Image credit: Blancpain GT Series.
Vincent Abril and Maxi Buhk had a perfect weekend at the season finale of the 2015 Blancpain Sprint Series at Holland’s iconic Zandvoort circuit, taking the drivers’ title at the end of an exhilarating final race.
In the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car, Robin Frijns finished a mere three tenths behind the Bentley, having to settle for second in the driver standings as well. However, this result allowed Frijns to claim the overall Blancpain GT Series title, proving him to be the best driver in both sprint and endurance series combined.
Super-subs Fred Vervisch and Nicki Thiim ended the weekend with a second podium finish. In Silver Cup Max Van Splunteren and Jules Szymkowiak took the win in the #83 Team HTP Bentley, giving the title to the latter. Pro-Am Champion Alexei Karachev took another class win in Zandvoort, sharing the #70 GT Russian Mercedes with Indy Dontje.
One single point, that was all that separated Bentley-duo Vincent Abril and Maxi Buhk from Audi-driver Robin Frijns at the start of the final race of the season. They were the only remaining title candidates after Norbert Siedler and Rinaldi Racing had to withdraw their Ferrari after the warm-up due to engine failure.
While Abril could take the start from pole, Frijns’ team-mate Christopher Mies had to do so from 14th. It was an eventful start, with several cars making contact, permitting Mies to climb to fourth after only two laps. At the sharp end of the field Marco Bonanomi in the #75 ISR Audi proved to be the most alert of the drivers at the end of a short Full Course Yellow-period, briefly taking the lead of the race. Eventually the Italian and team-mate Felipe Salaquarda finished in fourth, claiming their best result of the season. Abril was able to retake the lead in lap 5, after which Mies immediately moved up to second, some three seconds behind the title rivals in the Bentley. Their duel would not only decide the race, but also the championship.
When the pitstop window opened both the Bentley and the Audi pitted at the same time, but the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT managed to perform a quicker pitstop and driver change. Unfortunately for Frijns his car did not start immediately and the Dutchman had to slot in behind Maxi Buhk.
What followed was more than 30 minutes of top notch racing, with the gap between Frijns and Buhk rarely passing above a second. Buhk was clearly the quicker on the straight, while Frijns used the more technical second sector of the Zandvoort track to repeatedly close the gap. In the final lap Frijns was all over the back of the #84 Bentley, but Buhk kept his cool and crossed the line in first, much to the delight of the Bentley Team HTP crew.
Behind the title protagonists Fred Vervisch and Nicki Thiim had a front row seat for the Championship duel, driving their the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT to a second podium finish of the weekend.
In Silver Cup Jules Szymkowiak only had to finish the race to take the title, but the Dutch youngster wanted to end his season on a high with a good performance on his home track. At the start he made up a lot of places, only to lose them again at the end of the Full Course Yellow-period. Szymkowiak fought his way back, with team-mate Max Van Splunteren finishing the job. They finished in sixth overall, winning the Silver Cup, giving the title to Szymkowiak.
In Pro-Am Cup Alexei Karachev, who was certain of the title before the start of the race, had promised to shine in the last race of the season, and the driver of the #70 GT Russian Mercedes was running as high as sixth overall at a certain point. Together with Sprint rookie Indy Dontje Karachev eventually finished in ninth overall.
The Pitstop Challenge 2015, rewarding the fastest pitstops all through the season, went to the crew of the #0 AH Competicoes Team Brazil BMW.