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Ferrari dominated ELMS GTE & GTC – take a look

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Ashley Westwood is at the Red Bull Ring for the ELMS. Here are some highlights from the GTE and GTC race including a recording of the  winners press conference (you may need to turn up your audio.)

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Ferrari teams took all the podium places in the LMGTE and GTC classes at the Red Bull Ring for the third round of the European Le Mans Series in Austria but it wasn’t the easy ride that the result sheet suggests.

In LMGTE it was the no55 AF Corse Ferrari 458 of Duncan Cameron, Michele Rugolo and Matt Griffin that saw the chequered flag first, finishing well ahead of the no81 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Thomas Kemenater and Matteo Cressoni and the no66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Rob Bell, Daniel McKenzie and George Richardson.

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However the race was not made easy for the Ferrari teams, with the Gulf Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Dan Brown storming through at the start of the race to build up a good lead in the first two hours.  The pace of the Aston Martin was one of the talking points of the weekend and it was only in the second half of the 4-hour race that the Ferrari teams took control.

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At the start it was the no72 SMP Racing Ferrari of Sergey Zlobin that headed the LMGTE grid after Andrea Bertolini secured pole earlier in the day.  The run into the first corner shuffled the pack but the Russian crossed the line at the end of the opening lap in the lead of the class.  However on lap 3 the Ferrari dropped back to 4th place with Dan Brown in the no85 Gulf Racing Aston Martin Vantage moving into the lead ahead of Daniel McKenzie in the no66 JMW Ferrari.

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A safety car period to recover the Team Russia by Barwell BMW Z4 of Leo Machitski bunched the grid back up but on the restart Brown set about building his lead, which had grown to 10 seconds by lap 20.  The British driver stayed at the wheel of the Aston Martin for the first two hours of the race, handing the car over to Roald Goethe with a 30 second lead.  However, a long pitstop dropped the German back to third before he briefly hit the front again before the more experienced drivers gained ground and overtook the Aston Martin.

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With 90 minutes of the race remaining Thomas Kemenater took the lead in the Kessel Racing Ferrari but was being caught by Matt Griffin, who had taken over from Michele Rugolo in the AF Corse Ferrari.  Ten minutes later the Irish driver was in a position to challenge the Italian into the first corner.  Griffin went around the outside and had to run wide to avoid contact as a backmarker was also in the same vicinity as the two battling Ferraris.  The two cars went up the hill to Turn 2 side by side but Griffin had the better line and took the lead of the LMGTE class.

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With an hour of the race remaining Kemenater and Griffin both pitted within a lap of each other to hand over the cars to Matteo Cressoni and Michele Rugolo respectively.  The no81 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Matteo Cressoni had the better stop and regained the lead but Cressoni was soon under pressure from the AF Corse Ferrari.  With 30 minutes to go Rugolo dived down the inside of Cressoni into Turn 1 and took the lead, which he held until the chequered flag with a margin of nearly 30 seconds.

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The no 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Rob Bell was catching Cressoni’s Ferrari but the gap was too big for the Briton to close before the end of the race.  The no56 AT Racing and no54 AF Corse Ferraris were 4th and 5th respectively with the pole position holding no72 SMP Racing 458 of Viktor Shaitar in 6th ahead of the no85 Gulf Racing Aston Martin of Stuart Hall.

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After the 4 Hours of the Red Bull Ring the nr55 AF Corse Ferrari is leading the championship by 3-points from the no72 SMP Racing Ferrari, with Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin heading the Drivers points table by a similar margin.

While SMP Racing couldn’t capitilise on their LMGTE pole, the team could celebrate at 1-2 finish in the GTC class with the no71 Ferrari of Kirill Ladygin, Aleksey Basov and Luca Persiani taking their first win of the season ahead of the no73 Ferrari of Anton Ladygin, David Markozov and Olivier Beretta.  However after recording their third second place finish in three races, the crew of the no73 SMP Racing Ferrari leave the Red Bull Ring as championship leaders, 12.5 points in front of Johnny Laursen and Mikkel Mac after the no60 Formula Racing Ferrari was the final car to be classified in 30th overall and 11th in class after starting on pole position.

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The GTC class race was dominated by the Ferrari teams despite the strong showing in qualifying by the ART Grand Prix McLarens.  After the early safety car period when the Team Russia BMW stopped on track, the no 60 Formula Racing Ferrari held the lead but then dropped back down the order.  The class lead was taken up by the no95 AF Corse Ferrari of Cedric Sbirrazzuoli but on lap 11 the no71 SMP 458 of Kirill Ladygin caught and passed Sbirrazzuoli, opening up a comfortable gap as the first set of pitstops approached.

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Over the next couple of hours these two cars battled for the lead, with the SMP Ferrari holding the upper hand.  In the second half of the race the no73 SMP Ferrari of Olivier Beretta started to catch the no 95 Ferrari and the former Grand Prix driver was soon in second place but 33 seconds behind his flying teammate at the head of the field.

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The race then ran its course until the chequered flag with the gap at the end of the 4 hour race standing at one lap.  The nr95 AF Corse Ferrari of  Sbirrazzuoli and Adrien de Leener was third, 30 seconds behind the no73 F458.  The no99 ART Grand Prix McLaren was the first non Ferrari in 4th, with the no98 McLaren in 5th.

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Race results to be found HERE

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Photos (c) Ashley Westwood,  July 2014

Text via press materials

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