Imola: Al-Faisal Al-Zubair and Andy Soucek delivered a sensational performance in race two of the International GT Open Championship at Italy’s Imola circuit on Sunday. After qualifying in sixth place, they pushed the Lechner Racing Team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R through the field to claim victory by 1.507 seconds in the pulsating one-hour race.
Michele Beretta pushed Soucek hard in the latter stages of the 35-lap race in the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini and he and team-mate Frederik Schandorff secured second place and vital championship points to maintain their slender series lead.
Loris Spinelli’s Mercedes AMG came home in third place and Yuki Nemoto brought the second of the Lamborghinis home in fourth ahead of Marcus Paverud’s Honda NSX.
Al-Zubair said: “Qualifying for me didn’t go the best. I qualified in sixth. But in the race, in the first stint, I overtook the Mercedes to go to P5 and there was a bit of contact ahead and made it into P4. From there, I maintained the gap and came into the pit early for a nice pit stop for Andy to go on new tyres.
“From there, Andy did a great job. I think we struggled for pace a little bit, relative to the Mercedes and the Lamborghini, but nonetheless to come with a third on Saturday and a first in race two was way more than we expected for the weekend. It was the best way to get into the summer break.”
Al-Zubair began the race from sixth on the grid and managed to push up to fourth behind Frederik Schandorff, Loris Spinelli and Ollie Millroy after three laps. The quartet held station through the next 11 laps with the Lamborghini heading the Mercedes by 2.723 seconds heading into lap 16 and Millroy’s McLaren by 7.227 seconds.
It was then that Al-Zubair pitted and was replaced by Soucek for the final 32 minutes with the Lechner Porsche now down in seventh place. Spinelli snatched the lead from Schandorff when the leading Lamborghini pitted for Michele Beretta to take over driving duties and Soucek climbed to fifth place heading into the remaining 29 minutes.
Spinelli’s pit stop enabled Millroy to snatch the lead and Soucek found himself in fourth behind the McLaren, Spinelli and Agostini’s Audi R8. But the Spaniard took further advantage of his rivals’ pit stop strategies and stormed into second place on lap 19 at the expense of Beretta and Spinelli.
He now began to hunt down the leading McLaren into the final 25 minutes of the race and snatched the lead when Millroy pitted and was replaced by Brendan Iribe.
It was now a straight fight to the finish with Soucek carving out a lead of 6.585 seconds heading into lap 20. The lead over Beretta was 5.78 seconds with 20 minutes of the race remaining after 22 laps and 4.669 seconds with a quarter of an hour to go.
Beretta was slowly edging closer but Soucek managed to keep the gap to 3.111 seconds through lap 28 with 10 minutes of the race to run. The Italian kept up the pressure and Soucek headed into the last five minutes of the race, with 31 laps completed, defending a slender lead of 1.893 seconds.
The Spaniard managed to hold on to pass the chequered flag and secure a thrilling victory for Lechner Racing by the margin of 1.507 seconds after 35 laps.
Frederik Schandorff had qualified the Vincenzo Sospiri Racing Lamborghini in pole position for the second of the weekend’s races with a best lap of 1min 40.121sec. Italy’s Riccardo Agostini was second in the Audi Sport Italia R8 and Ollie Millroy settled into third place with a lap of 1min 40.648sec in the Inception Racing McLaren.
Al-Zubair ran for 10 laps in the Lechner Racing Team’s Porsche 911 GT3 R in dry conditions and posted a best lap of 1min 41.436sec, which placed the Omani in sixth place on the grid.
Action resumes in the International GT Open series at Austria’s Red Bull Ring in September.