Barnicoat vaults to 10th at Monza
Ben Barnicoat helped the #58 Strakka Racing McLaren 650 S GT3 to a 10th place finish, while Jake Dennis came home 12th, in the second Blancpain GT Series event of the season in the three-hour endurance race at Monza.
Following disappointing qualifying results earlier in the day despite both drivers performing well in their respective sessions, Barnicoat and Dennis hoped to improve in warm and sunny conditions in Italy.
With three drivers sharing the driving duties throughout the race, neither Barnicoat nor Dennis started the race, with Barnicoat scheduled to take the wheel of the McLaren in the second hour, and Dennis to step into his Team WRT-run Audi R8 LMS in the final hour-long stint.
The race was red flagged after a multiple-car accident heading to Turn 1 on the opening lap. Although the #58 McLaren, driven by Barnicoat’s team-mate Rob Bell, was not directly involved in the incident, he was forced to pit for potential repairs just before the red flag was waved.
That forced Bell to restart from the pit lane and into 28th place, while the #17 Audi, driven first by Markus Winkelhock, made an excellent getaway to 18th place until he was tapped into a spin by the #12 Lamborghini Huracan of Stefano Gatuso who was later handed a drive-through penalty.
Barnicoat took to the wheel of the #58 McLaren in the second hour when the pit window opened, re-joining in 20th place with Stuart Leonard being handed the wheel of the #17 Audi into 19th position.
Barnicoat made his way past Leonard and began to pull out a positive gap of over a second throughout his stint to maintain a positive position for the car ahead of the final hour of the race.
Dennis immediately moved into the #17 Audi for the crucial final 60 minutes, emerging from the pits in 17th position while Barnicoat stayed out on track for two further laps before handing the McLaren over to Côme Ledogar who returned to the track in 15th place.
In the final hour, a spate of cars within the top 12 suffered woes including a retirement for the #14 Jaguar of Albert Costa on the exit of Turn 1, and a drive-through penalty handed to the #22 Nissan GT-R Nismo machine of Matthew Parry which dropped him to behind Dennis in 16th.
Ledogar swiftly made progess, aided by the issues for cars ahead, and ran in tandem with the #97 Aston Martin of Jonny Adam and the fellow Strakka-run McLaren 650 S GT3 of Sam Tordoff who slid wide at Ascari to promote Ledogar to 11th with Dennis 14th.
With under seven minutes remaining, the #7 ISR Audi R8 LMS suffered a delamination of its left rear tyre, promoting Ledogar to his finishing position of 10th and Dennis into 12th.
“It was a good recovery drive from all three of us drivers,” said Barnicoat. “We took what we could from it after the first lap accident.
“Rob did a great job, I did a solid stint with some good lap times and a bit of overtaking before handing over to Côme who managed to get us into the points. I think if it wasn’t for incident at the start, we definitely had the speed to fight for a top five finish as the car was very good.
“I must say thank you to Strakka for a mega job and their relentless hard work to get the car back out and score the first points of the season.”
Having started from 33rd position on the grid, Dennis was very satisfied with the car’s progress throughout the race: “The pace was pretty good as were the lap times but we just lacked straight line speed which is the characteristics of the Audi.
“Overall, to start 33rd and finish 12th even after the Markus’s spin is a good effort from myself and the team. We fought back after a tough early part to the weekend and so I’m very happy to be part of the top Audi in the field.”
The #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Christian Engelhart/Andrea Calarelli/Mirko Bortolotti scored victory ahead of the Ferrari 488 GT3 machine of Pasin Lathouras/Michele Rugolo/Alessandro Pier Guidi.