The #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon crew of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman took a superb victory in the season-closing Blancpain GT Series event at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to clinch the Endurance Cup title in style, while Raffaele Marciello wrapped up the overall championship with Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP.
The #4 Mercedes-AMG triumphed in perfect fashion, winning a race run under sunny Barcelona skies from pole position thanks to accomplished performances from all three of its drivers. Engel, Stolz and Buurman secured a double success, as Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon can also celebrate its first Endurance Cup teams’ championship.
After making a strong start Engel opened up a significant advantage during the first stint, which Stolz was able to gradually build upon when he took the Mercedes-AMG’s controls for the second hour.
Buurman faced the only significant challenge when a safety car period dropped him to second on the road, but the Dutchman was able to quickly overhaul the #54 Emil Frey Racing G3 Jaguar.
He remained under pressure from Tristan Vautier in the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP machine until the end, particularly as the safety car again closed the pack during the final 30 minutes.
The tension was significant, as a successful move by Vautier would have secured crewmate Marciello a sweep of Blancpain GT Series titles. Despite this, experienced GT ace Buurman remained cool to win both the race and the Endurance Cup championship.
That race result may have denied Marciello the Endurance crown, but he still had plenty of reason to celebrate as his car’s run to second on the road clinched the overall Blancpain GT Series titles for the Italian star and the AKKA ASP squad.
Marciello was impressive in the opening stint, moving from sixth to third during the first hour with a series of decisive moves.
But he also has his #88 AKKA ASP crewmates, Daniel Juncadella and Tristan Vautier, to thank for his title. Both made progress, with Juncadella running third for much of his stint and Vautier then climbing to second by overhauling the #54 Jaguar.
With a second-place finish AKKA ASP can also celebrate winning the overall Blancpain GT Series teams’ title, a remarkable achievement for an outfit that won its first Endurance Cup race at the same circuit 12 months ago.
The overall podium was completed by the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 of Mikhail Aleshin, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina, a result that rewarded the pace the #72 machine has demonstrated throughout the 2018 campaign.
Silver Cup: Dramatic finale sees Emil Frey Jaguar bow out in style
The Silver Cup class concluded in dramatic fashion. The #6 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG had looked comfortable at the top of the Endurance Cup standings, holding a 15-point advantage ahead of the concluding race.
The car was running solidly, but the German squad’s hopes ended in unfortunate fashion when the #6 pulled off the road during its second stint.
This threw the title battle wide open. Having entered the weekend third in the Silver Cup standings, the #54 Emil Frey Racing G3 Jaguar took full advantage, securing class victory to vault into the championship lead.
The crew of Alex Fontana, Adrian Zaugg and Mikael Grenier took a season-best fifth overall, running with the leaders during the final stint. This was the perfect send-off for the Emil Frey squad’s long-serving Jaguar, which was making its final Blancpain GT Series start this weekend.
The #90 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG duo of Jack Manchester and Nico Bastian secured the overall Silver Cup title thanks to third on the road at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, adding to the Sprint Cup championship they secured at the Nürburgring.
Pro-Am: Daiko Lazarus triumph, Strakka clinch drivers’ title, AF Corse secure teams’ crown
As in Silver Cup, the Pro-Am title swung between a number of crews during the race.
The #27 Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini Huracan won on the road after delivering a superb performance. Fabrizio Crestani rapidly moved into the class lead during the opening stint, while both Miguel Ramos and Giuseppe Cipriani were in excellent form to clinch the Italian squad its first win of the season.
But Daiko Lazarus was not in title contention, making the results behind the #27 car very significant. Despite the best efforts of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 and the similar #333 Rinaldi Racing machine, the #42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG crew took eighth in class to clinch the crown.
Nick Leventis, Chris Buncombe and Lewis Williamson have been impressively consistent throughout 2018 and, while they did not enjoy their best result at Barcelona, earned their title over the course of the championship.
Despite missing the drivers’ title there was still silverware for the AF Corse squad, which took the Pro-Am teams’ championship for the Endurance Cup. The overall titles had already been decided, with the Sainteloc Racing squad and its drivers, Markus Winkelhock and Nyls Stievenart, clinching the respective honours.
Am Cup: #77 Barwell-Lamborghini adds titles to Total 24 Hours of Spa win
The Am Cup class was won by the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan of Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski and Richard Abra, which clinched the overall and Endurance class title for the British squad and secured the same set of drivers’ honours for Amstutz and Machitski.
The Barwell crew dominated this season’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, setting the #77 crew up perfectly for the title-deciding event. They qualified 47th overall for the Barcelona race, but moved through the field to hit the class lead during the final hour. Abra brought the car home 29th overall, securing the race win and titles for his team and crewmates.
With the season complete the celebrations can begin as drivers and teams reflect on the events of the 2018 season. With five overall winners from as many Endurance Cup rounds – all representing different brands – it has been a championship to savour from the first lap until the last.
Maro Engel, #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon: “I’ve got to say a big thank you to the team as they set our car up beautifully and it was a pleasure to drive. The Aston Martin held back the other guys, who could’ve driven quicker, but either way our car was very strong. I’m massively proud of this team; this group of people fully deserved the championship win. They’ve done an awesome job all year. We came here not worrying about the title and just trying to win the race. There were so many contenders, so the best approach was to go for the win.”
Alex Fontana, #54 Emil Frey G3 Jaguar: “It feels absolutely amazing, especially for the team because Emil Frey Racing built the Jaguar many years ago. We are just the drivers who finished the story of the car, and there were many over the years who did a fantastic job to push its development alongside the engineers. With a little bit of luck we found ourselves in first place, and we showed that we have good pace. Overall this was a very satisfying year.”
Nick Leventis, #42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG: “This wasn’t our day, which is unfortunate as we had the pace to go and win [the race]. But the season is long and we scored consistently, so to win the championship is great. I’d like to congratulate the other Mercedes-AMG teams for their success. For sure, in the Pro-Am category, we’ve done the job this season.”
Leo Machitski: #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan: “The season has been absolutely fantastic for us and the Barwell team. They have been part of this championship for several years, mainly in Pro-Am, but decided to move down to the Am class this year. The Total 24 Hours of Spa went particularly well for us; the motorsport gods looked down on us and we led for 22 hours. We finished second at Paul Ricard, first at Spa and now first here, so we’ve shown that we’ve got what it takes in the Am class. The results speak for themselves. Big thanks to the team for all the hard work that they’ve put in.”