David Perel put the difficult start to his Blancpain GT Endurance Series career behind him with a brilliant showing in his two stints at the 1000km of Paul Ricard on the weekend and even if fourth in class was scant reward for his pace-setting performance, the Capetonian and his gentleman driver teammates American Stephen Earle and Belgian Bernard Delhez were delighted to finally score championship points with fourth in the AM class.
The Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 piloted by David Perel

Image by Olivier Beroud / Vision Sport Agency

Perel however delivered a headline performance as he drove to his second class pole position on the trot at the circuit overlooking the French Riviera, before leading throughout his first beat and then recovering from sixth to hand the PereSoft Kessel Ferrari 458 over to his teammate on a handy class lead after his second stint of the six-hour race. His teammates hit trouble after that, but they kept it together to see Delehez bring it home fourth in class at the midnight finish.

“It was a tough end to our weekend, “Perel admitted. “We finished fourth in class after a my teammates had a difficult final 2 hours, but I am really proud of my stints. “I was very happy with my weekend and delighted to put it on pole in class.”

Perel then had the privilege to start the race for the first time and enjoyed a most competitive first stint, during which he set the fastest AM lap of the race by almost a second. “I started thirtieth and got into the top twenty — we were 19th when I handed the car over to Stephen,” David explained. “My pace was tip top and we were in a handy class lead.”

The situation had however changed considerably by the time Perel took over the wheel again at the three-hour mark, with the Ferrari back in sixth, but David delivered a stunning hour’s work to climb back into the class lead as night fell. “I went from sixth and a lap behind to retake the lead before I completed my final stint — I was holding thumbs that my team mates could keep it together as a podium certainly possible.”

The trio came close to that top-three dream, but an extra stop to attend to rear body damage during Earle’s fourth stint dropped the Ferrari down the order, although a steady run from there was good enough for a solid fourth in class and 28th overall.

But David Perel delivered a standout performance to put the car on pole position, lead throughout his first stint and then deliver a splendid come from behind drive to once again hand the Ferrari over in he class lead after his second chance at the wheel.

“I am proud of my pole position and of both of my race stints at Paul Ricard,” David concluded. “I am also greatly thankful to Kessel Racing and to Brad Fincham for an awesome car — it was a pleasure to drive. “Now the focus is on our test at Spa in 10 days time before the big one – I’m really looking forward to my first Spa 24-hour at the end of the month.”

The winning Garage 59 McLaren 650S

Image by Olivier Beroud / Vision Sport Agency

At the head of the field an eventful final hour resulted in a win for the #58 Garage 59 McLaren of Shane Van Gisbergen, Côme Ledogar and Rob Bell. Van Gisbergen, fresh from a win in the Australian Supercar Championship in Darwin last weekend, hit the front after the last pitstop when the leading Bentley – which had dominated the race up until then – caught fire during refuelling. Van Gisbergen was reeled in by the #50 AF Corse Ferrari in the final laps of the race, but eventually Alessandro Pier Guidi, Michele Rugolo and Pasin Lathouras had to settle for second just over 3 seconds behind the McLaren. The final podium position went to the #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 of Rodrigo Baptista, Felipe Albuquerque and Jan Magnussen whose Audi was one of five different manufacturers to finish inside the top-five.

The Pro-Am win was taken by the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Broniszewski, Bonacini and Rizzoli, while another Kessel Racing Ferrari, the #888 of Talbot, Gitlin and Zanuttini, was first in the Am Cup.