Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup leaders Enzo Ide and Christopher Mies took the win in the qualifying race at the Nürburgring. The Belgian Audi Club Team WRT-drivers held off the #58 Garage 59 McLaren of polesitter Alvaro Parente and Rob Bell, while René Rast and Will Stevens took their first podium in the #28 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8. Even though they incurred a drive-through, the Pro-Am win went to the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini, while GRT Lamborghini-duo Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta took another Silver Cup win. In the Am Cup the championship leaders Lemeret and Sdanewitsch added another win to their tally.
Overcast and very windy conditions at the start of the qualifying race of the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup round at the Nürburgring, but the predicted rain stayed away. In the run towards the first corner some drivers misjudged their braking point and the biggest victim of the following mayhem was Laurens Vanthoor. The former champion was spun round and rejoined in last position.
At the front, pole setter Alvaro Parente had kept the #58 Garage 59 McLaren in first position, but he could not pull out a gap from the chasing Audis of Mies, Rast and Perera. The quartet stayed nose-to-tail until the pit window opened. A less than perfect pitstop in the Garage 59-camp meant that the McLaren – now with Rob Bell at the wheel – dropped to third, behind Enzo Ide in the #33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi and Marlon Stockinger in the #74 ISR Audi. Bell quickly found a way past Stockinger, and set his mind on closing the eight second gap towards Ide. A couple of laps from the end, the Blancpain GT Series driver standings leader was under the rear wing of the leading Audi, but Ide continued his faultless run and managed to hold the McLaren factory driver off until the chequered flag. Ide and Mies are the first drivers to win two Sprint Cup races this season and they obviously increased their lead in the Sprint Cup standings as well.
Behind them, Stockinger and Will Stevens – who had lost some time when taking over from René Rast – had a great scrap for third. The former F1 driver made a great move into turn one, claiming the first podium finish for the #28 Audi. Dries Vanthoor and Nico Müller in the #4 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 made it four R8 LMS inside the top-5, and for a while it looked like the final point would go to the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 of Vanthoor and Vervisch, who made a great come-back after their spin in the opening lap. However, a late puncture meant they dropped to 25th, meaning that it was the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental of Soucek and Soulet that claimed the final point.
In Pro-Am Cup, Giacomo Piccini made a great start in the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari, running just behind the leading quartet in fifth overall. A speeding infringement at the pitstop resulted in a drive-through for his co-driver Michal Broniszewski, and although the Ferrari dropped to 20th overall, the Italian-Polish duo still claimed their fourth Sprint Cup Pro-Am win of the season.
The fight for Silver Cup was defined by the hectic opening few laps, with the #2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 of Meadows and the #100 Attempto Racing Lamborghini of Mul dropping some positions. Polesitters Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta held on to the lead for the rest of the race, even though their #19 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini was involved in an incident with the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG in the closing minutes of the race.
In the Am Cup, Stéphane Lemeret in the #55 AF Corse Ferrari ran away from the competition in the opening stages of the race and after the pitstop co-driver Claudio Sdanewitsch had little trouble in holding on to first position.
The main race at the Nürburgring starts on Sunday afternoon at 14.45 CET and will be streamed live (and free!) on the official website of the Blancpain GT Series.
Enzo Ide (#33 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): « We had a fantastic pitstop, the boys did a perfect job once again. I had a healthy lead, but when my engineer warned me that the McLaren was closing in, I must admit I was getting a little nervous. Rob and I had a fair fight and I have to say that as an amateur driver it made me very happy to be able to hold the more experienced professional drivers behind. »
Rob Bell (#58 Garage 59 McLaren): « With four Audis around me, I must say it felt like a bit of a German party at times. But it was all competitive racing and it is still Garage 59’s best result in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. For sure, we will be battling hard tomorrow and they will not give us any leeway, but the racing has been of a fantastic level this year and I hope it will be the case again tomorrow. »
Will Stevens (#28 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): « We had a bit of a mishap at the driver change, when the seatbelt fell into the car. We lost some time there, after which I had a great battle with Marlon. Once I got past him I immediately knew that the gap towards the leaders was too big to close. But today was all about being in the front for tomorrow, and we moved up quite a bit in this race, so that’s good. »