Sunday 22 May 2011

Blancpain Endurance Series: Vita4One Ferrari Triumphs in Spain

Vita4One Ferrari Triumphs in Spain

The nr1 Vita4One Ferrari 458 of Michael Bartels, Frank Kechele and Nico Verdonck took their first victory in the Blancpain Endurance Series at Navarra in Spain, finishing 17 seconds ahead of the Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 LMS of Stephane Ortelli, Bert Longin and Filipe Alburquerqe. Ortelli, starting from Pole Position held the lead until Kechele took the lead on lap 17. The Vita4One Ferrari then set the pace for the rest of the race. Round 1 winners Gianluca Roda, Raffaele Gianmaria and Paolo Ruberti taking the final podium place in the AutOrlando Porsche 997 GT3 R to maintain their championship lead after two races.

The Pro-Am Cup Class was won by the nr20 SOFREV Auto Sport Promotion Ferrrari 458 Italia of Ludovic Badey, Franck Morel and Jean-Luc Beaubelique, with Morel leading the race until the final pitstops and Beaubelique taking the chequered flag in 5th overall one lap behind the leading four Pro Cup class cars. The GT3 Gentlemen Trophy was won by Round 1 winner George Cabannes in the nr31 Ruffier Racing Lamborghini, with Cabennes being joined by rally driver Fabien Michal, who was taking part in his very first circuit race.

The GT4 Cup went to the nr61 Lotus Driving Academy Lotus Evora of Freddy Barth, Rolf Maritz and Lorenz Frey after the leading Lotus Italia Evora of Greg Mansell retired with gearbox failure. The GT3 Cup De Lorenzi Racing Porsche 997 GT3 of Luigi Emiliani, Sergio Negroni and Marco Cassera struggled to reach the chequered flag after the gearbox lost 5th and 6th gears but the Italian's crossed the line to lift to take the GT3 Cup.


Thirty cars lined up on the grid for Round 2 of the Blancpain Endurance Series, with the nr 65 Gentle Swiss Racing Maserati missing from the line up with a rear axle issue. Stephane Ortelli in the nr32 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 led the cars into the first turn as the race began, with the nr9 AutOrlando Porsche of Gianluca Roda moving ahead of Jack Gerber in the nr50 AF Corse Ferrari to take second place. The AF Corse Ferrari was also passed by Frank Kechele in the Vita4One Ferrari on the run into Turn 9, with the German closing the gap to challenge the second placed Porsche.

Ortelli continued to lead the race as Kechele challenged Roda, but it took several laps before the Vita4One Ferrari moved ahead and started to close the 3 second gap that Ortelli had managed to open up to his rivals. While Kechele was charging forward, Roda’s Porsche came under pressure from the two SOFREV ASP Ferrari’s of Ludovic Badey in the nr20 458 and Julien Jousse in the nr10 Ferrari.

In the GT4 Class the nr 63 RJN Motorsport Nissan of Alex Buncombe was being reeled in by the two Lotus Evora’s of Edoardo Piscopo and Fredy Barth and on lap 11 the Nissan slipped to third place in the GT4 Cup.

The nr24 Blancpain Reiter Lamborghini of Marc A Hayek, which had started at the back of the grid following a blown engine in qualifying, was making rapid progress up the field but Hayek’s charge was brought to a halt when the Lamborghini made an unscheduled pitstop on lap 12. The problem was traced to the battery but after several more trips to the pits the round 1 class winner was forced to retire.

Back at the front of the field Kechele was able to close the gap to the leading Audi to less than a second. On lap 17 the nr22 Sport Garage Ferrari 430 of Philip Shearer went off at the last corner and was parked at the side of the track. There was a bit of confusion when some drivers said they saw Safety Car boards being shown and Ortelli decided to slow down. Kechele, who made the decision that the Safety Car wasn’t deployed, closed right up to the Audi and swept into the lead. Kechele then set about building a 5-second lead to his rivals as the Ferrari continued to run faultlessly.

On lap 24 the Safety Car was deployed when the nr50 AF Corse Ferrari 458 of Jack Gerber went off the track at Turn 15 and hit the barriers, destroying the front end of his car and the track was covered in debris. The pitlane suddenly came alive as teams rushed to take advantage of the situation.

At the restart on lap 29 the nr20 SOFREV Ferrari of Ludovic Badey was leading the race having failed to complete its first stop. Badey continued to lead when the second Safety Car period came into force after the nr73 De Lorenzi Racing Ginetta G50 of Diego Alessi caught fire. The back of the GT4 Class car was well alight when the Italian pulled over after Turn 14 and made a rapid exit to safety. The lead Ferrari pitted and the lead went to the nr1 Vita4One Ferrari, now with Nico Verdonck at the wheel.

