Epic Sprint Cup finale in prospect as Blancpain GT Series heads for the Nürburgring

7 September 2018 Epic Sprint Cup finale in prospect as Blancpain GT Series heads for the Nürburgring
  • Title battle goes to the wire with leading crews level on points
  • Pro-Am championship too close to call, Rinaldi squad joins for home event 
  • Silver Cup title sewn up, strong grid for finale 

The stage is set for an unmissable contest in the Eifel Mountains next weekend (14-16 September) as the Blancpain GT Series travels to the Nürburgring for its Sprint Cup title-decider.

Two weeks after the Hungaroring played host to a pair of thrilling races, the final Sprint Cup event will bring the curtain down on a vintage season of racing that has seen 12 different drivers stand on the top step of the overall podium.

The battle for the drivers’ title could not be closer, with two crews level on points at the top of the standings. Christopher Mies and Alex Riberas (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT) will go head-to-head with Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows (#88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG) in what has effectively become a winner-takes-all contest.

Mies and Riberas are classified first ahead of the Nürburgring event, having scored more race wins than their AKKA rivals during 2018. Nevertheless, there is everything to play for at the German venue.

What’s more, the favourites will need to contend with a number of very strong outside bets for the title, with three further crews and one individual driver also able to snatch top spot.   

The #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 duo of Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart brought themselves into contention by winning the opening race at the Hungaroring. They are 16.5 points shy of the lead – the exact number awarded for a race victory – and as the reigning Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and overall champions the pair know how to succeed when big prizes are on offer.

Next in the standings is the season’s breakthrough team and driver pairing, the #66 Attempto Racing duo of Kelvin van der Linde and Steijn Schothorst. Having amassed 57.5 points in their Audi R8 LMS, including a race win and two further podiums, the Attempto crew are 24 points off top spot ahead of the finale.

Also in contention is the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT entry of Dries Vanthoor and Will Stevens. They have experienced highs and lows this season, but with 51.5 points on the board remain potential title-winners.

Finally, reigning Sprint Cup champion Stuart Leonard also holds an outside chance of retaining his crown. The British driver is 30.5 points shy of top spot with 35 on offer and will share with Robin Frijns at the Nürburgring. 

The teams’ championship is also a close-fought battle, with Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and AKKA ASP Team the chief protagonists. The WRT squad leads the way on 103.5 points and holds a clear advantage in the case of a tiebreak thanks to its four race wins. AKKA ASP has scored 93 points heading into the finale, with one race victory. 

Grasser Racing and Attempto Racing also remain mathematically capable of taking the teams’ title, though with 77 and 69.5 points respectively they would require a significant swing to wrestle the lead from WRT.

Nothing is settled, however, setting up a memorable finale at the Nürburgring.

Pro-Am goes to the wire, Silver Cup sewn up

The Sprint Cup Pro-Am drivers’ and teams’ titles will be decided in Germany after a season-long battle between the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS and the #39 TP 12 Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 GT3.

Piti Bhirombhakdi and Carlo van Dam hold a narrow advantage ahead of the event, with the TP 12 Kessel Racing duo leading Nyls Stievenart and Markus Winkelhock by just 3.5 points. 

There is clear potential for the Pro-Am title to finish as a tie. This would currently favour the Sainteloc duo, who have accumulated four wins to their rivals’ three. Of course, this could change over the course of the weekend.

Adding to the excitement is the addition of the Rinaldi Racing squad, which will field Rinat Salikhov and David Perel in a Ferrari 488 GT3. The reigning Total 24 Hours of Spa winners in the Pro-Am category, Salikhov and Perel will undoubtedly be contenders at the Nürburgring, potentially affecting the title battle.

While the Pro-Am drivers’ championship is close, the class teams’ battle is closer still. Kessel Racing tops the standings with 112 points, but Sainteloc Racing is in hot pursuit with 111. Ultimately, this contest will be decided by very fine margins. 

There are no such concerns for Jack Manchester and Nico Bastian. A pair of second-place finishes in Hungary confirmed the #90 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG crew as this year’s Silver Cup drivers’ champions, but the duo will be determined to continue their strong form at the closing Sprint contest. 

As ever, they will face a tough set of competitors, including the Black Falcon team. Having joined the Sprint Cup grid at the Hungaroring, the squad will also contest its home event in Germany with Luca Stolz and Hubert Haupt driving the #6 Mercedes-AMG. 

Indeed, the quickest Silver Cup runners have frequently been able to run at the front of the overall order this season, adding further intrigue to the title battle. With such a competitive grid set to tackle the 5.1km circuit, the 2018 Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup is ready to go out in style.

A bumper support package will ensure that there is not a dull moment between the Blancpain GT Series action. The GT4 European Series will conclude its 2018 season at the Nürburgring with races late on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday morning, wrapping up a season of packed grids and exhilarating competition. 

Lamborghini Super Trofeo will contest its penultimate event and its last of the year as part of the Blancpain GT Series programme, while there will also be single-seater action from the Formula Renault Eurocup. The renowned development series is reaching its crucial final phase and will contest a pair of 30-minute races in Germany.

The event will begin with free practice sessions on Friday at 09.45 and 14.35 CEST. Qualifying will take place at 09.30 on Saturday morning, followed by the first of two 60-minute races at 14.05. The 2018 Sprint Cup campaign will conclude on Sunday afternoon with the second race, which gets underway at 16.00. All of Saturday and Sunday’s action will be streamed live on the Blancpain GT Series website.

➢ Provisional timetable 

____