander West.
The Am Cup winners finished 18th overall in the 51-car field, ahead of the entire Pro-Am category.
The race had five full course yellow and safety car periods but no major crashes despite a couple of smaller incidents in the first two hours.
RESULTS: Paul Ricard 1000km