Enzo Ide put one hand on the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup title by winning the qualifying race in the last event of the 2016 season. The Belgian shared the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT with stand-in team-mate Robin Frijns. The #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini of Mirko Bortolotti and Nicolas Pohler finished second, with the #88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG of Felix Rosenqvist and Tristan Vautier completing the podium. Elsewhere, Michele Beretta and Luca Stolz won the 2016 Silver Cup by finishing second in the category.
At the start, the long Barcelona pit straight allowed Frijns to slipstream his way past the cars on the front row, getting his car first into turn one. The Dutchman – replacing Christopher Mies as Ide’s team-mate – fended off the attacks during the first couple of laps and then ran away from the competition. With a 15s advantage, Ide had little trouble keeping first place until the finish where he claimed an important eight points.
Behind the Audi duo the other title contenders had a far from trouble-free race. Jules Szymkowiak was running in second in the #86 Mercedes-AMG, but - just like Alvaro Parente (Rob Bell’s team-mate in the #58 McLaren) - the Dutchman was penalised with a drive-through for cutting the corner at the start.
Laurens Vanthoor and Fred Vervisch made a great comeback from 18th on the grid, only to be handed a drive-through penalty (transformed into a 30-second penalty) when Vanthoor hit third-placed Marlon Stockinger minutes from the end.
That handed Dominik Baumann and Maxi Buhk in the #84 Mercedes-AMG the point for sixth, after a race in which they were never really in contention for a podium finish. It leaves the German-Austrian duo 24 points behind Ide, meaning the Belgian only needs a ninth place finish in this afternoon’s main race to clinch the crown.
Baumann and Buhk do increase their lead in the overall Blancpain GT Series standings however, and now have a six-point advantage over Rob Bell, who will start from 16th this afternoon.
In the Silver Cup Alessio Picariello and Nicolaj Möller Madsen had a faultless race, not only claiming the win in the category but also finishing seventh overall. By claiming second, #19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini drivers Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta now have enough of an advantage to claim the 2016 Silver Cup.
In the Pro-Am Cup the title is still undecided. Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini only took two points after the Polish had a brief excursion through a gravel trap and with their competitors Morgan Moullin-Traffort and Jean-Luc Beaubelique taking the win, the gap now is 21 points between the two pairings. Meanwhile, the Am Cup was dominated by the #55 AF Corse Ferrari of Stephane Lemeret and the 2016 Am Cup winner Claudio Sdanewitsch, who had little trouble in keeping the competition behind.
Robin Frijns, #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3: “At the start I saw a gap on the right and went for it. There was a lot of risk but I just made the first corner. Then I kept pushing until the pit-stops. Anything can happen so I just focused on building a gap before encountering a bit of traffic towards the end of my stint, which cost me some time. But Enzo drove very well to maintain the lead.”
Mirko Bortolotti, #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3: “I made a good start and already had half a car’s length on Franck [Perera]. It is a long run to the first corner here so there is perhaps a small advantage to start on row two because if you get it right you can get a good tow down the straight. But obviously Robin [Frijns] was doing something similar; I saw the black Audi and thought it would be tight! I braked as late as I could and managed to get around the outside of Franck, but Robin was already gone and then some of the cars that cut the corner also came out ahead.”
Felix Rosenqvist, #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3: “It was a good start and I also made up some places on the switch-back through Turn 2, but there were a few guys cutting across the parking lot on the outside which ruined my momentum and I had to settle into fifth. Our pace was not so good after that; I was struggling from lap one, defending and checking my mirrors so I asked to pit as soon as possible to see what Tristan [Vautier] could do on the other tyres. But he also struggled so, in the end, I think we were lucky to finish on the podium. We executed a perfect pit-stop and strategy.”
Alessio Picariello, #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3: “I made up four or five places at the start but was then pushed wide into Turn 2’s gravel and lost it all. It is not easy to follow another car closely here because you lose all the downforce, but our pace was good. Nicolaj [Møller Madsen] also did well in his stint, so this is a good result and also a great place from which to start race two.”
Stephane Lemeret, #55 AF Corse Ferrari 458 GT3: “The Sprint Series starts are always tough but it was nice to fight with a few cars during the first few laps. I was a bit unlucky after that and ended up stuck behind some cars because it is so difficult to overtake here. I had good rhythm and could increase our advantage over our Am rivals before Claudio [Sdanewitsch] took over. We also have two sets of new tyres for this afternoon, so we are hopeful of another good performance.”
The final race of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series season starts at 14.10 this afternoon and will be streamed live on www.blancpain-gt-series.com .