Dinamic Motorsport’s Christian Engelhart, Matteo Cairoli and Klaus Bachler won a hectic three-hour opening round of the 2021 Fanateec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS season in mixed weather conditions at Monza.
Bachler maintained his lead at a safety car restart with 40 minutes remaining to finish 2.8 seconds clear of Jules Gounon in the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo that also featured Daniel Juncadella and Raffaele Marciello.
Ricardo Feller placed third in the Silver Cup-class No. 14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, ahead of the two debuting Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020s.
The result ensured Dinamic successfully defended its victory from the Endurance Cup’s last visit to Monza two years ago in a race that was also impacted by wet weather.
Sunday’s contest started in dry conditions with the 42-car field running on slick tires, but rain moved in from the north less than 10 minutes into the opening stint.
Pole-sitter Mirko Bortolotti led up to the first round of pit stops within 20 minutes when the wet tires came out during a safety car period for Rob Collard’s RAM Racing Mercedes-AMG sliding off into the right-side barriers at Variante Ascari.
However, Bortolotti’s Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini dropped behind Marciello in the pits before developing a suspected electrical issue after its service.
Marciello then controlled the rest of the opening hour, ahead of Haupt Racing Team’s Maro Engel and Charles Weerts in the lead Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo.
AKKA-ASP lost out to HRT’s Mercedes and WRT in the second pit stops just after the one-hour mark, with Juncadella emerging behind Luca Stolz and Kelvin van der Linde.
At this stage, the rain had receded and the track was drying up. Several wet-tired cars sustained left-rear punctures during the second hour as they fought a drying track, including van der Linde’s Audi which retired with sheared bodywork and Stolz’s AMG.
The HRT car’s incident enabled AKKA-ASP to regain the lead, while Dinamic moved into second with Cairoli free from his and Engelhart’s early fights with the Iron Lynx Ferraris.
A few moments later, with an hour and 20 minutes to go, Cairoli powered past Juncadella through Parabolica to take a lead that the No. 54 Porsche would keep until the finish.
Cairoli swapped out for Bachler at the top of the final hour but the Austrian’s advantage of around six seconds was immediately reduced by another safety car for a punctured and stranded Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3 at Curva Grande.
At the restart, Bachler benefited from having a backmarker Mercedes-AMG between himself and Gounon, which prevented the AKKA-ASP driver from mounting a bid for the lead.
Instead, Gounon was forced to defend from Feller, whose Emil Frey Lamborghini had been one of the many recipients of a puncture in the middle portion of the race.
This temporary strife enabled Emil Frey to assign its Silver Cup machine, which Feller shared with Alex Fontana and Rolf Ineichen, onto slicks earlier than most of its competitors, and the Lamborghini subsequently managed to claw back through the field.
Another early adopter of slick tires, through choice, was Iron Lynx which initially dropped out of the top ten before Callum Ilott and Nicklas Nielsen charged the two factory-supported Ferraris back into contention against the cars that had remained on wets.
GT3 rookie Ilott, last year’s FIA Formula 2 runner-up, was up to third by the end of the final hour when he handed over to Antonio Fuoco.
Fuoco put Feller under pressure in the final stint after the last restart but couldn’t find a way past to score a debut overall podium for Iron Lynx, while Nielsen’s co-driver and reigning Endurance Cup champion Alessandro Pier Guidi came through in fifth.
A final-stint charge from James Pull elevated WRT’s No. 30 Audi to sixth at the end, as one of several Silver Cup cars that put up a strong fight against the Pro competitors.
Pull overtook Winward Racing’s Philip Ellis in the closing stages, with his WRT teammate Ryuichiro Tomita not far behind in eighth.
Sainteloc Racing’s Pro-class No. 26 Audi and the No. 56 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche completed the overall top then.
Pro-Am class honors went to defending class champion Garage 59 with its Aston Martin GT3 driven by Jonny Adam, Chris Goodwin and Alexander West.
Adam took the lead with around half an hour to go when Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini driver Miguel Ramos ran wide into the first chicane.
Adam’s fellow British GT ace Phil Keen also got past Ramos to finish second for FFF Racing Team, which saw its beleaguered Pro car ultimately place 24th and one lap down.
Both Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3s also finished off the lead lap after encountering punctures, while JOTA’s McLaren 720S GT3 retired following early gearbox issues.
RESULTS: 3H Monza (final)