BMS Scuderia Italia’s Luigi Lucchini claimed victory on his return to the Blancpain GT Sports Club in a frenetic first race at Circuit Paul Ricard. ERC Sport’s Lee Mowle stormed through to score the Titanium Cup win, with AF Corse’s Louis Philippe Soenen dominating the Iron Cup class.
Race one got underway with pole-sitter Jens Reno Moller losing out to Lucchini’s #7 Ferrari 458 GT3, as the Italian swooped around the outside of the Reno Racing driver at Turn 1. Moller then came under pressure from behind but managed to hold on and began closing back up to the leader.
With 15 of the 45-minute race completed, Moller then had a moment on board the #11 Honda NSX GT3 Evo in the final sector, dropping to fourth behind StileF Squadra Corse’s Pavel Strukov and Kessel Racing’s Murod Sultanov.
The Russian duo, both running Ferrari 488 GT3s, then came together, with Sultanov forced into retirement with extensive damage. Strukov was handed a drive-through penalty and would later drop out of the race entirely.
This promoted Moller back to second, albeit around seven seconds behind Lucchini’s Ferrari. The championship leader reeled the Italian in with several consecutive fast laps, but ultimately fell short by two seconds over the line.
Behind them, AF Corse’s Mario Cordoni made up a number of places from the fifth row of the grid, passing team-mate Ken Abe and taking advantage of Strukov and Sultanov’s incident to claim the final spot on the podium.
Robert Zwinger impressed on his Blancpain GT Sports Club debut, keeping his #888 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 out of trouble and conserving his tyres as he hunted down Cordoni’s #51 Ferrari 488 GT3. The HB Racing driver finished just a second behind the Italian but will have the advantage in race two, starting from third on the grid.
The #84 Ferrari 458 GT3 of Pete Mitchell was fifth and the lead StileF Squadra Corse entry, holding off the charging Mercedes AMG GT3 of Mowle in the final stages of the race.
The British GT convert enjoyed an excellent recovery drive from 18th on the grid, avoiding incidents ahead and making several passes to finish sixth overall and first in the Titanium Cup class.
Seventh was the second Mercedes of Capital Racing Team’s Denis Remenyako, who enjoyed a strong debut after initially dropping to ninth. The Russian took advantage of AF Corse’s Ken Abe, who was in a podium battle with Cordoni earlier, but struggled with grip as the race wore on and finished eighth.
The first of the Iron cup runners, Soenen, scored two overall points in what was one of his best Blancpain GT Sports Club races to date. The Belgian used his experience to manage his tyres well and finish ninth ahead of Frederic Fangio, who collected a point on his return despite an earlier spin.
Behind Mowle in the Titanium Cup was Dilantha Malagamuwa’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3, who collect his best finish in class, with Gerard van der Horst’s rounding out the podium in the newer spec Huracan.
In the Iron Cup, Kessel Racing’s Rick Peter Lovat collected his third consecutive second-place finish, ahead of Bernd Kleinbach’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3. The German crossed the line with a three-second advantage over Stephen Earle, who was unable to recover after an earlier incident.
Race two gets underway at 14:00 (local) and will be streamed live in both French and English on our Facebook page, YouTube channel and website.
Luigi Lucchini, #7 BMS Scuderia Italia, Overall Winner: “The start was fundamental because I got into first position and tried to push hard. The Honda had a couple of mistakes, so I had an early advantage. I pushed throughout the entire race, because Jens was very quick despite spinning. It was a really fantastic and tough race. I hope to be back at the front in the second.”
Lee Mowle, #44 ERC Sport, Titanium Cup Winner: “I never really got a lap time in the qualifying and ended up way down on where we should be. Fortunately, the race is 45 minutes so you can just slowly make your way up. Everyone was quite clean, and we look forward to the second race. I’ll start inside the top-10 at least for that one, so we should be able to make some more gains.”
Louis Philippe Soenen, #50 AF Corse, Iron Cup Winner: “I am very happy with my performance in race one. We were consistent and this is a great victory. We’re in a good position for race two also and the car is perfect.”