Blancpain GT Monza: WRT Audi wins tense Endurance Cup opener

The WRT Audi squad won the opening round of the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Monza

Blancpain GT Monza: WRT Audi wins tense Endurance Cup opener

The best of the Belgian team's Audi R8 LMS GT3s driven by Christopher Mies, Alex Riberas and Dries Vanthoor came from fifth ahead of the opening round of pitstops to take Audi's first victory at Monza, the traditional season opener since what was known as the Blancpain Endurance Series hosted it in 2011.

Vanthoor emerged from the final stops of the three-hour race in second position behind the leading Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Maximilian Gotz and quickly closed down a deficit of nearly four seconds.

The Belgian made it past the Mercedes co-driven by Alvaro Parente and Maximilian Buhk for a first time with just over half an hour to go when he got a better run out of the Parabolica.

But Vanthoor had to give the position back when it was adjudged that he had exceeded track limits by crossing the white line that sits two metres out from the pitwall on the Monza start-finish straight.

One lap later, Vanthoor looked first to the inside and then the outside into the first chicane and put two wheels on the grass as Gotz moved back across on him.

The Mercedes driver was adjudged to be at fault and had to cede position to the Audi for the infraction.

Vanthoor was able to pull away from the Mercedes over the remainder of the three-hour race and crossed the line with two seconds in hand.

Mies said the victory came as a shock.

"We're all a bit surprised because we didn't expect this — we weren't too far off, but we weren't the strongest," said Mies.

"We saved a set of new tyres from free practice for Dries to have at the end, so for me and Alex it was all about giving him the car in the best possible position."

The Black Falcon Mercedes of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman took third position after battling back from a drive-through penalty, making it past the Grasser Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of reigning champions Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Christian Engelhart in the closing stages.

The Mercedes was penalised for an infraction during a full-course yellow virtual safety car at the end of the opening hour.

The Lamborghini, which was hit by a 15kg Balance of Performance weight penalty ahead of qualifying, just hung onto fourth from the Emil Frey Jaguar GT3.

Engelhart crossed the line just three tenths ahead of Mikael Grenier aboard the XKR-based Jaguar he shared with Alex Fontana and Adrian Zaugg.

The Jaguar had looked on course for a top three finish until losing time in its final pitstop.

The SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 that had qualified on pole position led through the opening hour in Miguel Molina's hands before Mikhail Aleshin was unable to do anything about a charging Buhk in the middle hour.

A loose bolt in the throttle mechanism cost the car time when Davide Rigon took over for the final hour and then forced the car into the pits for repairs.

The Attempto Racing Audi shared by Pieter and Steijn Schothorst and Kelvin van der Linde took sixth position.

