The sister Belgian Audi Club Team WRT-run R8 driven by Enzo Ide and Christopher Mies was therefore promoted to second, increasing their Sprint Cup drivers’ championship lead in the process, while Will Stevens and Rene Rast also benefitted from the #1 car’s demotion to complete the podium.
The start would be crucial at a circuit notorious for providing so few overtaking opportunities, and that was most definitely the case for Buhk who leapt from the second row to lead by Turn 3. The German was perfectly positioned to take advantage of the bumping ahead when Tristan Vautier’s lunge on pole-sitter Ide resulted in the AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG also clouting Vervisch, who had risen from third to first through the opening two corners.
Buhk duly slipped into the lead, taking advantage of the issues behind to establish an early 1.8s gap back to Ide before a Full Course Yellow was required to retrieve the stranded #59 McLaren and #5 Audi. The gap then remained fairly constant once racing resumed despite Vervisch finding a way past Ide soon after the restart.
With 33 minutes remaining the leaders pitted together, Buhk handing over to Baumann and Vanthoor replacing Vervisch. WRT’s pit work - including what was subsequently deemed an unsafe release - helped close the gap slightly, but their Belgian driver made the biggest difference by reducing Baumann’s lead to just 0.6s. A grandstand finish looked likely before the Mercedes-AMG’s fresher tyres began to tell.
Indeed, Vanthoor was soon checking his mirrors for the rapidly advancing Mies whose Audi had earlier lost ground through the pit-stop cycle. Just 0.6s covered the WRT pair at the finish, #1 leading yesterday’s Qualifying Race-winning #33 home before the post-race penalty was applied.
There was another WRT Audi fourth on the road but third in the final classification after Will Stevens resisted pressure from Felix Rosenqvist. Stevens’ co-driver Rene Rast set the tone by picking up three places over the course of his stint before excellent pit work helped the car gain another three during the driver change.
Front-row starter Vautier spent all of his stint in the same situation as he had during yesterday’s Qualifying Race - desperately searching for a way past Ide - before he and Rosenqvist dropped down to fifth during the pit-stop cycle. The latter came home just 0.4s behind Stevens but 6.4s clear of Jules Szymkowiak and Bernd Schneider’s HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG that finished where it started in the amended classification.
Sainteloc Racing’s Christopher Haase and Mike Parisy were the other crew to be jumped by Rast and Stevens’ Audi during the stops, while Robin Frijns made up ground during the final stint to give himself and WRT co-driver Dries Vanthoor seventh after starting 11th.
Vanthoor and Vervisch’s penalty saw them drop to eighth but ahead of the two Bentleys that completed the points-paying positions, Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet producing a particularly noteworthy performance to finish ninth after starting only 16th.
Elsewhere, Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows claimed the Silver Cup spoils by finishing 11th overall in their WRT Audi, while Jean-Philippe Belloc and Christophe Bourret led home an AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG one-two in the Pro Am class.
Stephen Earle and David Perel claimed victory in the Am Cup despite being hit with a post-race penalty. The crew had 30 seconds added to their overall time after Perel collided with Rino Mastronardi and Claudio Sdanewitsch’s #55 AF Corse Ferrari, but even that wasn’t enough to deny them a first Sprint Cup triumph.
This year’s Blancpain GT Series now rolls on to the Nurburgring in Germany on September 17/18 where its Endurance Cup title will be decided. Meanwhile, Mies and Ide will have to wait until visiting Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on October 1/2 before attempting to seal the Sprint Cup crown.
Dominik Baumann, #84 AMG-Team HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG: “We put new tyres on at the start of the second stint and tried to push at the beginning. But we needed some time before they came in and got the right balance, which is why I dropped back a bit. I just tried to remain consistent before the lap times started to come down. At the end we had quite a nice gap.”
Christopher Mies, #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8: “I think we can be more or less happy. For sure you always want to win but I had good pace and the car was mega. To catch a car is one story but there were two! Having both cars on the podium is quite good for WRT. We are leading the championship so I think we can be very happy.”
Christophe Bourret, #89 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG: “It was a good race, we began very cool and we made a very good driver change. Then Jean-Philippe controlled Morgan [Moullin-Traffort] in his stint, which is what allowed us to win. This is a very good race for the whole team and for us because it is the first win this year in Sprint Cup.”
Next round: Nurburgring - Endurance Cup - 17-18 September
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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.