Iberian Supercars - 2 Hours of Barcelona:
Win for Manuel Gião and Elias Niskanen
The Luso-Finnish duo Manuel Gião/Elias Niskanen, driving the Mercedes AMG GT4 of the Slovenian outfit Lema Racing, won the third round of the Iberian Supercars Endurance at the Spanish circuit of Barcelona, beating to the flag the SMC Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4s of Fernando Navarrete and Gonzalo de Andrés and Guillermo Aso and Tomás Pintos.
Held in a different format from the previous races and as part of the grid of the 24 Hours of Barcelona by Hankook, the race, with a large audience in the stands, was interesting, with the predictable Mercedes-McLaren duel being fully confirmed, led by Lema Racing and by the Spanish armada of SMC Motorsport. Running a new engine in their #888 McLaren 570S GT4 entry Araújo Competição was out of this "battle" due to technical problems, which prevented Francisco Carvalho and Miguel Cristóvão from the discussion for the overall victory.
The Slovenian team, pole position holder, led from the start, with Finland's Elias Niskanen at the wheel, but always under pressure from the McLaren Barcelona car with Fernando Navarrete at the wheel. The Mercedes eventually had a slight run-off, dropping to third. Meanwhile, the time for first driver changes arrived and, at the end of the first hour of the race, it was the McLaren, now driven by Gonzalo de Andres, which was leading, with Manuel Gião behind the Mercedes, after overtaking Guillermo Aso, in the McLaren with Gulf colours.
Manuel Gião, with his experience and speed, took the Lema Racing Mercedes to the lead and then gave it to the young Finn for a final stint in which he gained a 12-second advantage over the McLaren of Navarrete/Andrés, with the second McLaren of Tomás Pinto/Guillermo Aso completing the podium. A tasty third place, as it was only in the final stretch of the two-hour race that the latter duo secured the third place against Miguel Cristóvão and Francisco Carvalho's McLaren 570S, even though they were penalised after the race for a too short first pit stop.
At this decisive stage of the championship, and with Navarrete and Andrés having scored the maximum points at the end of the first hour, the GT4 Pro class title remains open for the last race of the year, in Estoril. In the duel for the two remaining podium places at the Catalan track, Fernando Navarrete and Guillermo Aso were faster than teammates Guillermo Aso and Tomás Pintos.
Fifth in the final standings and fourth in the GT4 Pro class at the flag, the Garagem João Gomes Porsche Cayman GT4 pair of José Carvalhosa/Quique Bordás were running in fourth position - with the youngster Spaniard showing his speed - when a suspension problem sent them for a longer pit-stop. A bit further down in the pitlane, electrical problems in PROGT's Porsche Cayman GT4 caused an extra stop for Latvian Andrius Zemaitis.
The victory in the GTC class was taken by the seirs debutant Juan Carlos Arias, in the Ginetta G50 of JOTA Motorsport, who, in the first part of the race, could not keep up with Fred Block and Álvaro Ramos, in the McLaren 570 S GT4 Trophy of Araújo Competição. Unfortunately the McLaren 570 S GT4 Trophy went on flames and forced them to retire. The local Ginetta team managed to overcome a dramatic weekend to taste a bit of success in the end.
Apart from the GT4 Pro title which is wide open for the season finale at Estoril, the GT4 Bronze award is also to be decided in Portugal's oldest permanent circuit since Miguel Cristóvão and Francisco Carvalho added the maximum points this weekend and moved to the front of the category. The GTC and TCR classes will be decided, equally, in the last round at Estoril on November 19/20.
FINAL RESULT (2 HOURS):
1, Manuel Gião/Elias Niskanen (Lema Racing/Mercedes AMG GT4/GT4 Pro), 48 laps
2, Fernando Navarrete/Gonzalo de Andrés (SMC Motorsport/McLaren 570S GT4/GT4 Pro), +14.455s
3, Guillermo Aso/Tomás Pintos (SMC Motorsport/McLaren 570S GT4/GT4 Pro), ++2.12.263s +
4, Miguel Cristóvão/Francisco Carvalho (Araújo Competição/McLaren 570S GT4/GT4 Bronze), + + 1 lap
5, José Carvalhosa/Quique Bordás (Garagem João Gomes/Porsche Cayman GT4/GT4 Pro), + 1 lap
6, Andrius Zemaitis (PROGT/Porsche Cayman GT4/GT4 Bronze), + 2 laps
7, Juan Carlos Arias/Tom Seldon (JOTA Motorsport/Ginetta G50/GTC), + 2 laps
8, Álvaro Ramos/Fred Block (Araújo Competição/McLaren 570s GT4 Cup/GTC), + 16 laps