Nissan GT Academy Team RJN broke through to claim its first overall victory in the Blancpain Endurance Series following a hard-fought battle with Bentley in Saturday’s six-hour round at Paul Ricard.
Alex Buncombe took the No. 23 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 to a narrow 7.988-second victory over the No. 7 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Steven Kane, who made a late charge but spun in the final moments of the day-into-night enduro.
The Nissan held control from the fourth hour, thanks to a drive-through penalty for the pole-sitting No. 63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti, which had led from the start.
It effectively turned the race into a two-way battle between the Nissan and M-Sport Bentley, although there was also a strong challenge from the No. 46 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3.
The Belgian-entered BMW, which started from the pit lane due to an engine change following qualifying, completed the overall and Pro Cup podium in third with drivers Maxime Martin, Lucas Luhr and Markus Palttala.
Buncombe, meanwhile, shared the winning GT-R with Katsumasa Chiyo and Wolfgang Reip.
The No. 99 Rowe Racing Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 came home fourth after double-stinting its tires, while the No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Michael Broniszewski, Michael Lyons and Alessandro Bonacini took Pro-Am Cup honors with a fifth place overall finish.
Glorax Racing’s Fabio Mancini, Andrey Birzhin and Rino Mastronardi, meanwhile, collected Am Cup honors in the No. 24 Ferrari with a 24th place finish overall.
The race saw three safety car periods, as well as an aborted start that led to a three-car pileup on the first lap between Norbert Siedler, Rob Bell and Maxime Soulet, eliminating all three GT3 cars from contention.
The sister No. 59 Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S GT3 of Alvaro Parente also went to the garage in the first hour, while the Nurburgring 24-winning Audi R8 LMS battled early race gearbox issues.
The No. 84 HTP Bentley, which was inside the top-three, also lost time with a throttle issue.