HTP Motorsport’s Maxi Buhk, Dominik Baumann and Jazeman Jaafar emerged victorious from a hard-fought Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup encounter at Silverstone earlier today after surviving a late Safety Car period.
The #84 Mercedes-AMG was chased all the way by Belgian Audi Club Team WRT’s Vanthoor brothers Laurens and Dries, with their team-mate Fred Vervisch, while the pole-winning #16 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan driven by Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen and Jeroen Bleekemolen completed the podium.
Black Falcon made it two victories for Mercedes-AMG when Maro Engel’s late heroics secured Pro-Am honours, while Pierre Ehret and Stef Vancampenhoudt’s Rinaldi Racing-entered Ferrari 488 claimed the Am Cup spoils.
The fight for overall victory boiled down to a heavyweight match-up between Buhk and Laurens Vanthoor, who emerged from their final pit-stops separated by just 2.4s. That they did owed much to WRT’s strategy of short-fuelling Dries, who had earlier jumped from seventh to second overall after Vervisch gained four places during his opening stint.
The gap between the leaders fluctuated depending on the traffic, but when the Safety Car was called with 40 minutes remaining, Buhk had managed to build up a five second advantage. Vanthoor immediately went on the attack once the action resumed with 20 minutes remaining but could do nothing about the Mercedes-AMG ahead and eventually came home just 0.9s adrift.
Bleekemolen brought the GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini home third overall after a relatively trouble-free run to the flag. Co-driver Mirko Bortolotti had earlier converted his pole position into the lead but was tracked throughout his opening stint by the persistent Franck Perera. Time and again the ISR Audi R8 LMS looked to challenge, but Bortolotti held firm during their scintillating dice.
Ineichen retained the Lamborghini’s position after the opening round of stops but, after being blocked in traffic, found himself bumped down to third in quick succession by Dries Vanthoor and Jaafar, who also subsequently made the decisive move of the race by passing the Audi.
A consistent run helped Maxime Martin, Alexander Sims and Philipp Eng’s Rowe Racing BMW come home fourth after the latter snatched the place from Indy Dontje's #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG following the Safety Car restart. The Dutch driver remained glued to the M6’s tail thereafter but was powerless to re-take the position.
Garage 59’s stealthy approach paid off for Rob Bell, Come Ledogar and Shane Van Gisbergen whose consistent collective effort helped their #58 McLaren finish sixth, one place ahead of Gregory Guilvert, Mike Parisy and Christopher Haase’s Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS which had started 20th overall.
Victory means Buhk and Baumann now lead the overall Blancpain GT series standings from Bell, while the HTP Motorsport duo plus Jaafar also top the Endurance Cup points.
Perera’s fast opening stint gave ISR an excellent chance of winning the Pro-Am class. However, that was without factoring in the late Safety Car and Engel who surged from third to first during the final lap and a bit.
The Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG he shares with Miguel Toril and Oliver Morley first passed Jonny Adam’s Oman Racing Team Aston Martin at Brooklands before setting off in pursuit of Philippe Giauque, who was powerless to resist over the final lap.
Indeed, Adam - who shared his Aston Martin with Devon Modell and Ahmad Al Harthy - also pinched second from the ISR Audi on the final lap to leave Giauque, Perera and Henry Hassid third at the chequered flag.
The Am Cup could have been won by any number of squads: Team Parker Racing’s Chris Harris dominated the opening stint before spinning away much of his advantage, before the Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari assumed the lead. But it was Ehret and Vancampenhoudt who ultimately prevailed aboard their 488, despite the latter only arriving in time for this morning’s qualifying session.
Jazeman Jaafar, #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG: “I pushed really hard to try and capitalise on the opportunity we had. The car’s pace was really good and the balance felt strong throughout so I took the chance when it arose and then tried to pull out a gap. It is also an amazing feeling to win a Blancpain GT Series race.”
Fred Vervisch, #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS: “Our pace was quite good once everything settled down. It is not easy to overtake but we optimised the open spaces when we had the chance and obviously tried to go as fast as we could. But at the same time we were also planning an hour ahead by trying to save fuel so that the strategy would work. In the end this is a great team performance and result.”
Mirko Bortolotti, #16 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan: “We struggled a little bit with the tyres once they went off, so Franck’s [Perera] Audi was a little bit faster over the latter half of the stint. I struggled to keep him behind me because he was quicker out of the corners, and there was also the traffic to contend with. So I was really happy to hand the car over still in the lead. The team and my co-drivers were excellent all weekend and I do not think we could have achieved anything more.”
Oliver Morley, #56 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG: “The weekend has definitely had a few lows and we never expected such a high. It just demonstrates the never-give-up spirit of our team and my co-drivers. We just kept grinding it out, which is one of the big pleasures of endurance racing; You never know what might happen. It is testament to our team. Maro and Miguel always do a great job and it is a privilege to drive with them.”
Pierre Ehret, #488 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488: “We could not qualify in the way that we would have liked to but knew consistency would be key in the race. I had a lot of practice yesterday as a result of Stef only arriving this morning so hats off to him for such a great drive across his two stints today. We knew our average speed would be enough over the race distance to make up positions.”
Next race : Circuit Paul Ricard 1000km - 24&25 June 2016
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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 2016, SRO Motorsports Group promotes several championships and series, such as the Blancpain GT Series, including the iconic Total 24 hours of Spa, the British GT Championship, the Blancpain Sports Club with the Blancpain GT Sports Club and the Blancpain Ultracar Sports Club, the Competition 102 GT4 European Series and the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
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 - and Curbstone, that provides ultimate track driving opportunities on world renowned race circuits in Western Europe for supercar owners, as well as test driving facilities for race car drivers.
SRO has offices in London, Paris and Liège.