First blood to Kessel Racing at epic Monza opener

First blood to Kessel Racing at epic Monza opener


It was action all the way during a thrilling race at Monza today, as a huge grid of 60 GT3 cars provided a stunning start to the third season of the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series, now firmly secured as the best supported GT series in the world.

The Ferrari 458 Italia of Kessel Racing claimed victory in the first round this afternoon after an eventful race. The Swiss team sealed victory after surging ahead during the last hour of the three hour endurance event. Cesar Ramos/Davide Rigon and Daniel Zampieri celebrated a famous home win for Ferrari and a popular one for the assembled tifosi who were entertained throughout this classic endurance race. Kessel Racing picked up a maximum score of 25-points to head the PRO Cup class and begin their quest to become the 2013 Blancpain Endurance Series champions.

Claiming the runners-up position today was the #11 ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C of Andy Soucek/Antoine Leclerc and Mike Parisy. The renowned French team were delighted with their start to the season that saw Soucek take second place from the #13 Audi Belgian Club Team WRT entry driven by Swede, Edward Sandstrom just after he started his stint.

In a remarkable battle throughout the closing laps for the final rung on the PRO Cup podium, Adam Carroll, driving the #69 Gulf Racing McLaren MP4-12C he shares with Rob Bell and Nico Verdonck, hounded Sandstrom’s Audi R8 LMS ultra for much of the final 45 minutes of the race. The Ulsterman in turn was under pressure from Andrea Bertolini’s 5th placed AF Corse PRO-AM Cup Ferrari and a dogfight ensued until the chequered flag was unfurled.

The duel was only resolved coming out of the Parabolica for the final time, as Carroll ducked out from the Audi‘s slipstream to claim the final podium position by a tiny margin of 0.028s. The wheel-to-wheel action was a fantastic testimony to Carroll, Sandstrom and Bertolini’s racecraft as they fought hard, yet fair, all the way to the end.

Bertolini, who was just a few car lengths behind this epic battle by the end of the race, had seen his own attempts to wrest 4th from Carroll, fended off resolutely time and time again. Earlier the Italian GT legend’s team mates and reigning champions, Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels, had set the foundations of the PRO-AM Cup win with faultless stints in the Ferrari 458 Italia.

Finishing in second place in the PRO-AM Cup on their Blancpain Endurance Series debut was TDS Racing. The French-duo of Henry Hassid and Ludovic Badey drove an inspired race to not only take 18-points for second in class but also register a remarkable 7th overall in their distinctive BMW Z4.

Completing the PRO-Am class podium and making it three different constructors on the podium today was the Black Falcon team. Adam Christdoulou, Steve Jans and Klaus Hummel each drove clean and efficient races to rise up from 38th on the overall grid to highly respectable 10th overall with their Mercedes SLS AMG GT3.

The ever popular and expanding Gentlemen’s Trophy class saw victory earned by the #20 SOFREV Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Jean-Luc Beaubelique/Patrice Goueslard and Jean-Luc Blanchemain. A race long battle with the #79 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia was resolved in the final hour after Goueslard pulled out a sufficient gap from their fellow Ferrari rivals.

Starting the Gentlemen’s Trophy season off with good points hauls at Monza and making it an all-Ferrari podium in the class was Kessel Racing and AF Corse. Starting from pole with their Gentlemen’s Class Ferrari 458 Italia, Kessel were delighted to round out a dream weekend, as Alessandro Garofano/Beniamini Caccia and Lorenzo Bontempelli claimed 18pts for second position.

Third place in the Gentlemen’s Trophy was the Portuguese pairing of Filipe Barreiros and Francisco Guedes who both enjoyed a competitive first race of the year in their AF Corse-run Ferrari 458 Italia. They take back to 15 points to Portugal after a well-structured race through the field to claim a fine 24th in the overall standings.

60 GT3 cars took part in an unforgettable first race of the new season at Monza today with 171 drivers from 28 countries took part and reflecting the truly global attraction to the Blancpain Endurance Series. To see the Blancpain Endurance Series worldwide TV reach please click here -

The next round of the Blancpain Endurance Series will take place at Silverstone on the weekend of 1-2 June, followed by Paul Ricard eon the final weekend of June. A month later the famous Total 24 hours of Spa takes place in the key date of a thrilling season of racing. The year concludes with another classic event at Nürburgring, when the 1000kms takes place on 21/22 September.

