Maxime Martin and Dirk Müller have taken the #77 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil BMW to its first win. The yellow Z4 took the lead on the opening lap, briefly lost it after the pitstops, and then Müller held off Stéphane Ortelli in an exciting last twenty minutes of the season opener. However, Ortelli and team-mate Richelmi (#3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi) were the first of the Series’ regular drivers, claiming important points towards the championship. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT-drivers Enzo Ide and Christopher Mies completed the podium. In Pro Am, the #70 GT Russian Team Mercedes of Christophe Bouchut and Alexey Vasilyev took the lead shortly before the end of the race, while the Fjordbach brothers led the whole race in Silver Cup, at the wheel of their #74 ISR Audi.
With brilliant sunshine and packed grandstands, the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series started in very festive conditions at the Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro. The Main Race of the season opener quickly lived up to expectations. Stéphane Richelmi, starting from pole after winning the Qualifying Race, held on to first position in the #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi, but the experienced Maxime Martin only needed half an opportunity to put the #77 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil BMW alongside the Audi and then passed it. The Belgian – subbing with team-mate Dirk Müller for regular drivers Bueno and Jimenez – swiftly increased his lead. Behind him, Richelmi offered little resistance to the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi of Christopher Mies, who had started the race on fresher tyres.
Martin had a lead of nearly five seconds before pitting to give the wheel of the BMW to Dirk Müller, but this advantage completely evaporated when the car remained stationary for a few seconds in pitlane. When Müller rejoined, he was already passed by Enzo Ide, who had taken over from Mies the lap before.
However, Müller quickly closed the two-second gap, and when hitting the backmarkers, he took advantage of a small hesitation to pass Ide for the lead. The Belgian decided to let his fellow Audi-driver Stéphane Ortelli by as well.
What followed was GT racing of the highest level.
For almost twenty minutes Müller and Ortelli were at it hammer and tongs and the BMW and the Audi were never separated by more than 1.2 seconds. A last gap effort from Ortelli put the Audi under the rear wing of the BMW at the start of the final lap, but Müller held on the lead until the chequered flag, much to the joy of all the members of BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil. After a learning year in 2013, podium finishes in 2014, their third season in the Sprint Series could not have started in a better way.
Behind Müller and Ortelli, Enzo Ide had little trouble in holding on to third. The battle for fourth and fifth places was decided by a duel between the #84 Bentley Team HTP Continental and the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari, with Maxi Buhk and Vincent Abril claiming the 12 points for fourth place. A more than decent result, considering that they dropped to almost dead last after the second corner incident of the Qualifying Race. With one BMW, two Audi, a Bentley and a Ferrari there were four different brands in the top five of this first Main Race.
In Pro-Am the win was the subject of a scrap between the two Mercedes SLS of GT Russian Team. Bernd Schneider took an excellent start in the #70 SLS, climbing up to fourth overall. After the pitstop, Christophe Bouchut used all his experience to spur on the #71 Mercedes, quickly reducing the gap between the two gullwinged cars and a couple of laps from the end Bouchut could take the lead in Pro-Am Cup.
In Silver Cup the Fjordbach brothers (#74 ISR Audi) had a healthy lead from the start, but even though they had to take the start from the last row #83 Bentley Team HTP Continental Olivier Lombard and Jules Szymkowiak chased them down throughout the race. At the finish, the Bentley duo were only 3.4 seconds short of claiming the win.
Dirk Müller (#77 BMW Sports Trophy Team Brasil BMW, 1st): “First of all, I have to thank the whole of BMW Team Brasil for this weekend. Maxime and I felt very welcome from the start and they did an excellent job all through the weekend. It was my mistake that caused the time loss in the pitstop, when I forgot to push one button. It’s something that never happened to me before. I was not in a good mood when I saw the Audi in front of me, and Enzo gave me a hard time. When I saw the backmarker I just went for a gap in the first corner and fortunately I could make it stick. Then I saw that Stéphane was chasing me, but I knew that I could keep him behind if I made no mistakes. I am so happy to give BMW Team Brasil its first win, they really deserve this.”
Stéphane Richelmi (#3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi, 2nd): “I had a good start, but then was surprised by the move of Maxime. In single-seaters it would be impossible to overtake through the gap I left, but with a GT car it is. Write that down to my lack of experience. Still, with Stéphane setting an excellent second half of the race, we take some important points for the championship.”
Enzo Ide (#2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi, 3rd): “I was under no illusions when I saw the BMW behind me. After all, Maxime and Dirk are both factory drivers and to me racing is a hobby. Once I lost the lead, I let Stéphane by as well, because I knew he would have a better chance to fight for the win than I. However, with two podium finishes this weekend this is still a great start to the season.”
Anders Fjordbach (#74 ISR Audi, 1st Silver Cup): “For some or other reason we were unable to find the race pace we did yesterday. We managed to hold on to the lead in Silver Cup, but the speed of the Bentley showed that we will have a great fight all season long.”
Christophe Bouchut (#70 GT Russian Team Mercedes, 1st Pro Am Cup): “When I took over from Alexey, I knew we were quite far behind, which was still a consequence of our lack of speed during the Qualifying Race. We had managed to change the set-up of the car for the better though, and at first I just wanted to gain as many places as possible. Then I saw the leading car in our class, and I quickly realised that we could go for the win. It is a great result for the GT Russian Team, claiming a 1-2 in the first race in which they entered two cars.”
Monza 11-12 April (Endurance)
Brands Hatch 09-10 May (Sprint)
Blancpain - Innovation is our Tradition
Founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, the watch brand bearing his name is the oldest in the world. Blancpain is currently engaged to the renewal of mechanical watchmaking and to passing on exceptional expertise from one generation to the next through constant investment in human resources, production facilities and research. This approach is its strength and the expression of our long-term vision, even though it goes against the tide of a certain tendency to seek immediate profit. From the creation of components through to watch design, Blancpain is distinguished by its ability to develop exceptional movements. Over the past ten years, the Manufacture has indeed developed no less than 35 new calibres.
Through its various models, Blancpain preserves its heritage of precision and elegance, while also displaying an innovative and occasionally provocative spirit. Its range encompasses the sportive L-evolution line, the legendary Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch, as well as the classic Villeret collection, the high complication from Le Brassus collection and the Women models.
Pirelli – Official Tyre Supplier
Pirelli is a tyre manufacturer and world leader in the automotive industry. It has an exclusive relationship with over 50 racing series worldwide, including Formula One.
Pirelli has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing, and has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world. The design of the new Pirelli GT tyres meets the needs of GT racing while maintaining the performance characteristics that endurance drivers have appreciated in the past.The slick tyres used for GT racing are branded Zero: just like the slicks that have become a central feature of Formula One. The name P Zero is used in the highest categories of motorsport such as GT racing.
SRO Motorsports Group - The architect of modern GT Racing
SRO Motorsports Group was founded by Stephane Ratel and has specialised in the promotion, support and organisation of many national and international motorsport series since 1995.
In 2015, SRO promotes several championships and series, such as the Blancpain GT Series (with the Blancpain Sprint Series and the Blancpain Endurance Series, including the iconic Total 24 hours of Spa), the Avon Tyres British GT Championship and the newly-created GT Sports Club and Ultracar Sports Club. SRO Motorsports Group has various franchise agreements, including the GT4 European Series.
SRO Motorsports Group runs also the SRO Race Centre by MMC, a high-level technical centre at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the south of France.
SRO has offices in London, Paris and Liège.