Andrea Caldarelli, driving the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 he shared with Marco Mapelli, took victory in Race One of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe double-header at the Nürburgring. Caldarelli brought the #563 car home 9.047 seconds ahead of the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini piloted by Mirko Bortolotti and, driving the second stint, Christian Engelhart.
Completing the overall podium positions was the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by Simon Gachet and, crossing the line just .107 seconds behind the #63 car, Christopher Haase.
Class honours in the Silver Cup category went to the #56 Attempto Racing Audi driven by Milan Dontje and Mattia Drudi. Second in class was the #90 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes of Fabian Schiller and Timur Bogulavskiy.
Victory in the Pro-Am Cup class went to the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 piloted by Rinat Salikhov and David Perel.
Racing got underway in perfect conditions, Mirko Bortolotti leading the field from pole position in the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 but soon found himself under pressure from Luca Stolz in the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3.
There was early drama for Mauro Ricci in the #87 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG who spun at Turn 15 on his second lap but was able to rejoin.
After three laps, Bortolotti had got the tyres on the #63 Lamborghini up to pressure and had started to pull out a small gap of just over .6 of a second to Stolz in the #4 Mercedes.
Lying second in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Drivers Standings, there was pressure on Marco Mapelli in the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracan to make a move, the Italian driver having started from sixth on the grid. After four laps, however, the #563 car was still in sixth place, .414 seconds behind Simon Gachet in the #25 Audi.
Mapelli passed Gachet for fifth place at Turn 1 on at the start of his eighth lap and then set about chasing down the leaders, Bortolotti less than 2.5 seconds up the road.
When the driver change window opened, the leading four cars pitted at the earliest opportunity. As the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes exited the pit box, Maro Engel now driving, there was contact with the #10 WRT Silver Cup Audi driven by Rik Breukers. The release was investigated and the #4 car was served with a drive-through penalty as a result.
Andrea Caldarelli, now at the wheel of the #563 Lamborghini, wasted no time in in getting up to speed, lapping in 1:56.961, the fastest of the race to that time.
After the driver changes had cycled through, it was Christian Engelhart in the #63 Lamborghini who held the lead with Caldarelli in the #563 car in second, less than one second behind.
Leading the Silver Cup class was Milan Dontje in the #56 Attempto Racing Audi whilst David Perel headed the Pro-Am category in the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari.
With 19 laps run, Caldarelli was putting Engelhart under pressure for the lead, the #563 car .268 seconds behind after 19 laps. Meanwhile Maro Engel in the #4 Mercedes languished back in twelfth place and out of the points after serving his penalty.
With Engelhart and Caldarelli battling for the lead, Christopher Haase in the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi was able to join the leading pair and, after 25 laps the top three were running nose-to-tail.
Caldarelli saw his opportunity on Lap 26 and took the lead after some close racing and some contact between Turns 1 and 5. Having hit the front, the Orange 1 FFF Racing team owner could now run at his own pace and had pulled out a gap to Christian Engelhart of nearly 1.5 seconds before the end of Lap 27.
Christopher Haase then started putting pressure on Christian Engelhart for second but was unable to find a way past before the chequered flag.
“All the guys (in the team) deserve (this victory)” said Andrea Caldarelli after the race. “The car was mega! We struggled this morning in qualy as a driver and I’m really happy for everyone – we all deserve it! It was not easy at all – it was really difficult. I tried to overtake Christian (Engelhart) as much as I could. At the end you just have to be patient sometimes!”
Maro Engel, meanwhile, had pulled the #4 Mercedes up to seventh at the finish.
Victory for the Orange 1 FFF Racing Team duo mean that Caldarelli and Mapelli move into the lead in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe drivers standings on 69.5 points, six points ahead of Luca Stolz and Maro Engel. Mirko Bortolotti and Christina Engelhart lie third in the standings on 51.5 points.
Race Two gets underway at 14:30 local time on Sunday September 1.