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19 Sep

BIAGI-CRESTANI AND ORANGE1 TEAM LAZARUS LEADING GT STANDINGS AFTER ZELTWEG

While summer gives space to autumn and it’s warm and comforting colours, in motorsports it’s time to get back on the track again for some more action. An epic fight, almost legendary, especially for Orange1 Team Lazarus, showing up at the fifth round in the 2016 season of the International GT Open Championship leading the standings (with ten seconds more than the base handicap). This, thanks to the win in Race 2 at Paul Ricard in France and the impressive and continuous results in Estoril and Silverstone.
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In Austria it went even better. Place seven on Saturday and place two un Sunday helped Thomas Biagi and Fabrizio Crestani to strengthen their lead in the Championship with 117 points, a whole 19 more than the second-placed team. Let’s also remember that there are only two more races to be held this season: Monza and Barcelona.

In Austria it was a fierce fight between ‘wild animals’ on Saturday, 10 and Sunday, 11 September on the Zeltweg race track, a former airbase. For many years the Austrian Formula One GP was held here on the track, inaugurated in 1969. The circuit, called Spielberg due to the location of its administration, was completely renovated in 2011 and Red Bull Ring, in honour of the generous patron.

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The ferocious animals on the track were the two bulls of the track’s sponsor and Lamborghini, who handed the Huracàn to the Team from Veneto, as well as the cheetah in Team Lazarus’ logo and the winged panther of partner and sponsor Orange1 Racing.
The men from Caselle di Selvazzano Dentro started the weekend with the fourth fastest overall time in the free practice sessions.

Saturday supercar number 27 started cautious and rational for the men around Tancredi Pagiaro. They also had to consider the top rivals’ caution in the qualifying session, where many penalties were handed out to several competitors, going over the track limits. Thomas Biagi drove for him and his teammate Fabrizio Crestani the seventh fastest time of the field in the qualifying, 1″502 behind Andrea Caldarelli-Fu Songyang, who gained pole position in their Ferrari 488 from SF Racing. In Race 1 the experienced Gran Turismo driver from Bologna got behind the wheel for the start. He managed to stay clear of the chaos, caused by a Ferrari and a BMW right at the start. He was overtaken by a Mercedes AMG GT3, but managed to hand the car over to his teammate from Treviso with an incredible regularity. This enabled the drivers of the orange supercar – whose engine suffered a bit from the high altitude in Zeltweg – to gain seventh place at the end of the race.

They crossed the line 47″951 behind the M6 GT3 from BMW Team Teo Martin, driven by Pieter Schothorst and Miguel Ramos. With this result they were still leading the drivers’ standings with 99 points, eight ahead of the second placed driver from Portugal.

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In Sunday it was Fabrizio Crestani’s turn to go onto the track for the qualifying. He immediately drove the sixth fastest time of the field, while he set the fastest times on the third and last sector of the Austrian track. Thanks to this result the gap was a mere 429 thousandths of a second compared to the M6 GT3 with Pieter Schothorst and Miguel Ramos and even a deleted timed lap, due to an overtaking manoeuvre next to the track in corner number 9.

Finally, without the ten-second handicap the man from Veneto had a brilliant start and immediately gained a position in the field, overtaking the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 from TF Sport. In the following he held fifth position right behind the big players in the field until lap 17, gaining one position over the following two laps, despite the difficult track conditions for his Lamborghini Huracán.

Right after the orange GT car had been handed over to the driver from Bologna, another position in the field was gained, by overtaking the McLaren 650S GT3 from Garage 59. This opened the window to an exciting finish, ending with second place in the race and only 9”113 behind the winning BMW M6 GT3 from Teo Martin Motorsport with Gustavo Yacamán and Fernando Monje.

Thomas Biagi
“The first race in Austria didn’t give us the satisfaction of a place on the podium, but we knew that before. The ten-second handicap made itself felt and unfortunately we also didn’t have a perfect start, because ahead of me a Ferrari didn’t really get away well and then a BMW as well as a big-powered Mercedes got in. Without our race rhythm they got the better of me and it was impossible to overtake, although they were slower. Their driver made some huge mistakes, but on the straight I just couldn’t get him, also because our aspirated engine had lost some horsepower. Anyway, in the end we crossed the line ahead of Shaun Balfe and Miguel Ramos, our competitors in the Championship, when Crestani drove one of his incredible stints and finished in seventh position. Also on Sunday Fabrizio drove an exceptional race. The objective was to close the gap to the leading drivers and we did it brilliantly. We got rid of the ten-second handicap and finally left the box in an excellent position. Another important part of the race was when I overtook the McLaren with Alexander West at the exit of a corner. I knew that we had a deficit regarding acceleration here at Zeltweg, so I just gave it my all, also to keep up my concentration. The Team has done some exceptional work – from the engineers to every single mechanic – combined with a perfect strategy. Now we can’t lose focus, we have to work hard over the three weeks until the race in Monza…!”

Fabrizio Crestani
“On Saturday, just like Biagi said already, the ten-second handicap made the difference. All the cars, which were behind him at the pit in I then found ahead of me at the pit out… Lacking horsepower, it was even more difficult to close the gap, although the Team had given us an exceptional Huracán for this race weekend. It was very fast and I felt very strong, but all we gained braking, we lost on the straights. We limited the damage, because making up ground was really very difficult. If we had been in the lead, we really would have made our race without anyone to worry about. In Race 2 we gained a fantastic second place. We didn’t expect that on this track, so unfavourable for our engine as well as for our car. The decisive moment during my sting was when I overtook the Aston Martin. I knew that the Vantage would have trouble with its tyres after three to four laps and it was important to stay ahead of it, because closing the gap to the leading group was vital for us and I wanted to hand the Lamborghini over to Thomas in the best possible conditions…”