Dries Vanthoor kept Maximilian Goetz at bay to win the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup opener at Monza on Sunday afternoon after two stewards decisions swapped the leaders around in the final hour.
Driving the No. 1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3, Vanthoor came into the last stint of the three-hour race in second position after his co-drivers Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies had run fifth for most of the afternoon.
Two stewards’ decisions decided the lead battle between Vanthoor and Goetz during the final part of the race.
Vanthoor passed Goetz’s Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 on the pit straight with 30 minutes remaining but was forced to give the position back for doing so over the track limits.
On the following lap, the Belgian made another attempt on the outside of Goetz into the first chicane but the Mercedes driver later had to give up the lead for not allowing enough room.
This initially appeared as a rather controversial decision but the stewards’ decision stated that car No. 43: “Did not leave at least one car width to the edge of the track when moving back to racing line having defended his position off line.”
This put Vanthoor back into the lead for the remainder of the race while the No. 43 Mercedes which Goetz shared with Maximilian Buhk and Alvaro Parente finished second.
Yelmer Buurman made his way past Christian Engelhart in the final few minutes of the race to make it two Mercedes on the podium after a strong showing from the No. 4 Black Falcon car.
Maro Engel ran in the top three in the first stint but the team was given a drive-through penalty for speeding under a full course yellow.
Nevertheless, Luca Stolz and Buurman managed to move back up to fourth until the latter passed Grasser Racing Team’s Engelhart in the closing stages.
The Emil Frey Racing G3 Jaguar and Reiter Young Stars Lamborghini Gallardo R-EX both had surprisingly quick performances in qualifying and ran highly for most of the race.
The Jaguar was second with the Lamborghini fourth for the entire first stint although a drive-through penalty for refuelling with the car on the ground dropped Reiter out of contention.
A radio problem meant that Alex Fontana and Adrian Zaugg both lost positions on restarts in the Jaguar although they did manage to finish fifth alongside Mikael Grenier, while also scoring the Silver Cup class win.
Alexander Mattschull, Dominik Schwaeger and Rinat Salikhov won in the Pro-Am Cup for Rinaldi Racing while AKKA ASP’s Fabien Barthez, Philippe Giauque and Eric Debard won in the Am Cup.
The race had no major incidents as the new qualifying format, based on the average of each drivers’ fastest qualifying times, was able to prevent first-corner incidents as happened at Monza last year.
Three separate full course yellow periods were called, each very briefly, to collect debris at various stages of the race.
The series debuts of the new Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 and Bentley Continental GT3 went poorly with mechanical issues for the Nissan and several incidents and drive-through penalties for the Bentleys.