The hardest fought category in the race, as it was at Le Mans, was GTE Pro. And after multiple twists and turns, it was the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 of James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi that took the win, the first of the year for the team, beating the Porsches and the No. 67 Ford to the flag.
“We saved fuel to the max in the first few stints, benefitted from full-course yellows, some would call us lucky but we did a good job,” the Briton said. “I had a really good stint, a great battle with the Porsche, we aren’t there on pace, but we’ve done it on strategy.
“It’s unbelievable to win at my home race, it’s great to see the British crowd. The car was amazing, it’s so good for Ferrari to get the win. I’m looking forward to celebrating.”
Eventually, the No. 91 Porsche snuck up on the sister car to take second, despite the No. 92 at times looking poised to win the class. And in the final minutes, the 92 fell to fourth and off the podium.
In what turned into a ferocious battle to end the race, the No. 67 Ford took the final trophy-paying position. Harry Tincknell had to give his all to take the place, making it stick round the outside of Michael Christensen at Stowe, the two cars banging doors in the process. A podium finish will come as somewhat of a relief for Ford, after what was a strange, underwhelming race for the Multimatic-run team.
Both GTs looked capable of winning the race, and early on ran 1-2 after dropping down the order in the melee at the start. But the No. 66 lost two minutes with a door issue at a pit stop, and the No. 67 lost out through the full-course yellows and Safety Cars, only catching the No. 92 at the very end — both Andy Priaulx, and teammate Harry Tincknell were among the very best on track when attacking opportunities were presented.
Behind the No. 92, was the first of the Aston Martins, in what was the best showing to this point for the new Vantage AMRs. The No. 95 had recurring gearbox issues and was unable to feature, but the No. 97 did find itself jostling for top five positions for much of the encounter. A solid but unspectacular fifth place finish on the brand’s home race for Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin is a display of progress on both the car and BoP front. It’s still not where it needs to be though, as Aston Martin and particularly BMW were still off the pace as the race ran its course.
Like GTE Pro, GT Am also wasn’t decided until the final hour, and provided much of the race’s entertainment. Two contenders came forward after the opening hours, the Team Project 1 Porsche and TF Sport Aston Martin, but neither would win despite holding a healthy advantage of over a minute over the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche after five hours.
The two cars jostled for the lead, Jonny Adam thrusting the Aston past Patrick Lindsay at Brooklands in Hour 5 to make what looked like the winning move. But both cars were handed 75-second stop-go penalties in the final hour for their stops under Safety Car, dropping them to second and third behind the No. 77.
In what was a surprise win for the No. 77, Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried and Matt Campbell had a strong six hours, didn’t quite have the pace, but managed to extend their title lead with a second victory.
“We were very lucky but happy to get the win,” Campbell admitted after the race. “The track was very difficult at the last stint, but we got there in the end and that’s what matters.”
Further back, the TF Sport Aston finished a fighting second, with the Project 1 Porsche having to fight hard for the final podium spot with No. 98 Aston Martin, Jorg Bergmiester passing Pedro Lamy on the very last lap to seal it.
Despite leaving with no silverware, it was still a strong run from the No. 98 Aston crew, recovering to fourth after contact at the start cost the team a lot of time, the mechanics forced to change the rear defuser in a frantic unscheduled stop.
The next round of the championship is the 6 Hours of Fuji on October 12th.