The crew of Mikhail Aleshin, Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon started the three-hour race from 10th in their #72 Ferrari 488 GT3 and kept their composure throughout an action-packed race to return the Maranello brand to the top step of the podium.
The #72 car slipped a place at the start, but Russian ace Aleshin was able to stay out of trouble on a dramatic opening lap that saw a multi-car crash occur on the Hanger Straight.
Davide Rigon, #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, said: "We were lacking something this morning during qualifying, as it was difficult to put together a lap. Starting from P10 we did a fantastic job, so thanks to the engineers and the whole SMP Racing team who chose a good strategy and gave us a great car. It has been a long time and the team deserve to be on the top set of the podium."
The majority of the first stint was led by the pole-sitting #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan with Christian Engelhart at the wheel, but all hope of victory was lost when the car suffered an ill-timed puncture. This promoted the #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini into the lead, ahead of its sister #519 car.
Phil Keen, #519 Orange1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, said: "The whole team did a really good job. We had a great qualifying, putting the car in P3, then got a good start and managed to stay out of trouble. The Blancpain GT Series is probably the toughest GT3 championship in the world, so leading a race and finishing P2 as a new team, and in the second race together, is a great achievement."
Meanwhile, the #72 Ferrari ran on the fringes of the top-10 during the opening hour of the race.
The #563 was the first to stop shortly before the 60-minute mark, but this would prove costly as the race was neutralised again to recover a stranded car. By stopping later, the #519 Lamborghini was able to take the lead ahead of the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT effort while the #72 Ferrari made major gains by moving up to third.
Ezequiel Perez Companc, #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS: "Our race was pretty good considering that we didn’t have the best car today. We managed to have a clean race and stay out of trouble; we had some contact, but no real damage. I'm very proud of everyone for the great job they’ve done."
Miguel Molina took the wheel from Aleshin, and when racing resumed the Spanish ace made a bold pass on Ezequiel Perez Companc in the #2 Audi to capture second spot. Out front Phil Keen was able to edge away in the #519 FFF car, and when the #563 Lamborghini overhauled the SMP Ferrari it looked as though the Bologna brand was on for a one-two finish.
But the #563 lost out again during the final pit stop, slipping to fifth and out of the lead battle. The final stint saw the race develop into a straight fight between the #519 Lamborghini – driven by Giovanni Venturini – and Rigon in the #72 Ferrari. The SMP Racing driver clearly had superior pace and was able to quickly reel in the Lamborghini, but Venturini was resolute in his defence.
For almost half an hour the two Italians were nose to tail and, as the race reached its final 20 minutes, it seemed that Venturuni would be able to hold on.
But with 17 minutes left on the clock Rigon made his move, sneaking into a gap and edging ahead as the cars exited Luffield. Once the Ferrari had the lead it was never likely to be challenged, with Rigon coolly edging away to win by 2.6 seconds. Venturini followed him across the line to secure a second Endurance Cup podium in as many events for series newcomer FFF Racing.
The final spot on the overall podium was extremely hotly contested, with the #43 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG looking set to seal the place after a truly remarkable rise from 41st on the grid.
But a collision with the recovering #563 Lamborghini put Strakka driver Jack Hawksworth off the road, while also leaving the FFF-run car with significant damage. This allowed Dries Vanthoor to bring the #2 WRT Audi through for the final podium place, while the #98 ROWE Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R finished fourth after starting 39th on the grid. Hawksworth recovered to fifth, ensuring Strakka was rewarded with a strong points haul at its home event.
The Silver Cup class was won by the narrowest of margins. The #19 Grasser Lamborghini led much of the event, while also vying for the overall podium, but a late charge saw the #55 Attempto Racing Audi cross the line just 0.013s shy of the winner.
Lucas Mauron, #19 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “Our race was very good today. In the end, we put all together. The pit stops were very good, our pace was good, and the team did great work. It was just good!”
The Pro-Am class was also decided during the final stint, though the battle was settled considerably earlier than the Silver Cup contest. The #74 Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG prevailed thanks to Tom Onslow-Cole and Ramon Vos, the British ace passing the #93 Tempesta Racing Ferrari 488 early in the concluding hour. This ensured that the local squad won its home event for a second successive season, with the #52 AF Corse Ferrari eventually taking second spot.
Tom Onslow-Cole, #74 Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG: “We had a pretty up and down race with all the action at the start. We dropped to the back but luckily we were unscathed. Ramon did an amazing job to avoid the accident and then to gain several positions. He gave me the car in P2 for the last stint with one place to make up to win, and we managed to do that.”
The Am Cup category was also won by a British squad as Barwell Motorsport continued its incredible run of form with a fourth successive class win. The #77 Lamborghini started from Am Cup pole, though its fortunes fluctuated throughout the race and it took a measured drive from Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski and Miguel Ramos to continue the winning run.
Leo Machitski, #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3: "This one was more difficult than some of the others. We really had to fight for it. We were lucky, and then unlucky with a slow puncture for Miguel. Fortunately, we were able to pit; thank you to our crew, which was very focussed all weekend. Let’s keep up the momentum!”
