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Nico Verdonck & Gulf Racing claim podium in last gasp thriller

Gulf Racing claimed a hard-fought podium finish during the Blancpain Endurance Series season opener, in one of the closest finishes the championship has ever seen. The #69 McLaren 12C GT3, contesting the Pro category with McLaren GT works pairing of Rob Bell and Adam Carroll alongside Nico Verdonck, fought all the way to the chequered flag to take P3, while Andy Meyrick and Mike Wainwright, in the #9 Pro-Am entry, were forced to retire following a racing incident.

With a grid of more than 60 cars, the #69 qualified well in P10, and Bell and Verdonck battled hard to remain in contention going into the final stint of the three hour endurance race at the Autodromo di Monza, Italy. Northern Irishman Adam Carroll took over for the closing stages, and worked hard to reduce the gap in front, while having to defend his position heavily. A last gasp manoeuvre on the exit of the last corner, Curva Parabolica, and a sprint to the finish line saw the British-based team claim its podium finish by 0.028 seconds.


#69 - Rob Bell, Pro, P3

"After qualifying well, I lost a few places off the start as I struggled for traction,. However, the pace was good, and I managed to move back through the field before handing over to Nico. I was really pleased with how the car felt, and its performance was in-line with where we had expected it be after the testing we have done over the winter. The final result was a great reward for the efforts of the whole team, and I am delighted to start the year with a podium."


#69 - Nico Verdonck, Pro, P3

"It took me a few laps to get into my rhythm, as I couldn't get the Pirelli tyres working straight away but, once I was up and running, the car felt good and I was pleased with the stint. Rob had put us in a good position and it was important to stay close to the lead pack in the closing stages before I pitted. The final few laps of the race was great to watch, and Adam did well to defend the position and close the gap to P3. I'm really pleased we managed to grab the final podium position, which is an excellent result for the team, and a foundation for us to build on for the season."


#69 - Adam Carroll, Pro, P3

"What a great way to start the season! Everything has come together nicely, and the team did a fantastic job over the whole weekend. We can definitely build on this result and it is looking like an exciting season.

It was a great battle in the closing stages, as I was chasing down third place but also having to defend my position heavily from behind. It was really close, door-to-door at times, but without incident, and that is a sign of the quality of the guys we were racing against. It was important that we never stopped pushing, which gave me the chance to make the final sprint for the line, and I am glad I was able to bring the car home and claim a podium for the team."


#9 - Mike Wainwright, Pro-Am, DNF

"So pleased that the team managed to get our first podium, and it is a great start to the season. The pace was good, and the car felt good, but we were unlucky with the accident which forced us to retire. I'm looking forward to getting back out on track for the next round at Silverstone."

Matt Beers, Team Manager

"I'm very pleased with the outcome of the weekend generally, a real shame we didn't finish with both cars, but we know we can get results in Pro and Am. To get the first podium of the season is fantastic, especially in the way we did it, a real wheel to wheel battle to the line for Adam.

The team worked like clockwork and for the first race of the season that's so encouraging, we had three great stints from our Pros in the #69 car and they did exactly what I wanted them to do. It was a difficult pitlane with so many cars around and we had some awesome pit-work from the team to help us get that result, I just want to thank the whole team for their efforts to get to this point.

We are looking forward to Silverstone, we plan to win it."


Round 2 of the Blancpain Endurance Series will see Gulf Racing back in the UK, as the grid will line up at Silverstone, 1-2 June 2013.