We are the Champions! One day – Saturday – on the track in Barcelona was enough. 24 hours before the last race of the 2016 season Orange1 Team Lazarus gained the win of the precious title in the International GT Open Series at the end of race 1. Everything was decided on the Circuit de Catalunya, welcoming the Team from Veneto for this season’s last appointment: at Montmeló Fabrizio Crestani and Thomas Biagi crowned their year of racing in this season after an amazing start at Estoril in late April, collecting points at Spa-Francorchamps, Le Castellet, Zeltweg, Silverstone and Monza, turning it almost into a mere formality. Several times the drivers’ couple received time penalties due to their exceptional performances, to level the field. In the end the men from Treviso and Bologna concluded the 2016 season with a pole position and a second place in race 1, 14th position in the qualifying for the first and fourth for the second heat. This meant that in the classification they had gained so many points, that no competitor could reach them: 183 points, 51 more than the second strongest team, McLaren by Shaun Balfe.
For the Team from Veneto the long weekend in Spain started extremely well. The men from Padua dominated the private test sessions – enabled by the organisers before the free practice sessions – with a time of 1’45”177. On Friday the Lamborghini with its orange livery was third twice, due to the strategy set up by the Team. The gaps to the leaders in the first and second run were 1”166 and 865 thousandth of a second. A perfect omen for the race to come. In the qualifying held on Saturday there was no space for doubt regarding the Team’s competiveness and desire to win. Crestani put the car immediately in pole position for race 1 thanks to an incredible lap time. Fabrizio took 1’45”376 for himself and his teammate Thomas Biagi to gain the top stop on the starting grid. On his ninth out of eleven laps he was the only driver, quicker than 1’46”. The orange Lamborghini was followed 763 thousandth of a second by the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 from TF Sport with Hankey-Yoluc.
And then: the series’ title! The drivers from Veneto and Emilia-Romagna arrived at the Barcelona race track with a lead of 29 points (149) ahead of the BMW (120) with Monje and Yacamán. They concluded the season early thanks to their perfect race, keeping up the high performance level they had shown throughout the year.
Fabrizio Crestani drove an amazing stint always in the lead. The only moment to hold one’s breath was when he came into the pit lane for the compulsory pit stop, touching the wall with his car. Thomas Biagi took up his race behind Terting and Estre in the Porsche 911 GT3 and Benham-Tappy behind the wheel of a McLaren 650S GT3. First he put enough pressure on the English drive from Garage 59 Racing so that he could make a mistake. Thanks to this move Biagi was in second position, which later on translated into the overall win.
Due to the slippery track and the heavy traffic the Huracán number 27 only gained 14th position on the grid (4”746 behind the pole position) on Sunday morning. As they had already won the 2016 title of the series the two drivers could have taken part in race 2 with a softer approach. Naturally this was not the case. The race itself was fiercely contested, especially amongst the leaders. Over the last laps in Spain Fabrizio Crestani drove an exceptional pursuit race, making up positions, concluding the race in fourth place. He had taken over the orange supercar from Biagi after Thomas had overtaken Moiseev (Ferrari 488 GT3 by Kapersky Motorsport). The Russian driver had resisted for a long time being overtaken by the new Champions, but in the end had to strike his colours.
“It’s really incredible to have won another important title. I am very, very happy. I still can’t believe it. It was the successful conclusion of an incredible season for all of us at Orange1 Team Lazarus. Over the three days in Barcelona, since the free practice sessions, we showed our potential and our extraordinary superiority. Fabrizio gained an exceptional pole position. The only strategy to entertain our sponsors and our fans was to give it all and closing the gap. Crestani did that perfectly, like only he can do it: he took off and bid goodbye to them all. He handed the car over in the lead. Due to the 25-second penalty we had a Porsche and a McLaren ahead of us. I got rid of them on my first lap as soon as I met them. Our result is an important first in the series: we won the Championship after our first year as a team and as Lamborghini in the GT Open! But there is more: we gained eight places on the podium in 13 races. The time penalties were our only real enemy! If we had raced in Formula 1, we would have won many more… Grands Prix. I want to dedicate the Title to all those, who have helped me throughout the year and especially to my teammate, the fastest man I’ve ever shared a car with in my career in endurance racing!”
“We had a fantastic, incredible season. It was a great relief, winning the title after race 1 in Spain. We worked well, improving race after race. I want to congratulate the entire team, our sponsors and Automobili Lamborghini on their support. We came to Estoril with only one shake-down, actually without any data. Nevertheless, we managed to gain a pole position and two places on the podium and you could see how our potential had grown. As of this moment the Team worked better and better and me and Thomas Biagi wanted more. Consistent, constant and points in every single race: this was the key to conclude the Championship with one race to go. We deserve this title 100%. I want to thank my main sponsor Daiko, the Lamborghini technicians, who came to every race and who worked so hard. I also want to thank Orange1, who invested into our team, into Team Lazarus. For me this is a second family and Tancredi Pagiaro is a little bit like a second dad. I left home to come to the races and I found another home.”