The pole-sitting Orange 1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo controlled the opening three hours of the Paul Ricard 1000km with team principal and Squadra Corse factory driver Andrea Caldarelli holding a 12-second lead at the halfway mark.
Mirko Bortolotti started round two of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup season from the front of the 47-car grid and resisted pressure from Ferrari’s Davide Rigon and Mercedes-AMG’s Vincent Abril at the getaway.
Bortolotti then built up a lead of around seven seconds from Rigon, while Abril’s Haupt Racing Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo lost a lap due to a left-rear puncture.
More than half of the Mercedes-AMG entries including cars from GetSpeed Performance, Toksport WRT and AKKA-ASP hit tire trouble in the first half of the race.
Up front, the No. 63 Lamborghini led through the second hour despite Bortolotti switching out for Marco Mapelli while FFF’s rivals opted to double stint their starting drivers.
Mapelli maintained the gap to second place, which had switched to David Pittard’s No. 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 that had vaulted Rigon’s Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 during the first pit cycle.
BMW then moved into second and third as Martin Tomczyk overtook Rigon into the fast Signes right-hander, before catching Pittard and passing his teammate into the final corner with 10 minutes left in the second hour.
The Walkenhorst cars switched back around during the second pit sequence at the end of hour two, with Marco Wittmann running second and Thomas Neubauer sliding back to third behind Callum Ilott, in for Rigon, and GPX Racing’s Mathieu Jaminet.
Jaminet, whose teammate Earl Bamber had started 10th, made up ground in the third stint aboard the No. 22 Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The Frenchman first went around the outside of Ilott’s Ferrari at turn one, and around 15 minutes later dispatched Wittmann’s BMW into Signes.
This left Jaminet, Bamber and Matt Campbell as the trio to pursue the Lamborghini of Caldarelli, Bortolotti and Mapelli. Wittmann was three seconds behind Jaminet at the halfway point, from Ilottt in the No. 71 Ferrari and Neubauer’s BMW.
Nicklas Nielsen and Kelvin van der Linde both made passes in quick succession on Konsta Lappalainen to set the No. 51 Iron Lynx Ferrari and the No. 32 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo in sixth and seventh from the No. 114 Emil Frey Lamborghini.
The 3 Hours of Monza-winning Dinamic Motorsport Porsche with Christian Engelhart at the wheel overtook Lappalainen into Signes right at the end of the third hour.
AKKA-ASP’s No. 88 Mercedes-AMG which started on the second row alongside HRT’s beleaguered Mercedes was forced to make an early first stop due to a left-front puncture, contributing to its loss of a few positions.
AKKA-ASP did, however, lead Silver Cup after Konstantin Tereshenko’s late second-hour pass on Alex MacDowall whose pole-sitting Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 had led since the start.
Sky-Tempesta Racing’s Chris Froggatt grabbed the Pro-Am class lead from Garage 59 driver Chris Goodwin on lap one, but the No. 93 Ferrari was later handed a drive-through for doing so outside track limits.
This promoted FFF Racing Team’s No. 19 Lamborghini to the front after Phil Keen worked his way past Goodwin’s co-driver West during the second stint.