BLANCPAIN GT SERIES SPRINT CUP : Audi duo Mies and Ide win action-packed Main Race
Christopher Mies and Enzo Ide took the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 to its first victory of the season in a frenetic Main Race at Brands Hatch this afternoon after holding off the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG shared by Bernd Schneider and Jules Szymkowiak. Bentley Boys Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet - who started this morning's Qualifying Race from 24th - picked up third thanks to an inspired drive.
Michele Beretta and Luca Stolz produced a fine performance to win the Silver Cup and finish 10th overall aboard their #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini. Elsewhere, the Pro-Am Cup was decided in the final minutes when Kessel Racing duo Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Puccini retook the lead and retained it until the flag, while Stéphane Lemeret and Claudio Sdanewitsch powered their #55 AF Corse Ferrari to Am Cup victory.
Meanwhile Rob Bell, who shared fourth overall with #58 Garage 59 McLaren co-driver Alvaro Parente, is the new leader of the overall Blancpain GT Series driver standings.
30 degrees, clear blue skies, thousands of enthusiastic race fans lining the grass banking: the Brands Hatch Main Race - round three of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series - had all the ingredients of a classic encounter. That was especially true when the drivers took it upon themselves to reward their fans with some of the world’s best GT racing.
At the start, polesitter Bernd Schneider retained the lead in the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG, after which the former FIA GT champion set about building an advantage over his nearest rivals. Ide quickly surprised fellow Audi driver Marlon Stockinger to take second, but it was not long before both were being put under huge pressure by Maxime Soulet.
The Belgian in the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental had started 10th (already 14 places further to the front than the position the Bentley had at the start of the Qualifying Race) and shot to the front like a man possessed. Fifth after two laps, Soulet managed to overtake two more cars to finish his stint right behind leader Schneider.
But both the Mercedes-AMG and Bentley drivers were caught out by the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT crew’s lightning fast pitstop and subsequently quick laps from Mies, who had taken over from Ide. Indeed, such was the German’s pace that he was able to leapfrog both Szymkowiak and Soucek, co-drivers of Schneider and Soulet respectively, after they emerged from their mandatory stops.
Szymkowiak tried to keep up with Mies, but found it hard to match his speed. Only the altercation between Belgian Audi Club Team WRT team-mates Sergio Jimenez and Michael Meadows, which necessitated a Safety Car period, offered Szymkowiak an opportunity to get back under the Audi’s rear wing. Mies was having none of it, though, and gave the Dutch youngster little chance at the restart. Szymkowiak maintained the pressure over the final 10 minutes, but there was no cracking Mies who took the chequered flag as a well-deserved winner.
In Silver Cup, Beretta made a blinding start in the #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini and swiftly overtook the then Silver Cup leader, who had started eight places higher on the grid. The green Huracan behaved perfectly in the sweltering conditions, providing Stolz with a chance to also score overall points by finishing 10th.
In the Pro-Am Cup Misano and Monza class winner Broniszewski made the best start to quickly move his #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari into the lead. Co-driver Piccini looked equally untroubled before contact with another car forced him to pull out all the stops in the final laps to cross the line first.
Claudio Sdanewitsch and Stéphane Lemeret's main aim for this weekend was to score important points for the Am Cup, and the German-Belgian pairing looked set to do exactly that up until Lémeret was caught by the battling leaders in the final minutes of the race. The Belgian needed some good reflexes to keep out of their way, and managed to get to the end without further incidents.
Enzo Ide (#33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): “We had some bad luck last season with penalties but finally I have my first Sprint Cup win with Christopher. There have been podiums but this is something different and special, especially as I am sat here surrounded by fully professional drivers. It is fantastic!”
Bernd Schneider (#86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG): “My start was really good so I was able to build a little gap. Then, over the final two laps of my stint, I ran into a lot of traffic so radioed the team to say we should stop earlier, but because HTP is running three cars that was not possible. Instead we stopped a bit later. Some drivers did not respect the blue flags so I lost at least three seconds there. Then I think our pitstop was not as fast as it could have been, which all together gave Christopher [Mies] the chance to pass us.”
Andy Soucek (#8 Bentley Team M-Sport): “I did not think we would be able to finish P10 in the first race but it all came together for us this weekend. Clearly qualifying was not our strongest suit but we made it work. Maxime was the man today climbing from P10 to P4 in the initial part of the race before I got in and finished third. His stint was unbelievable. The flip side is I suffered with the used tyres while trying to keep Parente and Perera behind me; they were a bit quicker. I also struggled after the Safety Car period but just focused on making no mistakes and bringing the car home. This is our third podium in as many races, which is mega.”
Luca Stolz (#19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini): “The team changed the entire gearbox in two hours, which is really difficult to do. The key today was a really good pitstop and fast first stint from Michele on the new tyres. It was really difficult for me in the end on used tyres but it worked out okay because it is so difficult to overtake here. In the end finishing P10 overall and winning the Silver Cup is a great result for us.”
Giacomo Puccini (#11 Kessel Racing Ferrari): “It was an interesting last few laps when [Jazeman] Jaafar tried pushing me out. I do not know what that was about. Anyway, Michal made a super start to overtake the Mercedes-AMG, which really helped us win the race. Honestly, it was not as easy as Misano. We struggled more and had to fight for this one. Thanks to the team who did a great job.”
Stephane Lemeret (#55 AF Corse Ferrari) : “It was very difficult after the Safety Car, as I knew it would be on the old tyres. I was much slower than the leaders queued up behind before the restart and said on the radio it would be a nightmare! The problem with Brands Hatch is that it is so narrow, which makes overtaking difficult. I know that Andy Soucek struggled to get past, and I apologise, but what more could I do? There was no other solution. Those final 10 minutes were the toughest of the weekend.”