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GT Open Winter Series, Paul Ricard - Weekend Report
Wins for Black Bull Racing and AF Corse

The GT Open Winter Series 2013 kicked off at Paul Ricard this weekend and with five free practice sessions, two qualifying sessions and two races it was an action-packed weekend for the crews of the 21 GT cars that were racing this weekend. Black Bull Racing and AF Corse left the French Riviera with a win each.

Four one-hour sessions took place on Friday and it was the MTECH Ferrari 458 Italia of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron setting the pace during the first day of the GT Open Winter Series weekend at Paul Ricard. The MTECH Ferrari was quickest in the first and third practice session, but in the fourth and final session of the day the British squad was forced to park their car after suffering an electrical problem. Griffin and Cameron would not return to action.

The second GTE Ferrari in the field, the AF Corse Ferrari of Alexander Talkanitsa Sr and Jr, was second fastest overall. The pair was quickest in the second and fourth session. Third fastest overall was the Kox Racing Lamborghini of Peter Kox and Nico Pronk, followed by the Black Bull Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 of Mirko Venturi.

With MTECH withdrawn from the event the numbers two, three and four of Friday moved up into first, second and third on Saturday morning for the fifth and final practice session. In qualifying though positions would be different again.

In the first qualifying session it was Mirko Venturi vs Alexander Talkanitsa Jr for pole position. Black Bull Racing driver Venturi was the first to complete a lap in 2:06. On the next lap Talkanitsa briefly moved up into first place, but only for a couple of seconds as Venturi posted the fastest lap of the qualifying session, a 2:06.213. The Belarusian tried one more time, but was unable to beat Venturi's time and finished 0.093s behind the Italian. Third and fourth were the SMP Racing-Russian Bears Ferrari's of Kirill Ladygin and Roman Mavlanov.

Peter Kox was the fastest man in the second qualifying session. The Kox Racing Lamborghini was over half a second quicker than Mirko Venturi's Ferrari and the two PRO GT by Almeras Porsches. Kox kept improving during his stint and his second fastest lap would also have been enough for pole position.

Venturi had a clean start in race 1 and pulled away at the front, his rivals fighting for second place as the race got underway. Kirill Ladygin passed Alexander Talkanitsa Jr at the start to move into second place. Johnny Laursen (Kessel-Ferrari), Miguel Toril (Drivex-Porsche), Jay Palmer (Vita4one-Ferrari) and Andrea Montermni (Kessel-Ferrari) colliding in turn 1. Montermini was the only driver who rejoined the race, the others retired.

After five laps Talkanitsa Jr had moved back into second place again but he was unable to go after Venturi. The Italian pitted first, but was back in the lead when everyone had made their mandatory stop. A strong performance by Philippe Giauque and Franck Perera was rewarded with a second place finish. The PRO GT Porsche had started sixth, was fourth after the pit stops and after passing the SMP Racing-Russian Bears Ferrari on lap 16 Perera managed to pass Talkanitsa Sr on the final lap.

In race two Peter Kox and Mirko Venturi pulled away from the rest of the field after the start and the Dutchman managed to keep the Italian behind the Lamborghini until Venturi pitted on lap 11. Kox came in on lap 13 and rejoined behind Venturi. The Black Bull Racing driver had left the pit too early though and was given a 140 seconds penalty as a result.

Kox' teammate Nico Pronk was unable to take advantage of Venturi's penalty as problems resulted in a DNF after 16 laps. Venturi eventually returned to the pit but instead of serving his penalty he stopped his car and did not rejoin. This handed the overall lead to Alexander Talkanitsa Jr in the AF Corse Ferrari. His father had started from sixth on the grid, but dropped back to 14th place after one lap. After the stops Talkanitsa Jr cut through the field passing the slower GT3 cars and on lap 19 he was back in second position behind Venturi.

Kirill Ladygin finished in second position, 7.487 seconds behind the AF Corse Ferrari and the PRO GT by Almeras Porsche of Enzo Guibbert finished in third place, just 0.134s behind Ladygin. Guibbert's teammates Giauque and Perera did not finish the race.

The next round of the GT Open Winter Series will take place at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit in two weeks from now.

MtC (Pictures: FOTOSPEEDY)