Photo: Blancpain GT Series.
Andrea Caldarelli and, driving the second stint, Marco Mapelli, piloting the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing team Lamborghini Huracán GT3, took the chequered flag to take the victory in the opening race of the Blancpain GT World Challenge double-header at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, crossing the line .806 seconds ahead of the #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Vincent Abril and, crossing the line, Raffaele Marciello.
Completing the overall podium positions was the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes driven by Luca Stolz and Maro Engel, who finished 3.857 seconds behind the #88 car.
The win in the Silver Cup class went to the #90 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes, piloted by Timur Bogulavskiy and Fabian Schiller.
Class honours in the Pro-Am Cup class were taken by the #52 AF Corse Ferrari F488 GT3 with the driver line-up of Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini.
With shadows lengthening for the start of the evening race, Charles Weerts, at the wheel of the #2 Belgian Audi Club team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 led the field away from pole position. Andrea Caldarelli, driving the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 moved into second at the start and was immediately on the rear bumper of the #2 car, the Italian Team Principal passing for the lead early in the 60-minute race.
There was drama at Turn 3 with a spin for the #25 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 driven by Simon Gachet after the French driver made contact with Christian Engelhart, at the wheel of the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. It was later announced that the race stewards would investigate the incident and Gachet was subsequently handed a drive-through penalty
Meanwhile, Caldarelli was starting to pull out a gap to Weerts which, by the ninth lap, had extended to 1.6 seconds but disaster struck the driver of the #2 car when he spun at Turn 4. A Full Course Yellow, which became a Safety Car, was required to recover the stricken Audi, allowing the field to pull up to the rear of Caldarelli’s Lamborghini.
Racing resumed after 11 minutes as the driver change window approached. Caldarelli at the wheel of the #563 Lamborghini resumed the lead but was quickly into the pits to change drivers to Marco Mapelli, the Italian driver immediately setting purple times in sectors one and three.
After the driver changes had cycled through, Mapelli held the lead in the #563 Lamborghini but was being chased down by Raffaele Marciello, now at the wheel of the #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes he shared with Vincent Abril. Running in third and nearly 4.5 seconds behind the #88 car was Maro Engel in the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes. The #89 Akka ASP team Mercedes Silver Cup entry driven by Thomas Neubauer was fourth.
An unfortunate incident struck fifth-placed Marcus Winkelhock in the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi after the German driver lost a wheel, bringing out the second Full Course Yellow and Safety Car of the race.
The race got underway again with less than 12 minutes remaining and Marco Mapelli controlled the front of the field, closely followed by Marciello and Engel. The car that suffered at the restart was the #89 Mercedes with Thomas Neubauer finding himself back in seventh.
Raffaele Marciello had Marco Mapelli in his sights but Mapelli held his nerve and started to pull out a gap and by Lap 29, Mapelli was over half a second ahead.
As the 60-minute race approached the final seven minutes, the light was fading and the low sun was no longer causing an issue. The fiercest on-track battle in the closing minutes was for eighth place with Kelvin van der Linde in the #66 Attempto Racing Audi pushing Frederic Vervisch hard in the #11 Phoenix Racing Audi, finally taking the position on the 31st lap.
Mapelli maintained the lead at just less than a second but Marciello never let up the pressure all the way to the chequered flag.
Andrea Caldarelli was very happy to take the win.
“Yeah, very happy!” said Caldarelli. “We’ve been waiting five – six weekends? It was very close. To win at our home race was fantastic and we all deserve it – absolutely!”
Race Two gets underway at Misano World Circuit at 14:00 local time on Sunday June 30.