Despite two on-track incidents, BMW Italia Ceccato Racing’s BMW M4 GT3 went on to finish the 2023 Hankook 12H MONZA 4th overall and 2nd in GT3-AM.
Words – James Gent
Images – Nico Mombaerts
BMW Italia Ceccato Racing has praised an “excellent debut” at this past weekend’s Hankook 12H MONZA, despite a couple of on-track incidents en-route to 4th overall and 2nd in GT3-AM.
The Italian team, helmed by former World Touring Car, European Touring Car and DTM champion Robert Ravaglia, was a frontrunner at the Hankook 12H MONZA from the very early going, leading 39 of the 188 laps completed on the Saturday (including 24 of the opening 25), and remaining in the overall top five for nine of the 12 hours. A result the team feels “confirm[s] the potential of the whole BMW Italia Ceccato Racing group.”
“The team completed the race and reached the goal set at the beginning of the weekend,” the team explained in an official statement.
“A decidedly spectacular race characterized the commitment of BMW Italia Ceccato Racing at the Hankook 12H MONZA, where the Brazilians Leonardo Sanchez, Atila Abreu and William Thomas Freire finished in 4th place overall and 2nd place in the GT3-AM category.”
Having finished official Free Practice as the fastest GT3 runner, the #15 BMW M4 GT3, which donned a Brazilian flag on its roof in tribute to its driver line-up, qualified an impressive 4th overall for its 24H SERIES debut. The following afternoon, Freire made an electric start from the second row to move into 2nd overall around the outside of Variante della Rettifilo. One lap later, the Brazilian moved past polesitter Herberth Motorsport, again at the first chicane, to take the overall lead, and across the next 24 laps, Freire pulled more than 12 seconds clear of the chasing pack.
The BMW’s momentum stumbled however when the first Code 60 of the event was thrown to retrieve HRT Performance’s stricken Porsche 992 GT3 Cup from the second Lesmo (terminal electrical problems meant the #967 Porsche went no further in the event). Further round the lap than its nearest rivals, the BMW, when it finally pitted, was still in the refueling area when the race went green, dropping Freire to 8th, just over a minute behind the frontrunners. Though the #15 M4 GT3 eventually feel one lap adrift of the leading Herberth Motorsport Porsche 992 GT3 R, BMW Italia Ceccato Racing nevertheless went into the overnight intervention 3rd overall.
Though Freire lost ground to Haas RT’s Max Hofer at the restart, the BMW continued harrying the #21 Audi R8 before pitting 20 minutes in, its battle thereafter with CP Racing for 4th overall. Atila Abreu even posted the event’s overall fastest lap – a 1m 49.404s – during his opening double stint. Such was the pace of the BMW at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Abreu and Freire collectively posted the six fastest laps of the entire event.
The BMW was however involved in two bizarre incidents on-track on Sunday. One hour in, Abreu inadvertently left GTX class leader 9und11 Racing insufficient room heading into the Variante della Roggia, earning the BMW a 30-second time penalty. 30 minutes from the end of the race, the BMW, attempting to simultaneously pass traffic (the Red Camel-Jordans.nl Porsche 992 GT3 Cup) and gain a lap back on Haas RT heading down to the Parabolica, brushed the left corner of the #21 Audi R8, damaging the latter’s rear left tyre in the process. Freire was handed a 30-second time penalty for ‘driving behavior.’
Having avoided major damage, and despite the collision, BMW Italia Ceccato Racing went on to finish 4th overall and 2nd in GT3-Am, just one lap down on overall podium finisher, and GT3-AM winner, CP Racing.
It’s another solid result for BMW’s new M4 GT3 in the 24H SERIES: since its competitive debut at the 2021 Hankook 24H SEBRING, the M4 GT3 has gone on to secure former Overall GT Teams’ champion ST Racing its first outright series win last year in Mugello, and ushered new BMW M Motorsport partner Team WRT to its third win at the Hankook 24H DUBAI in January.