Italian racer Raffaele Marciello claimed victory in the FIA GT World Cup, one of the main events of the 66th Macau Grand Prix.
Marciello fought hard with the Porsches Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber during the entire race to retrieve the title for Mercedes-AMG they had lost last year to BMW.
Starting from the pole position, Marciello made a clean start, as Vanthoor was faster off the line to steal the second position from his ROWE Racing teammate Bamber.
From then on, Vanthoor tried to pass Marciello on several occasions but the Italian held his position firmly and even created some gap in the lead.
A safety car intervened after sixth-placed Kevin Estre hit the wall at high speed at the Mandarin’s bend, and brought everyone back into play.
Estre’s contact left his Porsche 911 GT3 R severely damaged, which stopped on track a few meters ahead, losing several parts in between the location of impact and the stopping location.
After the car was successfully removed, the thrill restarted with the reigning champion Augusto Farfus in the BMW M6 taking the opportunity to leap forward, passing Bamber and moving into the third position on the run to Lisboa.
Bamber responded instantly and with Vanthoor running slightly wide at Lisboa and holding Farfus in the process, Bamber went from fourth to second in a flash, starting to put pressure on the race leader Marciello.
Lapping almost six-tenths of a second faster than Marciello and running virtually glued to him, Bamber eventually made a mistake at the Police bend, running a little too wide and hitting the barrier slightly, losing a wing mirror and some time in the process.
Until the end of the race, the Italian kept holding his position with all his means under pressure from Bamber who, on the last lap, slightly clipped the back of Marciello’s car on the slow turn of the hairpin. Luckily for Marciello, the contact was not enough to take him off his rails and he made it to the checkered flag first. With the finish line on sight, Bamber purposely slowed down to let Vanthoor pass and take the second position at the flag in a gentlemen’s agreement they admitted to having had before to contribute to the team’s attempt on title, playing two against one on Marciello.
The strategy did make Marciello pull out all his weapons but in the end, he still got to be the final race winner.
After the podium ceremony, Marciello said, “I would like to thank GruppeM Racing for the amazing car and also Mercedes AMG. Porsche has been really close the whole weekend so I am really happy that we finally won! I have always been really close to winning this race from Formula 3 when I was on pole and last year in GT, but Macau is always Macau and it’s really special to make it all perfect and finally I did. It is just an amazing feeling – to win this, it also means I can be regarded as one of the best!”
Acknowledging the team’s strategy Vanthoor explained, “Pre-race we had a meeting and we decided a Porsche has to win and it doesn’t matter which one. I got a better start than Earl [Bamber] and I was following Raffaele in the beginning. I tried to get by at the start, and again at the restart. We had really good pace but at one point I made a mistake and we decided as well we would let Earl [Bamber] give it a try. I know him very well, he’s been my teammate all year and if there is one guy that can make a gap – it’s him! So it was worth giving him a try too but it wasn’t our day.”