First blood to Ferrari as Kessel Racing Take Monza thriller

470_2013_BES_RD1_KESSEL#44_BESIt was action all the way during a thrilling race at Monza today, as a huge grid of 60 GT3 cars provided a stunning start to the third season of the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series, now firmly secured as the best supported GT series in the world.

The Ferrari 458 Italia of Kessel Racing claimed victory in the first round of the Blancpain Endurance Series this afternoon after an eventful race. The Swiss team sealed victory after surging ahead during the last hour of the three hour endurance event. Cesar Ramos/Davide Rigon and Daniel Zampieri celebrated a famous home win for Ferrari and a popular one for the assembled tifosi who were entertained throughout this classic endurance race.

Kessel Racing picked up a maximum score of 25-points to head the PRO Cup class and begin their quest to become the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series champions.

Claiming the runners-up position today was the #11 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C of Andy Soucek/Antoine Leclerc and Mike Parisy. The renowned French team were delighted with their start to the season that saw Soucek take second place from the #13 Audi Belgian Club Team WRT entry driven by Swede, Edward Sandstrom just after he started his stint.

In a remarkable battle throughout the closing laps for the final rung on the PRO Cup podium, Adam Carroll, driving the #69 Gulf Racing McLaren MP4-12C he shares with Rob Bell and Nico Verdonck, hounded Sandstrom’s Audi R8 LMS ultra for much of the final 45 minutes of the race. The Ulsterman in turn was under pressure from Andrea Bertolini’s 5th placed AF Corse PRO-AM Cup Ferrari and a dogfight ensued until the chequered flag was unfurled.

The duel was only resolved coming out of the Parabolica for the final time, as Carroll ducked out from the Audi‘s slipstream to claim the final podium position by a tiny margin of 0.028s. The wheel-to-wheel action was a fantastic testimony to Carroll, Sandstrom and Bertolini’s racecraft as they fought hard, yet fair, all the way to the end.

Bertolini, who was just a few car lengths behind this epic battle by the end of the race, had seen his own attempts to wrest 4th from Carroll, fended off resolutely time and time again. Earlier the Italian GT legend’s team mates and reigning champions, Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels, had set the foundations of the PRO-AM Cup win with faultless stints in the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Finishing in second place in the PRO-AM Cup on their Blancpain Endurance Series debut was TDS Racing. The French-duo of Henry Hassid and Ludovic Badey drove an inspired race to not only take 18-points for second in class but also register a remarkable 7th overall in their distinctive BMW Z4.

Completing the PRO-Am class podium and making it three different constructors on the podium today was the Black Falcon team. Adam Christdoulou, Steve Jans and Klaus Hummel each drove clean and efficient races to rise up from 38th on the overall grid to highly respectable 10th overall with their Mercedes SLS AMG GT3.

The ever popular and expanding Gentlemen’s Trophy class saw victory earned by the #20 SOFREV Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Jean-Luc Beaubelique/Patrice Goueslard and Jean-Luc Blanchemain. A race long battle with the #79 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia was resolved in the final hour after Goueslard pulled out a sufficient gap from their fellow Ferrari rivals.

Starting the Gentlemen’s Trophy season off with good points hauls at Monza and making it an all-Ferrari podium in the class was Kessel Racing and AF Corse. Starting from pole with their Gentlemen’s Class Ferrari 458 Italia, Kessel were delighted to round out a dream weekend, as Alessandro Garofano/Beniamini Caccia and Lorenzo Bontempelli claimed 18pts for second position.

Third place in the Gentlemen’s Trophy was the Portuguese pairing of Filipe Barreiros and Francisco Guedes who both enjoyed a competitive first race of the year in their AF Corse-run Ferrari 458 Italia. They take back to 15 points to Portugal after a well-structured race through the field to claim a fine 24th in the overall standings.

60 GT3 cars took part in an unforgettable first race of the new season at Monza today with 171 drivers from 28 countries took part and reflecting the truly global attraction to the Blancpain Endurance Series.

The next round of the Blancpain Endurance Series will take place at Silverstone on the weekend of 1-2 June, followed by Paul Ricard eon the final weekend of June. A month later the famous Total 24 hours of Spa takes place in the key date of a thrilling season of racing. The year concludes with another classic event at Nürburgring, when the 1000kms takes place on 21/22 September.

(Image: Blancpain Endurance Series)