Overcast and very windy conditions at the start of the qualifying race of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup round at the Nürburgring, but the predicted rain stayed away. In the run towards the first corner some drivers misjudged their braking point and the biggest victim of the following mayhem was Laurens Vanthoor. The former champion was spun round and rejoined in last position.
At the front, pole setter Alvaro Parente had kept the #58 Garage 59 McLaren in first position, but he could not pull out a gap from the chasing Audis of Mies, Rast and Perera. The quartet stayed nose-to-tail until the pit window opened. A less than perfect pitstop in the Garage 59-camp meant that the McLaren - now with Rob Bell at the wheel - dropped to third, behind Enzo Ide in the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi and Marlon Stockinger in the #74 ISR Audi. Bell quickly found a way past Stockinger, and set his mind on closing the eight second gap towards Ide. A couple of laps from the end, the Blancpain GT Series driver standings leader was under the rear wing of the leading Audi, but Ide continued his faultless run and managed to hold the McLaren factory driver off until the chequered flag. Ide and Mies are the first drivers to win two Sprint Cup races this season and they obviously increased their lead in the Sprint Cup standings as well.
Behind them, Stockinger and Will Stevens - who had lost some time when taking over from René Rast - had a great scrap for third. The former F1 driver made a great move into turn one, claiming the first podium finish for the #28 Audi. Dries Vanthoor and Nico Müller in the #4 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 made it four R8 LMS inside the top-5, and for a while it looked like the final point would go to the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 of Vanthoor and Vervisch, who made a great come-back after their spin in the opening lap. However, a late puncture meant they dropped to 25th, meaning that it was the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental of Soucek and Soulet that claimed the final point.
In Pro-Am Cup, Giacomo Piccini made a great start in the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari, running just behind the leading quartet in fifth overall. A speeding infringement at the pitstop resulted in a drive-through for his co-driver Michal Broniszewski, and although the Ferrari dropped to 20th overall, the Italian-Polish duo still claimed their fourth Sprint Cup Pro-Am win of the season.
The fight for Silver Cup was defined by the hectic opening few laps, with the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 of Meadows and the #100 Attempto Racing Lamborghini of Mul dropping some positions. Polesitters Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta held on to the lead for the rest of the race, even though their #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini was involved in an incident with the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG in the closing minutes of the race.
In the Am Cup, Stéphane Lemeret in the #55 AF Corse Ferrari ran away from the competition in the opening stages of the race and after the pitstop co-driver Claudio Sdanewitsch had little trouble in holding on to first position.
The main race at the Nürburgring starts on Sunday afternoon at 14.45 CET and will be streamed live (and free!) on the official website of the Blancpain GT Series.
Enzo Ide (#33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): "We had a fantastic pitstop, the boys did a perfect job once again. I had healthy lead, but when my engineer warned me that the McLaren was closing in, I must admit I was getting a little nervous. Rob and I had a fair fight and I have to say that as an amateur driver it made me very happy to be able to hold the more experienced professional drivers behind."
Rob Bell (#58 Garage 59 McLaren): "With four Audis around me, I must say it felt like a bit of a German party at times. But it was all competitive racing and it is still Garage 59's best result in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. For sure, we will be battling hard tomorrow and they will not give us any leeway, but the racing has been of a fantastic level this year and I hope it will be the case again tomorrow."
Will Stevens (#28 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): "We had a bit of a mishap at the driver change, when the seatbelt fell into the car. We lost some time there, after which I had a great battle with Marlon. Once I got past him I immediately knew that the gap towards the leaders was too big to close. But today was all about being in the front for tomorrow, and we moved up quite a bit in this race, so that's good."
Timetable - Sunday 3 July
Warm up : 08:30 - 08:50
Main Race : 14:45 – 15:45 (Live TV)
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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.