After the marshals had extinguished the fire and dragged the stricken Ginetta behind the barriers racing resumed. Verdonck started to pull ahead of Bert Longin in the nr32 Audi, who was being caught by the nr9 AutOrlando Porsche of Raffaele Gianmaria and the nr33 Belgian Audi Club R8 of Marcel Fassler. On lap 40 Longin was passed by the Porsche at the last corner and then three laps later fell victim to Fassler’s Audi when the Swiss driver followed two back markers who passed Longin’s Audi to un lap themselves.

By lap 51 Verdonck was a comfortable 8 seconds ahead of Gianmaria’s Porsche and 15 seconds ahead of the third placed Audi. Longin, now in 4th, was coming under pressure from the SOFREV Ferrari of Patrice Goueslard and decided to pit on lap 59 to hand over to Felipe Albuquerqe.

Verdonck pitted on lap 66 just before Gianmaria brought the AutOrlando Porsche for its second and final stop. Verdonck handed over to reigning GT1 World Champion Michael Bartels who regained the track over 15 seconds ahead of the Porsche and looked set to win his first race in a GT3 car. The nr20 Ferrari was still leading the race on the road but still had to make its final stop, but not before Bartels swept past Gouesland to take the lead on lap 72.

As the race entered the final stages only four cars were on the lead lap, the nr1 Vita4One Ferrari, the nr9 AutOrlando Porsche and the two Belgian Audi Club R8s. Paolo Roberti was struggling with the Porsche’s gearbox, which didn’t have first gear, allowing Albuquerqe in the nr32 Audi to close and pass on the inside of the first corner on lap 92.

Meanwhile disaster struck the nr70 Lotus Italia Evora of Greg Mansell. With a one lap advantage over their nearest rivals the Lotus Italia team looked set to repeat their Monza win but the gearbox had other ideas and failed on lap 89, forcing Mansell into retirement and handing the class win to the Lotus Academy Evora of Lorenz Frey.

As the final laps counted down the Vita4One team got set to celebrate and they did just that as Michael Bartels took the chequered flag to win Round 2 of the Blancpain Endurance Series in Navarra.

The next round will be the Total 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium on the 28-31 July.

CLICK HERE for the final result

CLICK HERE for the Race Facts

CLICK HERE for the Championship Positions (PDF Document)

Blancpain, a tradition of innovation for over 275 years

In 1735, Jehan-Jacques Blancpain began his watchmaking activity and installed his first workshop on the upper floor of his family home in Villeret, a village in the Swiss Jura mountains. By inscribing his name in the official communal property register, this pioneer created an establishment that is now the world’s oldest watch brand.

Throughout its history, Blancpain has succeeded in maintaining solid continuity in its capacity for innovation and its respect for traditional horological values. Whether by perfecting complications, designs and production methods, or by exploring new horizons, the Manufacture has been devoted for more than 275 years to taking the art of watchmaking to places it has never yet ventured. From the first models created in the 18th century to the prestigious timepieces currently emerging from its workshops, Blancpain has forged an authentic tradition of innovation. The key to its success lies in the mastery of all fields involved in making an exceptional mechanical timepiece – from the creation of the movement and its components through to the functional design of the watch, along with the choice of materials and the extremely refined and entirely hand-crafted finishing.

Without ever straying from its precious heritage, the brand steadfastly pursues its quest for performance, precision and elegance by offering a range of exceptional timepieces equipped with the most sophisticated horological complications. The nature of its collections – including the pure lines of the Villeret, the efficient complexity of Le Brassus, and the avant-garde design of L-evolution – is firmly rooted in watchmaking traditions while constantly pushing them towards new limits. In the same way, the ladies’ collection celebrates beauty and refinement, while the Sport collection is composed of instrument watches that are ready to face any situation on land, under water or in the air.

While remaining unswervingly loyal to its values, Blancpain regularly associates with partners that share its passion for excellence. Whether in the field of motorsports, sailing, scuba diving, or that of gastronomy and the art of living, the Manufacture is proud of its partnerships that represent far more than mere co-branding. On the contrary, Blancpain commits itself fully to such forms of cooperation by joining forces with its partners in a determination to excel and to foster both creativity and authenticity.

Info:Jeff Carter/SRO- Acreditated Press Media

Photos: © VIMAGES/Fabre and Jeff Carter/SRO.

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