Dries Vanthoor and Will Stevens gave Belgian Audi Club Team WRT victory in the opening Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup race at Brands Hatch, leading a one-two finish for the Baudour-based squad.
It was a race of two halves for the #2 Audi R8 LMS drivers. During the first stint Vanthoor was comfortable at the head of the field, leading from pole and gradually edging away from the #66 Attempto Racing Audi of Steijn Schothorst.
But, after handing over to Stevens, the #2 Audi came under intense pressure for the lead. Kelvin van der Linde had taken over the #66 machine and put up a spirited battle for top spot, only to find Stevens impossible to pass.
It was an impressive display of defensive driving from the British driver, who resisted for half an hour of racing to seal victory on home turf.
The lead battle eventually grew to include Christopher Mies, who had taken over the #1 WRT-Audi from Alex Riberas, and the #88 AKKA-Mercedes of Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows.
Late in the race Mies spotted a gap and went past Van der Linde into turn 1 to assume second. Marciello saw a potential podium finish and duly muscled his way past as well.
Mies therefore followed Stevens home for a WRT one-two, with Marciello preventing an Audi sweep in third.
Van der Linde tumbled down the order on the closing lap, with damage to his car leaving the South African racer struggling to even make the chequered flag.
Fourth went to the #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT machine of Stuart Leonard and Frederic Vervisch – which will start this afternoon’s second race from pole position – with the #87 AKKA-Mercedes completing the top-five.
Silver Cup honours looked destined to go to the #90 AKKA-Mercedes following a sterling opening stint from Nico Bastian. He handed over to Jack Manchester, who continued the good work by running competitively.
But an error from the local driver ended with the Mercedes-AMG machine in the gravel, allowing the #37 3Y Technology BMW to grab victory thanks to Andrew Watson and Lukas Moraes.
In Pro-Am, the #39 TP 12-Kessel Racing Ferrari took its third win in as many Sprint Cup races thanks to Piti Bhirombhakdi and Carlo van Dam. The Ferrari was comfortable in the hands of both drivers, with Bhirombhakdi taking the start before handing over to his Dutch teammate in the lead.