Vincent Abril and Raffaele Marciello led all of Saturday’s opening Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe race at Zandvoort, picking up their first win of the season for AKKA ASP.
The pair survived the pursuing Grasser Racing Team and Orange1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evos throughout the entire race until Marciello was able to build up a gap in the final 20 minutes.
It marks reigning champion Marciello’s first Blancpain GT win of the year and means Abril has now won the last three races at Zandvoort.
The Monegasque driver won both races last time the series visited the Dutch track in 2015, at the time driving a HTP Motorsport Bentley Continental GT3 with Maxi Buhk.
Christian Engelhart finished second after a close battle for the remaining podium positions late in the race, crossing the line 8.6 seconds behind Marciello.
Engelhart, driving the No. 63 Grasser Lamborghini, held off Marco Mapelli whose co-driver Andrea Caldarelli had also been closely trailing Mirko Bortolotti during the first stint.
Mapelli wasn’t able to get his FFF Lamborghini past the Grasser car, forcing him to settle for third position and finishing just four-tenths behind Engelhart.
Maro Engel moved up the field in the Black Falcon Mercedes to finish fourth despite his co-driver Luca Stolz losing positions early on, having also started from fourth.
Stolz was passed by Ricky Collard at the first corner while Felipe Fraga executed a similar move at the same turn on a restart ten minutes in.
That restart came after the race’s only safety car period, called for an incident at Turn 10 between Tom Gamble, Rolf Ineichen and Steven Palette that left the latter’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo stranded.
Belgian Audi Club Team WRT driver Gamble was deemed responsible for the incident, the start of which wasn’t visible on the TV coverage, and served a drive-through penalty as a result.
Phil Keen and Hiroshi Hamaguchi won the Pro-Am class after inheriting the lead from David Perel, who lost a wheel from his Ferrari 488 GT3 soon after the driver changes.
Timur Boguslavskiy looked set to pick up Silver Cup honors until his AKKA ASP Mercedes ended up in the tire barriers on the penultimate lap.
This allowed Hugo de Sadeleer and Aaro Vainio to take advantage and give the class win to R-Motorsport.
Race 2 will get underway at 2:15 p.m. local time (8:15 a.m. EDT) on Sunday.
RESULTS: Race 1