Race result

Pos Driver Team Car Laps Gap
1 D.Vanthoor, C.Mies, A.Riberas Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi 95 3h00m32.946s
2 M.Buhk, A.Parente, M.Gotz Strakka Racing Mercedes 95 2.017s
3 L.Stolz, Y.Buurman, M.Engel Black Falcon Mercedes 95 14.603s
4 A.Caldarelli, C.Engelhart, M.Bortolotti GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini 95 17.605s
5 A.Fontana, A.Zaugg, M.Grenier Emil Frey Jaguar Racing Jaguar 95 17.939s
6 P.Schothorst, S.Schothorst, K.van der Linde Attempto Racing Audi 95 21.932s
7 S.Leonard, S.van der Linde, R.Frijns Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi 95 44.084s
8 A.Tambay, L.Auer, D.Fumanelli Strakka Racing Mercedes 95 48.977s
9 A.Brundle, M.Kirchhofer, M.Martin R-Motorsport Aston Martin 95 49.199s
10 A.Al Faisal, H.Haupt, G.Piana Black Falcon Mercedes 95 51.162s
11 T.Vautier, D.Juncadella, R.Marciello Mercedes-AMG Team Akka ASP Mercedes 95 52.858s
12 J.Szymkowiak, J.Manchester, N.Bastian Akka ASP Team Mercedes 95 1m15.191s
13 N.Pohler, P.Kaffer, J.Schmidt Attempto Racing Audi 95 1m27.863s
14 A.Jung, S.Gachet, C.Haase Sainteloc Racing Audi 95 1m29.802s
15 B.Barnicoat, C.Ledogar, A.Watson Garage 59 McLaren 95 1m31.490s
16 L.Marioneck, M.Siljehaug, P.Niederhauser Reiter Young Stars Lamborghini 95 1m52.338s
17 C.Klien, M.Seefried, A.Costa Emil Frey Lexus Racing Lexus 95 2m20.038s
18 R.Salikhov, A.Mattschull, D.Schwager Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 94 1 Lap
19 A.Al Harthy, E.McKay, C.Eastwood Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin 94 1 Lap
20 R.Ineichen, P.Keen, F.Perera GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini 94 1 Lap
21 S.Ortelli, M.Palttala, N.Siedler Emil Frey Lexus Racing Lexus 94 1 Lap
22 D.Pierce, R.Smith, S.Morris Team Parker Racing Bentley 94 1 Lap
23 N.Hommerson, L.Machiels, A.Bertolini AF Corse Ferrari 94 1 Lap
24 G.Smith, J.Gounon, S.Kane Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley 94 1 Lap
25 C.Buncombe, N.Leventis, L.Williamson Strakka Racing Mercedes 94 1 Lap
26 M.Broniszewski, A.P.Guidi Kessel Racing Ferrari 94 1 Lap
27 M.Rostan, N.Stievenart, M.Winkelhock Sainteloc Racing Audi 94 1 Lap
28 A.Demirdjian, L.Bontempelli, G.Fisichella 961 Corse Ferrari 94 1 Lap
29 K.Lendoudis, S.Al-Faisal, R.Aguas Black Falcon Mercedes 94 1 Lap
30 D.Cameron, M.Griffin AF Corse Ferrari 94 1 Lap
31 A.Santamato, F.Leo, S.Gattuso Daiko Lazarus Racing Lamborghini 94 1 Lap
32 P.Giauque, E.Debard, F.Barthez Akka ASP Team Mercedes 94 1 Lap
33 A.Amstutz, L.Machitski, F.Guedes Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini 93 2 Laps
34 M.Konopka, A.Lewandowski, K.Ling ARC Bratislava Mercedes 93 2 Laps
35 R.Yoon, P.Ehret, R.Penttinen Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 93 2 Laps
36 J-L.Beaubelique, M.Ricci, N.Jamin Akka ASP Team Mercedes 93 2 Laps
37 D.Parhofer, A.Forne, F.Stippler Car Collection Motorsport Audi 93 2 Laps
38 J.Haring, E.L.Brauner, W.Triller Herberth Motorsport Porsche 92 3 Laps
39 A.Frassineti, R.Monti, A.Rizzoli Ombra Racing Lamborghini 92 3 Laps
40 G.Cipriani, M.Ramos, F.Crestani Daiko Lazarus Racing Lamborghini 91 4 Laps
41 A.Buchardt, I.Vinke, H.Walkenhorst Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW 91 4 Laps
42 M.Parry, L.Ordonez, A.Buncombe GT Sport Motul Team RJN Nissan 90 5 Laps
43 V.Abril, A.Soucek, M.Soulet Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley 87 8 Laps
44 M.Aleshin, M.Molina, D.Rigon SMP Racing Ferrari 72 23 Laps
45 F.Makowiecki, R.Dumas, D.Werner Manthey Racing Porsche 72 23 Laps
- M.Vaxiviere, J.Dennis, N.Thiim R-Motorsport Aston Martin 46 Retirement
- V.Petrov, D.Bulatov, M.Meadows SMP Racing by AKKA ASP Mercedes 34 Retirement
- C.Harris, A.West, C.Goodwin Garage 59 McLaren 32 Retirement
- J.Witt, R.Sanchez, S.Moore GT Sport Motul Team RJN Nissan 31 Retirement
- E.P.Companc, R.Giammaria, M.Mapelli GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini 31 Retirement
- J.Klingmann, R.Collard, J.Krohn Rowe Racing BMW 26 Retirement
- M.Beretta, S.Mitchell, M.Kodric Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini 11 Retirement
- M.Wittmann, N.Catsburg, A.Sims Rowe Racing BMW 4 Retirement
- S.Yoluc, E.Hankey RAM Racing Mercedes 0 Withdrawn

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Series GT
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Author Gary Watkins
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