Monza BEC: Garage 59 McLaren seals win in Blancpain Endurance opener

The Garage 59 McLaren 650s of Rob Bell, Come Ledogar and Shane van Gisbergen won a hotly-contested first race of the new Blancpain Endurance Cup season at Monza.

Monza BEC: Garage 59 McLaren seals win in Blancpain Endurance opener

The #58 McLaren edged out the HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG-GT3 of Maximilian Buhk, Dominik Baumann and Jazeman Jaafar to seal victory.

With a huge 57 cars gracing the historic Monza track, the key to the race turned out to be avoiding traffic. 

The latter stages saw the Garage 59 McLaren 650s, with van Gisbergen at the wheel, and HTP Motorsport Mercedes, piloted by Buhk, battling for the lead while trying to negotiate backmarkers.

Van Gisbergen managed to hold on despite immense pressure from Buhk, going wide into both the second chicane and the Parabolica on the penultimate lap but winning by a mere 0.341 seconds.    

The #84 Mercedes, in the hands of Baumann, started on pole, but failed to retain the lead during the first hour as the impressive PRO-AM Black Pearl Ferrari 458 Italia of Daniel Keilwitz seized the advantage.

But when the amateur drivers took over, the team lost the lead to the Garage 59 McLaren of Bell – coming up from 20th on the grid to be leading just after the first hour and remaining there to the finish.

Bell made a fantastic move on the #8 M-Sport Bentley at the Roggia chicane during an intense battle for fourth place, before quickly moving on to attacking Lucas Ordonez's Team RJN Nissan GT-R.

Ordonez and teammates Alex Buncombe and Mitsunori Takaboshi eventually slipped to fourth behind the #8 Bentley of Nissan refugee Wolfgang Reip, Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet.

The action relented slightly coming into the third hour, but ex-Formula 1 racer Giancarlo Fisichella made the most of his stint, setting a string of fastest laps which saw him overtake leader Van Gisbergen to unlap himself.

His AF Corse Ferrari 488 finished 2nd in the PRO-AM division, behind the Ferrari 488 of class winners Kessel Racing piloted by Michal Broniszewski, Andrea Rizzoli and Alessandro Bonacini.  

Defending champion manufacturer Audi endured a turbulent race. The Misano Sprint Cup winners suffered on the high-speed nature of the Monza circuit, and a mid-race penalty for Dries Vanthoor forcausing a collision added further to their woes.

Vanthoor, his brother Laurens and Frederic Vervisch in the #1 Audi finished only ninth, three positions away from the top Audi of Nico Muller, Antonio Garcia and Will Stevens.

Race results (top 10):

Pos.No.Team/CarDrivers
1 58 Garage 59/McLaren

 Shane van Gisbergen

 Rob Bell

 Come Ledogar

2 84 Team HTP/Mercedes 

 Maximilian Buhk

 Dominik Baumann

 Jazeman Jaafar

3 8 M-Sport/Bentley

 Wolfgang Reip

 Andy Soucek

 Maxime Soulet

4 23 Team RJN/Nissan 

 Alex Buncombe

 Lucas Ordonez

 Mitsunori Takaboshi

5 11 Kessel Racing/Ferrari

 Andrea Rizzoli

 Alessandro Bonacini

 Michal Broniszewski

6 28 Team WRT/Audi 

 Nico Muller

 Antonio Garcia

 Will Stevens

7 57 Black Falcon/Mercedes 

 Adam Christodoulou

 Hubert Haupt

 Andreas Simonsen

8 16 Grasser/Lamborghini 

 Mirko Bortolotti

 Jeroen Bleekemolen

 Rolf Ineichen

9 1 Team WRT/Audi 

 Laurens Vanthoor

 Frederic Vervisch

 Dries Vanthoor

10 53 AF Corse/Ferrari

 Giancarlo Fisichella

 Lorenzo Bontempelli

 Motoaki Ishikawa

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