Caldarelli and Mapelli give Lamborghini first Blancpain victory on European soil
at Misano to close in on championship lead
Lamborghini Factory Drivers Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli have moved to within just six points of the top of the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe championship, after recording a victory and a strong second place at the latest round in Misano.
Victory in Saturday’s opening one-hour encounter was the first on European soil for the Chinese team Orange1 by FFF Racing, while runner-up on Sunday Race 2 behind #2 Audi of Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts puts the Italian duo in championship title contention.
Caldarelli started the first race from third on the grid and swept into second place with a stunning overtaking move round the outside of the #76 Aston Martin Vantage at the first corner. The Italian then held station in second before seizing the lead from #2 Audi at Turn 3, keeping it until the mandatory pit-stops.
Caldarelli had opened up a lead of nearly two-and-a-half seconds but a full course yellow bunched the field up once again, leaving the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes right behind the Huracán. One lap after resumption, Caldarelli brought the #563 Huracán into the pits and swapped with Mapelli, while the #63 of Christian Engelhart, which had started fourth, switched with Mirko Bortolotti. The #63 had dropped down the order early on after Engelhart was tapped into a spin at Turn 3 by the Audi of Simon Gachet. Bortolotti made a terrific recovery once in the car and eventually finished a strong sixth place at the flag. After a second full course yellow/safety car intervention shortened the second stint, Mapelli kept his nose clean to take victory from the charging Raffaele Marciello in the #88 Mercedes.
Race 2 was a contrasting affair with warmer conditions due to it being run earlier in the day. Looking to make amends for a disappointing opening race, Bortolotti made a good start and jumped a pace to run fourth early on. The #63 then made a quick decision to make its mandatory pit-stop just as the safety car - for track repair - came in. But a slow-to-release left front wheel meant that victory hopes were gone by the time Engelhart took over.
That left it all to Caldarelli, who took over from Mapelli with half an hour of the race left, to go in search of victory. A quick pit-stop gave Caldarelli a vital place and the Huracán closed the gap to #2 Audi towards the end. But despite showcasing brilliant speed, Caldarelli was not able to do enough for victory, and had to make do with second place at the finish.
Lamborghini Factory Driver Phil Keen and Japanese team-mate Hiroshi Hamaguchi claimed Pro-Am victory in the #519 FFF Racing Huracán GT3.
Andrea Caldarelli, #563 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini: "The podium was our target today. We had a mega pit stop and the car was good towards the end. It's great to score another podium and collect points for the championship. In the end, we just ran out of time to fight for the win."
Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe will return to action in two weeks when Dutch circuit Zandvoort makes its return to the calendar. Before this, many of the drivers who competed at Misano will head straight for Belgium to contest two days of official testing (2/3 July) ahead of the season’s marquee event: the Total 24 Hours of Spa.