Jules Szymkowiak and Bernd Schneider took the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG to a commanding win in the Qualifying Race at Brands Hatch. The Dutch-German duo eventually crossed the line with 21 seconds in hand over the #74 ISR Audi of Perera and Stockinger, with the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 of Mies and Ide taking third.
With air temperatures close to 30° C, the qualifying race for the Brands Hatch round of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series was always going to be a hot and sweaty affair. The 37-car strong pack got safely through the opening corners however, with Jules Szymkowiak in the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG taking over the lead from polesitter Franck Perera in the #74 ISR Audi and Christopher Mies in the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8, who started from 4th. The race quickly settled into a steady rhythm, with drivers not taking too many risks, in order not to jeopardize the main race later this afternoon.
The mandatory driver change did not change positions in the top-3, but behind efficient pitstop work of the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT squad meant that Laurens Vanthoor and Fred Vervisch gained three positions, climbing up to fifth. Increasing the lead to well over 13 seconds, Bernd Schneider had little trouble in holding on to first and taking the win in the Qualifying Race, putting the #86 Mercedes-AMG on pole for this afternoon's Main Race. The German GT race will share the front row with Philippine driver Marlon Stockinger, who managed to hold Enzo Ide behind. Championship leaders Maxi Buhk and Dominik Baumann were penalised with a drive-through after Baumann made contact with the McLaren of Rob Bell. It means they will have to start the main race from 18th.
In the Pro-Am Cup Morgan Moullin-Traffort used his class pole position to take a healthy lead in the first half of the race, with co-driver Jean-Luc Beaubelique finishing the job after the driver change. The French pairing in the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG also finished 29th overall. In Silver Cup Michael Meadows, Luca Stolz and Jeroen Mul had a good scrap during the opening laps, and eventually Meadows, sharing the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 with Stuart Leonard, took the win. In the Am Cup Stéphane Lemeret and Claudio Sdanewitsch brought the #55 AF Corse Ferrari home in first.
The Main race gets underway at 16:20 UK Time.
Bernd Schneider (#86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG): "It looked easy, but Brands Hatch is a difficult circuit. I kept pushing, just to know how hard I can attack in the Main Race. But it will be difficult to get as good a start as Jules did in this Qualifying Race."
Franck Perera (#74 ISR Audi): "I did not want to take too many risks at the start. I knew we had a good and fast car, so with a good pitstop and a good drive for Marlon - only in his third GT race - we managed to get a starting position on the front row for the Main Race."