Following the Silverstone contest, the Blancpain GT Series will resume with another Endurance Cup event as Circuit Paul Ricard plays host to its annual 1,000km race on 31 May-1 June. By Melissa Warren
1 72 Miguel Molina, Mikhail Aleshin, Davide Rigon SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 2:01.488 76
2 519 Phil Keen, Giovanni Venturini, Franck Perera Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:01.514 76 2.631
3 2 Dries Vanthoor, Ezequiel Perez Companc, Alex Riberas Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 2:01.346 76 12.215
4 98 Romain Dumas, Sven Müller, Mathieu Jaminet Rowe Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R 2:01.440 76 14.100
5 43 Jack Hawksworth, Dev Gore, Lewis Williamson Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 2:01.541 76 18.880
6 563 Andrea Caldarelli, Dennis Lind, Marco Mapelli Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:01.282 76 22.609
7 4 Maro Engel, Luca Stolz, Yelmer Buurman BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 2:01.792 76 33.914
8 19 Silver Cup Arno Santamato, Gerhard Tweraser, Lucas Mauron GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:02.319 76 34.440
9 55 Silver Cup Steijn Schothorst, Pieter Schothorst, Mattia Drudi Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 2:01.933 76 34.453
10 90 Silver Cup Nico Bastian, Timur Boguslavskiy, Felipe Fraga AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 2:01.963 76 36.512
11 25 Simon Gachet, Steven Palette, Christopher Haase Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 2:01.520 76 36.742
12 107 Jordan Pepper, Steven Kane, Jules Gounon Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 2:01.456 76 38.736
13 333 Silver Cup Rinat Salikhov, Denis Bulatov, David Perel Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 2:01.780 76 39.871
14 108 Alex Buncombe, Andy Soucek, Maxime Soulet Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 2:02.112 76 40.401
15 78 Silver Cup James Pull, Jordan Witt, Sandy Mitchell Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:01.749 76 41.351
16 22 Silver Cup Matt McMurry, Philipp Frommenwiler, Struan Moore Jenson Team Rocket RJN Honda Acura NSX GT3 2019 2:01.820 76 41.573
17 62 Matthieu Vaxiviere, Matt Parry, Maxime Martin R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 2:01.460 76 44.503
18 54 Andrea Rizzoli, Zaid Ashkanani, Klaus Bachler Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R 2:02.690 76 46.440
19 99 Matt Campbell, Dennis Olsen, Dirk Werner Rowe Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R 2:01.456 76 53.044
20 6 Silver Cup Hubert Haupt, Patrick Assenheimer, Gabriele Piana BLACK FALCON Mercedes-AMG GT3 2:02.221 76 56.891
21 74 Pro-AM Cup Remon Vos, Tom Onslow-Cole Ram Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 2:02.526 76 59.781
22 5 Silver Cup Ivan Pareras, Kim Luis Schramm, Finlay Hutchison Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 2:02.828 76 1:08.679
23 52 Pro-AM Cup Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 2:02.712 76 1:08.852
24 97 Pro-AM Cup Salih Yoluc, Ahmad Al Harthy, Charlie Eastwood Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 2:02.467 76 1:10.056
25 17 Silver Cup Shae Davies, Paul Petit, Alex MacDowall Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 2:02.569 76 1:10.394
26 12 Silver Cup Denis Dupont, Dean Stoneman, Stefano Gattuso Ombra Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:02.874 76 1:32.098
27 93 Pro-AM Cup Chris Buncombe, Jonathan Hui, Chris Froggatt Tempesta Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 2:02.611 76 2:01.958
28 20 Silver Cup Jordan Grogor, Benjamin Goethe, Stuart Hall GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R 2:02.435 76 2:06.235
29 77 AM Cup Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski, Miguel Ramos Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:04.263 75 38.632
30 31 Pro-AM Cup Derek Pierce, Rob Smith, Sebastian Morris Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 2:01.576 75 43.904
31 23 AM Cup Fabien Barthez, Bernard Delhez Tech 1 Racing Lexus RCF GT3 2:03.891 75 59.031
32 27 Silver Cup Fabrizio Crestani, Nicolas Pohler, Kris Richard Daiko Lazarus Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2:02.228 75 1:00.893
33 188 AM Cup Alexander West, Chris Harris, Chris Goodwin Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 2:04.482 75 1:08.550
34 29 AM Cup Stefano Costantini, Antonio Forne Tomas, Christoph Lenz Raton Racing by Target Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:04.200 75 1:10.346
35 87 Pro-AM Cup Jim Pla, Mauro Ricci, Jean-Luc Beaubelique AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 2:02.632 75 1:35.090
36 63 Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Rolf Ineichen GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:00.746 74 -2:12.312
37 444 AM Cup Jens Liebhauser, Andrzej Lewandowski, Florian Scholze HB Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 2:04.603 73 12.176
38 15 AM Cup Pierre Feligioni, Claude-Yves Gosselin, Renaud Kuppens Boutsen Ginion Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:04.395 73 1:34.628
39 9 Pro-AM Cup Marc Rostan, Karim Ojjeh, Philipp Eng Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3 2:02.940 60 0.957
40 76 Maxime Martin, Jake Dennis, Nicki Thiim R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 2:01.477 59 -34:02.690
NC 33 AM Cup Steve Parrow, Christian Hook, Manuel Lauck Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 2:06.081 35 -1:27:35.383
NC 555 Silver Cup Diego Menchaca, Taylor Proto, Michele Beretta Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 2019 2:03.051 34 -1:36:49.778
NC 66 Clemens Schmid, Nick Foster, Kelvin van der Linde Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 2:02.862 15 -2:21:27.694
NC 10 Silver Cup Ricardo Sanchez, Charles Weerts, Rik Breukers Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019 2:04.424 14 -2:23:28.597
NC 26 Pro-AM Cup Nyls Stievenart, Fabien Michal, Markus Winkelhock Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 2019
NC 488 AM Cup Pierre Ehret, Martin Berry, Jose Manuel Balbiani Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3
NC 88 Raffaele Marciello, Michael Meadows, Vincent Abril Mercedes-AMG Team Akka ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3
NC 59 Come Ledogar, Andrew Watson, Jonny Adam Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3