The No. 98 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C GT3 of Alvaro Parente, Alex Premat and Gregoire Demoustier won Sunday’s Blanpain Endurance Series season opener at Monza in dominant fashion.
Pole-sitter Parente converted his pole into an early lead and immediately opened up a gap to the rest of the field as the chasing No. 7 Bentley Continental GT3 couldn’t keep up the same pace.
From then on, the French McLaren was in control of the race, with both Demoustier and Premat delivering fast lap times and their positions not threatened at any time, despite Stéphane Ortelli closing the gap in his stint, before making a mistake.
“I had new tires for the start of the race, as was the plan, which gave us an advantage to push early on in the clear air,” said Parente, who gave McLaren its second Blancpain Endurance Series victory.
“I immediately managed to pull a gap and I was attacking all the time, it was a great performance of the car and team. We’ve improved a lot on the car. The objective is simply to keep winning races.”
The No. 26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra that started sixth led the chase from the first round of pitstops. Co-drivers Edward Sandström and Stéphane Ortelli, however, couldn’t close the gap that stagnated at around 15 seconds for most of the second half of the race.
Their teammate Gregory Guilvert saw the second ART GP McLaren of Kevin Kevin Korjus and the No. 1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 of Laurens Vanthoor close up in the final stages of the race, but the race finished before any of them could make a pass.
The top four finished within less than 8 seconds of each other.
Andy Soucek was confident it could have been an ART GP/McLaren 1-2 if it weren’t for a slow pitstop.
“We lost like 10 seconds during a pitstop because our car had to be pushed back as the car in front of us blocked our way, that’s the reason why we finish third,” said the Spaniard afterwards.
The No. 84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes of Maximilian Buhk, Nico Verdonck and Harold Primat drove a solid race but couldn’t quite match the speed of the front runners and came in fifth (+46.920s).
Sixth overall (+1:07.228s) and winner in the Pro-Am Cup was the ROAL Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3 of Stephane Comandini, Eugenio Amos and Stefano Colombo.
“It’s an unbelievable result because Monza is normally not suited for the BMW Z4,” Comandini said. “We started P24, but we knew we had a good race pace, that and a very good last pitstop helped get this result.”
Both Bentley Continental GT3s ended up right behind the Pro-Am winner, with the No. 8 in front the No. 7 in P7.
Andy Meyrick had a good start in his repaired Bentley and immediately managed to move up from fourth on the grid to P2. It soon became clear tough that Meyrick was holding up the rest of the field and the No. 7 car even fell back outside the top-10 halfway the race.
The Ferraris that showed such strong pace during the practice and qualifying sessions eventually only ended up ninth and tenth, respectively Villorba Corse and the No. 50 AF Corse cars completed the Pro-Am podium.
Victory in the Gentlemen Trophy went to the GT Corse by Rinaldi Ferrari of Pierre Ehret, Alexander Mattschull and Frank Schmikler. Its sister car made however made quite a name for itself as Rusian Vadim Kogay visited the gravel traps at Monza numerous times.