Nissan GT Academy takes Paul Ricard win
Alex Buncombe, Wolfgang Reip and Katsumasa Chiyo emerged victorious at Circuit Paul Ricard.
The third round of the 2015 Blancpain Endurance Series season has gone the way of Nissan, earning their first win of the year with Alex Buncombe, Wolfgang Reip and Katsumasa Chiyo in the No. 23 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN GT-R Nismo. 61 cars in total started the race.
The six-hour endurance race came down to a fight between Nissan and Bentley with the latter (No. 7 Bentley M-Sport Continental GT3) losing out by eight seconds at the stripe. The No. 46 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS Z4 rounded out the podium finishers.
The No. 11 Kessel Racing Ferrari came home fifth overall, but was first among those in the Pro-Am class.
Lamborghini leads first half
Lamborghini driver Mirko Bortolotti led the field at the start, but was immediately harassed by the Bentleys. The eventual race winners didn't take control until the halfway point, relieving the No. 63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini of the top spot. The Grasser team fell outside the top five after taking on a drive-through penalty for a pit lane violation.
Bentley was within striking distance at the start of the final hour, less than two seconds off the lead. They lost touch as the minutes clicked away, allowing Nissan to cruise to the finish line as they got the white flag.
"We've been trying to get an overall win for quite a while now, and it's great to be able to do it here at the six hours," said race-winner Buncombe. "We had a pretty perfect weekend, with smooth pitstops as well. Chiyo-san put some stunning laps in during his second stint and even though it was pretty close at the end, this is a fantastic result.
"There were a few moments during my final stint, I have to admit. It was very close, but I made a small mistake," admitted second-place finisher Steven Kane. "We weren't close enough at the very end, but it's good to get second and important points for the championship. Guy and Andy drove brilliant stints and I have to thank the whole team, they gave us a great car."
"It was a very good race for us," commented Lucas Luhr, who finished third overall for BMW. "Our mechanics did an awesome job in replacing the engine. The spare one only arrived on Saturday morning and they worked really hard to get the car ready in time. We had to start from pitlane after that, but the least we could do was to thank the boys with a podium finish. We came here to prepare ourselves for Spa, and I think we did quite well."
"I was very lucky to avoid the incidents during the opening lap," said Pro-Am class winner Michal Broniszewski. "Since the beginning of the season we have shown that we are strong, but we need a little bit of luck to get a good result, especially in a field of 60 cars."
A lap of Paul Ricard with Markus Palttala
Nissan victorious in France!