Everybody needs some thrill and excitement. This is what Orange1 Team Lazarus experienced with the first legendary overall success with a racing car from Lamborghini: this achievement arrived at the third round of this year’s International GT Open Championship and the first since Fabio Onidi won at Monza in the AutoGP Series in 2011. At the high-tech track of Paul Ricard – where also the Formula 1 single-seaters once started and which gets its name from the biggest Pastis producer, the aniseed spirit producer from Marseille – the men under the guidance of Tancredi Pagiaro finally had a reason to celebrate. In the South of France on the weekend of 3 to 6 June the Team from Veneto accepted the challenge from the best international Gran Turismo teams with their orange Huracán GT3 and the two experienced drivers Thomas Biagi and Fabrizio Crestani. The driver-couple from Emilia-Romagna and Veneto – fourth in the overall standings after the races in Estoril and Spa-Francorchamps – eventually made it at the Côte d’Azur. After a fifth place on Saturday the two drivers and the Team showed their might, gaining the first spot in the overall standings with 68 points, ten ahead of the more consistently driving Phil Keen and Shaun Balfe. So what about the race?
In the free practice sessions on Friday the Lamborghini supercar with number 27 was on the right track and in the afternoon an impressive increase in terms of performance could be seen. In the first free practice in the morning the two drivers had set the eighth fastest time of the field, while in the last run they were the second quickest: 2’07”488, an average speed of 164.966 km/h with 1”503 behind the leader and 2’05”759, an average speed of 167.234 km and a gap of 1”045. In both cases it was the Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Marco Cioci and Piergiuseppe Perazzini, which was the quickest car on the track. Thomas Biagi and Fabrizio Crestani knew that they had the perfect car at Le Castellet without ballast or other disadvantages.
The first part of the qualifying immediately went well for Orange1 Team Lazarus. Fabrizio Crestani drove the second fastest time with the Lamborghini Huracán GT3. Therefore, the supercar with its orange livery could start from row 1, right next to pole man Côme Ledogar-Alexander West with his McLaren 650S GT3: 2’03”887, average speed of 169.761 km/h and a mere 285 milliseconds behind the leader. The race on Saturday afternoon turned into a pile of frustration, when the Team from Caselle di Selvazzano Dentro was turned into a “victim”. The moment the car drove in second position with Thomas Biagi behind the wheel and just six tenth of a second behind the BMW M6 GT3 of Miguel Ramos and Roldán Rodríguez, who should go on and win the race, the supercar number 27 was hit by the Aston Martin Vantage driven by Euan Hankey. The Englishman’s move, which could only end in a disaster and not a regular overtaking manoeuvre, set the end to the Italian Lambo’s race amazing race. With only three minutes to go the car dropped to fifth position in the field. Unfortunately, also the mechanics at the box had made a mistake regarding the wheel nuts. In the end the car man from Bologna crossed the line 15”781 behind the winner after 33 laps and 1h12’11”344 with an average speed of 165.461 km/h. After the first part of the weekend at Paul Ricard Thomas Biagi and Fabrizio Crestani were in third place in the standings with 46 points, only nine points behind Phil Keen-Shaun Balfe.
Sunday morning didn’t start too well for the men and women from Orange1 Team Lazarus in the South of France. In the second round of qualifying the top drivers of most of the teams went onto the track. Thomas Biagi behind the wheel made a driving error in the challenging Signes corner. Therefor the Huracán GT3 with its orange livery only started from position nine on the grid in Race 2: 2’05”175 was the fastest lap time driven by Fabrizio Crestani, with an average speed of 168.014 km/h and 1”670 behind the McLaren 650S GT3 in pole position with Michael Benham and Duncan Tappy. In the race things completely changed for the men from Veneto. They didn’t make any mistakes and where at the right moment at the right place. Fabrizio Crestani took over the perfect Lambo from his teammate Thomas Biagi, who had driven an amazing pursuit race, while going easy on the tyres and the brakes.
After the man from Bologna had overtaken the BMW M6 GT3 with Gustavo Yacamán-Fernando Monje in a fantastic move at the first corner, the driver from Treviso started hunting down the leader, two seconds per lap faster. With only two laps to go the McLaren 650S GT3 driven by Alexander West took one corner too wide and was hit by the Aston Martin Vantage with Salih Yoluc. It was the pressure set by the Italian team behind them, which led to the error. A nice ‘strike’, which caused the success for Orange1 Team Lazarus!
Thomas Biagi “Finally a win! I consider it to be completely deserved, because everybody at Orange1 Team Lazarus had many, too many difficult and unlucky moments over the first part of this season. This time we were there, ready to gain the best possible result, but we weren’t unprepared. On the first two laps in Race 2 I felt an exceptional car. I saw lots of traffic ahead so this is why I tried to bring the Lamborghini Huracán back to the box with the best possible tyres. I kept away from trouble, because I knew that Fabrizio would give it his all with this perfect car. Crestiani was absolutely great! What a shame for Race 1, because my teammate came to the box when the car was in first position with a decent gap. Unfortunately, after the stop we couldn’t catch up to the BMW, although I tried my best. At a certain point I was held up by an ‘old’ Ferrari 458 for two laps, which was especially frustrating on the fast straight… that’s something else we could talk about… When I could finally take the pursuit race of the M6 GT3 up again, the Vantage hit me from behind and got me off the track. I spun the car and damaged the right rear suspension. I was really sorry for what had happened there…”.
Fabrizio Crestani “On Sunday Thomas drove an exceptional race, keeping the tyres intact. He handed the car over to me with almost new tyres, almost like for qualifying. We had our pit stop a little bit earlier. I drove three laps at the limit and could overtake cars still on the track, while I was strategically already at the box. I then had a battle with a BMW and waited for the right moment to overtake at the first corner. At that point I saw the two leading cars quite far away, but I didn’t give up. Slowly but surely I caught up and in the end they hit each other with only two laps to go. This was a really deserved victory. It has been since Saturday, actually since Estoril! In Race 1 we were leading by 15 seconds, but due to a technical problem at the pit stop we lost the lead. Biagi drove an excellent stint in heavy traffic, fighting for the lead, when he was hit by an Aston Martin from behind and sent him off. Unfortunately, on Saturday it seemed that we would win, but in the end crossed the line only in fifth place. On Sunday it went so much better. Such satisfaction for the team, me and my teammate Thomas Biagi: we’re working better and better together and together we enjoyed this perfect ‘gift’!”.