McLaren has won the season opener of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at Monza today with the #58 McLaren 650S GT3 of newly created Garage 59 team. The team which comprised of Come Ledogar, Rob Bell and Shane Van Gisbergen crossed the finish line first leading the #84 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Dominik Baumann, Jazeman Jafaar and Maximilian Buhk from HTP Motorsport.
Third place on the podium went to the #8 Bentley Continental GT3 of Andy Soucek, Wolfgang Reip and Maxime Soulet from Bentley Team M-Sport.
The race attracted over 22,000 fans at the Monza circuit for three hours of pure GT racing featuring the latest GT cars. HTP Motorsport started from pole in their new Mercedes-AMG GT3 and were looking for their first win of the season, a series of quick maneuvers saw the #8 Bentley climb up the grid order after starting from P6. However, it was Daniel Keilwitz in the #66 Black Pearl Racing Ferrari who pulled the biggest move by jumping into the lead ahead of the #84 Mercedes. Even more, the Ferrari was in the Pro-Am category fighting with the big boys from Pro category.
The order of ranks changed after the first pitstops where the #58 McLaren moved into the lead after a slow stop from the Mercedes. Jazeman Jaafar in the Mercedes slotted in second behind Come Ledogar who was now in the leading McLaren, the Pro-Am Ferrari of Black Pearl Racing was in third.
Intense racing unfolded with just 30 minutes left in the race, the McLaren was still leading with Shane Van Gisbergen at the wheel and Maxi Buhk in the #84 Mercedes. The two remained tight in what was a heated bumper-to-bumper battle. Gisbergen crossed the line first eventually, with Buhk taking second but enough to put his squad first on the driver’s standings.
Fourth place overall went to the #23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN which led the first Pro-Am Cup car, the #11 Ferrari 488 GT3 of Michal Broniszewski, Alessandro Bonacini and Andrea Rizzoli from Kessel Racing. AF Corse took second place on the Pro-AM Cup with the #53 Ferrari 488 GT3 while the #66 Black Pearl Racing Ferrari 458 GT3 completed the all Ferrari podium.
In the AM Cup, victory went to the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maurice Ricci, Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Gilles Vannelet. The #488 Ferrari 488 GT3 of Renaldi Racing scored P2 in this class with Pierre Ehret and Stef Vancampenhoudt while ARC Bratislava filled the final spot on the podium in third with the #69 Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
South African David Perel in #111 Ferrari 458 GT3 from Kessel Racing had an unfortunate start of the season after his car blew an engine forcing him out of the race. This is his first season in the Blancpain GT Series coming straight from the Italian GT where he raced a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 with Bonaldi Motorsport.
British journalist Chris Harris also made his racing debut with Bentley at Monza driving the #30 Bentley Continental GT3 from Team Parker Racing.
The next round of the Blancpain GT Series will head over to Brands Hatch for the second Sprint Series race of the season on May 7.