AutOrlando Wins The First Blancpain Endurance Series

BY Burnpavement

The first race of the series sees plenty of thrills and spills alike.

Photos: SRO Media

Italian team AutOrlando Sport, driven by Paolo Rubeti, took the chequered flag at the first ever Blancpain Endurance Series race at Monza. The Porsche only had to complete two stops with their nearest rivals needing three. This gave the team the advantage and Ruberti was joined by Gianluca Roda and Raffaele Gianmaria on the top step of the podium.

The No. 32 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 LMS of Stephane Ortelli, Bert Longin and Filipe Albuquerqe finished second, after leading the race before having to pit 10 laps from home. An early puncture also delayed the Audi but they fought back to claim a podium place in the first race of the season. The Marc VDS Ford GT of Bas Leinders, Maxime Martin and Markus Palttala was third.

The 33 car field looked magnificent in the Italian sunshine as they approach the start finish line for the rolling start. As the lights flashed green, over 16,000 horses were unleashed as the grid raced down to the first corner with pole position holder Andrea Invernizzi in the Black Bull Swiss Racing Ferrari being passed by several cars, with Andrea Piccini in the No. 33 Belgian Audi Club Audi R8 getting into the corner first.

At the end of the first lap it was the Audi from the Marc VDS Ford of Markus Palttala and the No. 4 Hexis Aston Martin of Henri Moser. However it was the No. 3 Hexis Aston Martin of Yann Clairay that was on a charge, passing Moser’s Aston and then Palttala’s Ford in quick succession to take the fight to the leading Audi, which the Frenchman succeeded in doing on lap four at Turn 6.

On lap 11 the AF Corse Ferrari 458 and the No. 42 Sport Garage Ferrari 430 both ended up in the barriers at the Ascari Chicane thanks to oil spill on the track. On lap 23 the No. 33 Audi suffered a puncture to the left rear tyre and had to limp back to the pits for fuel, tyres and driver change. Four laps later the same thing happened to their teammates, with Ortelli slowly returning to the pits to hand over to Bert Longin.

At this time, the first round of pit stops began and once completed the No. 20 SOFREV ASP Ferrari 458 was leading the race after a quick pit stop but it proved to be too quick as the car had to return to the pits again for a second stop and driver change.

Pierre-Brice Mena now led the race in the No. 3 Hexis Aston Martin DBRS9 from the No. 40 Marc VDS Ford of Bas Leinders and the No. 1 Vita4One Ferrari. The Leinder’s Ford suffered the same fate as the Belgian Audi Club cars when a tyre blew out on lap 19 and had to return to the pits for a replacement promoting Nico Verdonck in the Vita4One Ferrari into second.

The second round of pit stops came round in the second hour and Mena’s leading Aston Martin could be seen struggling with grip, with smoke coming from the front of the car. On lap 54 he came into the pits but smoke started to billow from under the bonnet when a heat exchanger failed and the resulting fire had to be extinguished by the mechanics.

Meanwhile back at the front of the field the No. 32 Audi was powering up the field, passing the Marc VDS Ford and reeling in the leading Porsche until Maxime Martin was able to take the lead on lap 75 on the run into T4. However the team’s joy was short lived as the Audi had to come in for a quick splash of fuel and to change the rear left tyre before rejoining the battle. The Marc VDS Ford GT had to complete the same manoeuvre on lap 81 leaving Paolo Ruberti with a healthy lead of over one minute in the AutOrlando Sport Porsche.

The next round of the Blancpain Endurance Series will be held at Navarra in Northern Spain on Sunday 22 May 2011 with more cars expected to join the large grid.