Ferrari's Pier Guidi wins GT World Challenge Endurance crown
Ferrari’s Alessandro Pier Guidi won the GT World Challenge Endurance Cup title after super-subs Come Ledogar and Tom Blomqvist helped him claim victory in the Paul Ricard 1000km.
The AF Corse car, in which Ledogar and Blomqvist stood in for absent Ferrari FIA World Endurance Championship racers James Calado and Nicklas Nielsen, started second on the grid but only showed its hand in the final 90 minutes of the six-hour contest.
A daring strategic call at the final round of pit-stops helped the trio leapfrog long-time leaders, the GPX Racing Porsche crew of Mathieu Jaminet, Matt Campbell and Patrick Pilet.
That gave Pier Guidi the title at the expense of ASP Mercedes man Timur Boguslavskiy, who endured a difficult race after suffering a broken splitter in the third hour.
After charging from eighth on the grid into the lead in the opening hours, the GPX Racing Porsche of Campbell led at half-distance, but heavy clouds had been hovering over the circuit since the morning with the predicted rain shower arriving in the fourth hour.
Pilet, having taken over from Campbell, kept the GPX Porsche firmly in control as the rain fell, gapping the second-place FFF Racing Lamborghini of Marco Mapelli to the tune of 15 seconds.
But in the final two hours, the #51 Ferrari clawed its way back into contention, Pier Guidi emerging from the fourth round of stops ahead of Mapelli’s teammate Dennis Lind.
Come the final stops, AF Corse played the strategic game by changing only the left-hand side tyres on Pier Guidi’s car versus fresh rubber all-round for Jaminet in the GPX Porsche, which was enough to hand the Ferrari the lead.
As night fell, Pier Guidi brought the Ferrari home to victory by 1.690s over Jaminet, while Andrea Caldarelli sealed third in the FFF Lambo he shared with Lind and Mapelli.
Boguslavksiy and his teammate in the ASP Mercedes, Raffaele Marciello, only finished 18th after their splitter issue, but the Russian could take solace in winning the overall GT World Challenge Europe title, helped by his showings in the Sprint Cup races.
Fourth place for WRT Audi pair Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts, joined for this race by Christopher Mies, was not enough to overhaul Boguslavskiy.
The WRT car was delayed early on when Mies was tagged by Mapelli's Lambo at the first corner, sending the latter into a 360-degree pirouette, dropping him down to 18th place.
Mies’ comeback drive through the field before the end of the third hour was sensational, with the German carving his way back up to second following the second round of pit-stops.
His recovery was in stark contrast to Mattia Drudi’s Attempto Racing Audi, which received a drive-through penalty due to a jump-start from teammate Kim-Luis Schramm.
Until then, Schramm had been one of the stars of the race, along with early leader Giacomo Altoe in the Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini.
However, the Emil Frey car of Altoe, Albert Costa and Mikkel Mac couldn't maintain its early pace and ended up eighth, one place behind the SMP Racing Ferrari of Toni Vilander, Sergey Sirotkin and Antonio Fuoco that had started on pole in the hands of Vilander.
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