Stephane Ratel, Founder and CEO of SRO Motorsports Group

“This weekend we saw an unbelievable sporting spectacle and a testament to the teams and drivers who have committed to the Blancpain Endurance Series in such impressive numbers. To see all 60 entries at full throttle going down the main straight at the start was incredible. It was a perfect start to our third season and to create a great appetite for competitors and fans alike.”

Davide Rigon, Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia
“I would like to say thank you to all the team who did a fantastic job during the pit stops and to my teammates Daniel (Zampieri) and Cesar. We are very happy; we never did a mistake, which was very difficult because with so many cars on the track, it would have been easy. So, we are happy, especially because it was difficult to overtake in the straight but we did!”

Andy Soucek: ART Grand Prix McLaren MP4-12C
“It was a very good race, but also very tough because of the number of cars on the track. I have not been racing for two years, so being back and on the podium right away is amazing. McLaren is doing a very good job with the car, I am still getting used to GT racing, which is not so easy because the car weighs more and it is difficult to turn in fast corners but we made it here. We are P2, the first McLaren, so amazing job from the team and my teammates.”

Adam Carroll, Gulf Racing McLaren MP4-12C – 3rd in PRO Cup
On the battle with Sandstrom - “It was a really tough race, I did have the pace but I was faster at some places and he (Sandstrom) was faster at others but it was an unbelievable fight, he battled very fair and this is how it should be…it is one of the toughest battles I have had and also the best time I ever had on a track!”

Andrea Bertolini, AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia – 1st in PRO-AM Cup
On the battle with Carroll - “It was a good fight, but we were first of our class and there was no point to fight for this position. In the end, my engineer kept repeating:  “Please Andrea take no risks” so I stopped my pace. But I want to thank the team because they did a really good pit stop, and also Niek (Hommerson) and Louis (Machiels) because they did great stints. The tyres worked very well, everything was perfect, and winning here at Monza, with Ferrari, is great.”

Henry Hassid, TDS Racing BMW Z4 – 2nd in PRO-AM Cup
It was an amazing race because this morning the qualifying session was not so good, and even if the first hour was very difficult, it was a real pleasure to overtake maybe 20 cars. During his stint, Ludovic (Badey) did an amazing job too, and we were delighted because the BMW Z4 is not so good on this fast track but finally it was perfect.

Klaas Hummel, Black Falcon Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 – 3rd in PRO-AM Cup
“None of us expected that result because we qualified 39th but we had a good pace and did very good stints. I think Monza is not an ideal track for the Mercedes SLS but it is a fantastic track to drive. But we drove a very constant race and in the end we pushed really hard and were happily surprised to find ourselves in the front!”

Patrice Goueslard, SOFREV ASP Ferrari 458 Italia – 1st in Gentlemen Trophy
“It was a very good weekend for us. The Ferrari was very great on this track, which is obvious with three Ferrari’s on the podium. We had a good battle with all the other teams. Moreover my teammate did not do any mistake so it is good for the first race.”

Beniamino Caccia, Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia – 2nd in Gentlemen Trophy
“We are really happy because at the beginning we had some problems, but then we ran faster and faster and at the end we had the pace. The team did a fantastic job and we are really happy with our result today.”

Francisco Guedes, AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia – 3rd in Gentlemen Trophy
“I feel great, I did the first and the last stint and I was pushing but also very careful because of the traffic. I think I did a good first stint then Filipe did a great one. For my last stint I was tired but the team supported me so I think it is a great result for everybody today.”

Blancpain - Over 275 years of tradition in motion:

Founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, the watch brand bearing his name is the oldest in the world. Blancpain is currently engaged to the renewal of mechanical watchmaking and to passing on exceptional expertise from one generation to the next through constant investment in human resources, production facilities and research. This approach is its strength and the expression of our long-term vision, even though it goes against the tide of a certain tendency to seek immediate profit.

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Pirelli – Official Tyre Supplier to the Blancpain Endurance Series

Pirelli is a tyre manufacturer and world leader in the automotive industry. It has an exclusive relationship with over 50 racing series worldwide, including Formula One. Pirelli has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing, and has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world.

The design of the new Pirelli GT tyres meets the needs of the Blancpain Endurance Series while maintaining the performance characteristics that endurance drivers have appreciated in the past. The slick tyres used for GT racing are branded P Zero: just like the slicks that have become a central feature of Formula One. The name P Zero is used in the highest categories of motorsport such as GT racing.