‘GTE Pro was a bat­tle of the Brits’

Motor Sport News - - Racing News -

For five hours and 50 min­utes, two Bri­tish drivers were locked in bat­tle for vic­tory in the GTE Pro class – al­though thanks to the strate­gies of the two AF Corse Fer­rari 488s they did not lock horns in per­son. With 10 min­utes left, the #51 car shared by James Cal­ado and Gian­maria Bruni was set for vic­tory when it slowed with an en­gine prob­lem and Da­vide Rigon, co-driv­ing the #71 ma­chine with Sam Bird, swept into the lead to take a se­cond con­sec­u­tive win.

The two cars were not sep­a­rated by much more than 20 sec­onds at any point in the race. Bruni took the lead at the start and was chased hard by Bird un­til a mo­ment at Pouhon on the sev­enth lap cre­ated a small gap be­tween the pair.

“I had a lit­tle bit of over­steer and caught it,” said Bird, who lost three or four sec­onds. “At Pouhon, if you get on the kerb too much you can’t get it back on the cir­cuit. And it’s so dirty off line that I had to be re­ally care­ful bring­ing it back on.”

The two crews matched each other al­most lap for lap, but the #51 car very grad­u­ally ex­tended its lead, largely thanks to faster pit­stops, be­fore the safety car was de­ployed to clear up the wreck­age of Ste­fan Mucke’s mas­sive ac­ci­dent at Eau Rouge in the Ford GT. Cal­ado would have made it to the fin­ish with a few sec­onds in hand, but for the prob­lem.

This al­lowed the other Ford GT of Marino Fran­chitti, Andy Pri­aulx and Harry Tinck­nell to take se­cond.

Fer­rari was also in the mix for GTE Am vic­tory, with Rui Aguas’s AF Corse Fer­rari lead­ing early on be­fore be­ing passed by Pe­dro Lamy in the #98 As­ton Martin. But a driv­ethrough penalty for the Fer­rari for ex­ceed­ing track lim­its (the first of two), com­bined with an out-of-sync se­cond stop, put the car a lap down in the se­cond hour.

The As­ton Martin, spear­headed by the rapid Lamy shar­ing with Mathias Lauda and bronze-rated Paul Dalla Lana, was then able to close out a straight­for­ward win.

Bruni and Cal­ado led, but lost out to their team-mates

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