Mirko Bortolloti took the chequered flag in the #31 team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 he shared with Kelvin van der Linde and Matthieu Vaxivière to win the opening round of the 2020 GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS, crossing the line 3.425 seconds ahead of Mathieu Jaminet in the #12 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R.
Completing the podium positions was the # 88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by Raffaele Marciello, Timur Bogislavskiy and, driving the final stint, Felipe Fraga. .
Victory in the Silver Cup class went to the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Alex Macdowall, Frederik Schandorff and Patrick Kujala, the Finnish driver crossing the line ahead of Valentin Hasse Clot in the #159 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR he shared with Andrew Watson. The top three in the category was completed by the #56 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche driven by Andrea Rizzoli, Adrien de Leneer and Mikkel Pedersen.
The Pro-Am Cup class saw the win go to the #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin piloted by Alex West, Chris Goodwin and, taking the chequered flag, Jonny Adam. Second in class went to the #93 Chris Froggatt /Jonathan Hui/Eddie Cheever-piloted Ferrari F488 GT3 with the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi finishing third.
Frederick Vervisch, behind the wheel of the #66 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS, led the field away from pole position followed by James Calado in the #51 AF Corse as Maro Engel in the #4 HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 went off at Turn 1.
Vervisch started a build a gap to Calado while the Ferrari driver was fending off Raffaele Marciello in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes.
A full course caution was shown after six minutes of racing after Christian Hook in the #44 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes had an off-track excursion at Turn 19, causing damage to the barriers which required repair.
Racing resumed after 15 minutes after the Safety Car had bunched the field. Marciello again set about attacking second-placed Calado, allowing Vervisch in the leading Audi to start pulling away.
Marciello found a way past Calado on Lap 5 and set about hunting down the leading #66 Audi. By Lap 14 the Italian had reduced the gap to 1.22 seconds and was setting purple sector times in his effort to secure the lead.
The second full course caution was called just after 30 minutes of racing after the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes with Jean-Luc Beaubelique at the wheel went off at Turn 18 after contact.
Just as the race had restarted, the #23 Imperiale Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Giovanni Venturini had contact with a following car resulting in the #23 entry losing a wheel and parking by the side of the circuit. The third caution of the race was called to recover the stricken car. The majority of the field took the opportunity for a pit stop and driver change.
The leading #66 Attempto Racing Audi lost out hugely in the scramble to pit, Vervisch having parked the car too far away from the garage, and rejoined, with Kim Luis Schramm now driving, in 17th position.
After the first driver changes had cycled through, it was the #51 AF Corse Ferrari in the lead, Nicklas Nielsen behind the wheel with Sergey Sirotkin in the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari in second. Kelvin van der Linde in the #31 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi had soon passed the Russian pilot, relegating the #72 car to third.
Van der Linde passed Nielsen to take the lead at the start of Lap 35 and started to pull out a gap to the Danish driver.
Problems were piled on the #66 car after it received a drive-through penalty for speeding under the Full Course Yellow. There was also a penalty for the second placed car, the #51 Ferrari piloted by Nicklas Nielsen, amongst a number of penalties served for speeding during the full course caution period.
With 54 laps run, there was a titanic battle from 6th down to 13th with Louis Deletraz in the #40 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R leading a train of cars.
After the final driver changes had cycled through, Mirko Bortolotti in the #31 Audi had consolidated the Team WRT lead and now had an advantage of nearly 25 seconds over Mathieu Jaminet in the #12 Porsche. Felipe Fraga in the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes was third, 5.722 seconds behind Jaminet.
There was drama for KPX Racing’s Alavaro Parente when, in his haste to pass Fabian Schiller’s #100 GetSpeed Mercedes, made contact, causing the #100 car to spin into the gravel. The stationary car caused a full course yellow with less than 50 minutes remaining. The resulting Safety Car bunched the field again and Parente was served with a drive-through penalty for the incident.
When racing resumed, second-placed Jaminet found himself baulked by a back-marker which allowed Bortolotti to pull out a 4.341 second gap before Jaminet could start to attack.
A further full course yellow followed by a Safety Car was called when the #60 McLaren parked by the side of the circuit. Racing resumed with less than 12 minutes remaining and this time Jaminet was immediately behind Bortolloti.
Bortolloti pulled out a small advantage as Felipe Fraga in the #88 Mercedes put pressure on Jaminet in the #12 Porsche. Dries Vanthoor in the 32 Team WRT Audi joined the fight, closing in on Fraga which allowed Jaminet to focus on the leader rather than his rear view mirror.
Jaminet, however, could not close up on the leading Audi and Bortolotti took the chequered flag for his first victory in an Audi, 3.426 seconds ahead of #12 Porsche with Fraga in the #88 Mercedes holding on for third.
Full race report to follow.