International GT Open Paul Ricard / Debut Razvan Umbrarescu in GT3

Costa-Altoè first winners of the year with the Emil Frey Racing Lambo

Emil Frey Racing celebrated his come-back to the International GT Open taking a superb win in the opening race of the 2019 International GT Open at Paul Ricard. The Swiss team inaugurated its cooperation with Lamborghini with Albert Costa and Giacomo Altoè imposing their Huracan Evo after a fierce battle with the Antonelli Motorsport Mercedes of Daniel Zampieri-Alessio Rovera (eventually 6th) and the SPS Automotive Mercedes of Fabrizio Crestani-Miguel Ramos (4th at the finishing line) in the first part of the race, and resisting to the Teo Martín McLarens 720S in the final moments. The new machines of the Spanish squad also had a very positive debut, with Henrique Chaves-Martin Kodrić and Fran Rueda-Andrés Saravia completing the overall podium.

Valentin Pierburg-Tom Onslow Cole (SPS Mercedes) started the defence of their Pro-Am title with a superb win ahead of Marcelo Hahn-Allam Khodair (Teo Martín McLaren) and the Raton by Target Lambo of Jiatong Liang-Raffaele Giammaria. It was close fight until the very end also in the Am category, with Alex Hrachowina-Martin Konrad (HTP Motorsport Mercedes) beating the two Antonelli Motorsport AMGs of an impressive Giuseppe Cipriani and Davide Roda.

THE RACE – From the pole, Khodair takes a good start, resisting the attacks of Zampieri, with Kodric third ahead of Crestani, Cheever, Saravia (who had a great start) and Jäger. At the back there is a contact between Umbrarescu and Grenier, with both forced to the pits. Only the Bentley will be able to continue. Coimbra also visits the pits after collecting debris.

The gap between Khodair and Zampieri stabilizes around 6.5 seconds after 6 laps, with Costa right behind after passing Kodric, and Crestani, Cheever (who passes the Lambo in lap 8), Saravia and Di Folco quite close, while Schandorff leads the second group, where Cipriani is the top Am. As the races  unfolds, Khodair pulls away with Zampieri losing ground and having trouble to keep Costa and Kodric at bay. Saravia passes Crestani for 5th with a great move. Onidi is forced to the pits because of a puncture.

In lap 15, the pit stop window opens, with Kodric, Saravia and Liang being the first to stop. Khodair and Costa both stop in lap 18, with Crestani and Jäger being the last ones to do so. It’s Ramos still leading when he gets out of the pits, but the Portuguese is attacked with no hesitation by Altoè, Rovera and Chaves, as Rueda is fifth ahead of Hahn, who retains the Pro-Am lead in front of Habul and Lenz. Cipriani is still commanding the Am class, although Konrad is on his heels and will pass him in the dying moments of the race.  Rovera is passed by the McLarens of Both Chaves and Rueda and shortly after also by Ramos, slipping to fifth.

The last laps see a storming Onslow-Cole charge back up to fifth overall and victory in Pro-Am, posting the fastest lap in the process.

Problematic but not less heroic, the GT3 debut for Răzvan Umbrarescu, Romania’s first GT3 driver. After having a clash at the start of the first race which caused some damage on the front of the car and forced the car to pit early. After some repairs they re-entered the battle but after 10 laps they had to retire the car. Despite limited running, Razvan Umbrărescu displayed a solid pace, maintaining a respectable gap to his heralded teammate Jules Gounon, a Bentley factory driver and son of ex F1 driver and Le Mans Winner Jean Marc Gounon.

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