Image credit: Jason Gore for SportsCarGlobal.
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.
“I pushed really hard to try and capitalise on the opportunity we had.” said HTP’s Jazeman Jaafar after the race.
“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.”
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. “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.” said Bortolotti. “I struggled to keep him behind me because he was quicker out of the corners, and there was also the traffic to contend with.
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.
“The team and my co-drivers were excellent all weekend and I do not think we could have achieved anything more.” the Italian continued.
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.
“This is the second solid result in a row and it’s a good platform to build on going to Circuit Paul Ricard and the big one, the Spa 24 Hours.” said Modell. “I don’t think we could have asked for a better start to the 2016 Blancpain Endurance Series and being involved in the celebrations in the garage was incredible.“
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.
“We could not qualify in the way that we would have liked to but knew consistency would be key in the race.” said Ehret. “We knew our average speed would be enough over the race distance to make up positions.”