Close win for Giammaria,Companc and AF Corse Ferrari in GT Open Race 1

The Italo-Argentine pair wins final sprint with Balzan-Benucci (Villorba Ferrari) to take their first win of the season in closely-fought race

Guedes-Barreiros (AF Corse) excellent 3rd and winners in GT-Am

Ramos-Parente (Teo Martín McLaren), 4th, now lead alone in the overall standings

Raffaele Giammaria and Ezequiel Pérez-Companc took a superb win in Saturday’s Race 1 at Estoril, in what seems a perfect revenge for the AF Corse pair after an unlucky start of the season at the Ricard. The win marks a successful return in the series for the Italian driver, while the young Argentine takes a maiden success in only his second event in GT. In a warm afternoon, the race developed in crescendo, with an exciting second part, full of chasing and close fighting. Alessandro Balzan and Nicola Benucci, with the Villorba Ferrari, were very close seconds (1”3 behind the winners), while local pair composed of Francisco Guedes and Filipe Barreiros, on their Ferrari AF Corse, finished third, resisting a final assault of Alvaro Parente at the wheel of the Teo Martín Motorsport McLaren 650S shared with Miguel Ramos, and conquering top honours in the GT-Am category.

Ramos and Parente got satisfaction anyway, as the pair is now a lone leader in the overall standings, 4 points ahead of Balzan-Benucci and 8 of Giammaria-Companc. The Baporo Ferrari of Argentine duo López-Russo took fifth, while the Balfe Motorsport Ferrari which led during the first stint with Phil Keen and put on a big part of the show in the second with Shaun Balfe, finished 6th paying a too long pit stop.

THE RACE - Keen takes perfect start from pole ahead of Giammaria who keeps Campaniço at bay, then Guedes, passed in first lap by Benucci, followed Lathouras, Ramos, Russo, Coimbra and Nebylitskiy. The two leading Ferraris seem to pull away in the opening laps, while the battle heats up for third and between Ramos and Russo for seventh further down the field. In lap 6, Coimbra is in the pits with a paddle shift. In lap 8, Guedes repasses Benucci to start chasing Campaniço. ./..

As the race progresses, Giammaria gets closer to Keen but the Brit manages to keep the minimum advantage to avoid being attacked. Campaniço and Guedes are solidly in third and fourth, while Lathouras, Ramos and Russo follow and are very close, after having passed Benucci. Lathouras, Ramos, Benucci, Nebilitskiy and Sdanewitsch are the first to stop for driver change as the pit stop window opens in lap 19. As they exit the pitlane, Parente, Barba and Rugolo are in full fight. At the top, Keen has regained a 2-second gap on Giammaria, with Keen, Guedes and Russo being the last to stop. Things get sour for the Novadriver Audi as it stops along the track soon after Camathias takes the wheel with a clutch issue.

After all pit stops, is Barreiros briefly on the lead, before being passed by Pérez-Companc. Lopez is third at 7 seconds, with Balzan at 10”, Balfe (who had a long pit stop) at 13, then Parente, Barba and Rugolo together. In lap 27, Balzan takes third from López, with a nice manoeuver at the esses. In the lead, Pérez-Companc’s car has some body damage at the rear, resulting from jumping on a kerb, Balzan takes second from Barreiros. The gap between the leader and Balzan is 9 seconds with 15 minutes to go. Barreiros resists well in third position (leading in GT-Am) while Lopez, Balfe, Parente, Barba and Rugolo are within 4 seconds. It’s a superb duel between Balfe and Parente, with the McLaren not being able, despite its efforts, the bend the resilience of the Ferrari. The fight helps Barba to get threatening. Silva is stopped at turn 13 with gearbox problem.

In lap 37, Parente eventually takes 5th from Balfe, and a lap later Barba spins, being avoided narrowly by Rugolo. In the final laps, the Portuguese passes López, finishing side-by-side with Barreiros, who keeps third. Marreiros-Batista are the first of the Porsche Cups.

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS AFTER RACE 3 OF 14

Overall: 1. Ramos-Parente, 48; 2. Benucci-Balzan, 44; 3. Giammaria-Companc, 40; 4. Lathouras-Rugolo, 39; 5.

López, 39; etc

GTS: 1. Ramos-Parente, 22; 2. Benucci-Balzan, 18; 3. Giammaria-Companc, Lathouras-Rugolo, 16; 5. López, 8; etc

GT-Am: 1.Sdanewitsch-Cameron, 9; 2. Barreiros-Guedes, 5; 3. Silva-Coimbra, 3.

Teams GTS: 1. 1F Corse, 35; 2. Teo Martín Motorsport, 22; 3. Villorba Corse, 18; 4. Kessel Racing, 4; 5. Balfe Motorsport, 3.

Teams GT-Am: 1. AF Corse, 9; 2. Sport&You, 3.