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The 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series got underway this weekend at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Italy, with McLaren GT present for the third consecutive year. Customer teams ART Grand Prix and Boutsen-Ginion Racing both fielded a two car line-up with the 12C GT3, and showed early pace during the weekend when McLaren GT factory driver Alvaro Parente claimed pole position for ART Grand Prix. Despite the hard-fought race with a grid of 38 cars, the 12C GT3 completed a lights-to-flag victory, and the French-based team secured a double podium with McLaren GT factory driver Kevin Estre in the team’s sister car securing third.

Parente, sharing driving responsibilities with Gregoire Demoustier and Alexandre Premat, dominated the weekend in the #98 ART Grand Prix 12C GT3, claiming pole position by four tenths of a second, before taking overall victory in the three-hour endurance race and fastest lap of the race. After narrowly missing out on a top-10 grid position in qualifying, fellow factory driver Estre, alongside Kevin Korjus and Andy Soucek in the #99 ART Grand Prix 12C GT3, secured the final podium position as the chequered flag fell.

Despite showing competitive pace throughout the weekend, both Boutsen-Ginion Racing entries were forced to retire from the Blancpain season opener. The #15 car, driven by McLaren Automotive development driver Phil Quaife, Alex Demirdjan and Shahan Sarkissian was involved in a racing incident causing damage which could not be repaired, while a mechanical failure for Karim Ojjeh, Oliver Grotz and Frederic Vervisch in the #16 car brought their race to a premature end.

Alvaro Parente (#98 ART Grand Prix): ‘After a good start, I had the advantage that I could run in clean air, so I could quickly create a gap. After my stint my teammates did a perfect job in managing our lead, which resulted in a great win. We did a lot of work over the winter, especially on ‘calming down’ the rear of the car. That might have cost us some tenths during the qualifying lap, but during a race stint we were able to gain several seconds.’

Andrew Kirkaldy, McLaren GT Managing Director added: ‘It is great to see our customer teams fighting at the front of the grid in such a competitive championship as the Blancpain Endurance Series. The cars performed well throughout the weekend, and Alvaro and Kevin showed strong pace to help secure a double podium. The pressure is on to build on this strong start, and the next race will be tough as the grid is so strong, but we will work with the teams to ensure that the 12C GT3 is challenging for more wins and podium finishes throughout the season.’

Round 2 of the Blancpain Endurance Series takes place at Silverstone, UK over the weekend 23-25 May 2014.

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