The Brands Hatch round of the Blancpain Sprint Cup was blessed with glorious weather and could not finish in a better way for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT: two poles and two double wins! Dries Vanthoor and will Stevens took Race 1, while Fred Vervisch-Stuart Leonard conquered Race 2, in a wonderful day for the two ‘local heroes’ of the squad. Christopher Mies-Álex Riberas took second in both races, rounding a great success for the Belgian squad, which now leads in the sprint Cup standings. The mechanics’ crews contributed more glory, as they trusted the three spots of the podium in the Pit Stop Challenge, making this an unforgettable weekend for the squad.
Quite logically, Team Principal Vincent Vosse was a happy man on Sunday eve: “What can I say… We knew we have a special relationship with Brands Hatch, but when you take the two poles, first and second in both races and the entire podium in the Pit Stop Challenge, it really goes beyond any expectation. It’s the kind of weekend we needed to forget Zolder’s disappointment and boost the morale of everybody ahead forthcoming challenges. It’s a statement of the obvious, but today everybody did an outstanding job and I really wish to thank and congratulate everyone in the team.”
The weekend started positively, as the Audis proved competitive again on the British track since free practice. On Saturday, the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT achieved to take pole for both races. In Q1, Dries Vanthoor dominated the session, setting the best lap time in 1.23.931, with Riberas taking P4 and Leonard P8. In Q2, Fred Vervisch was even faster (1.23.460), with Mies third while Stevens had a more difficult qualifying (P14).
Race 1, on a sunny and warm Sunday noon, went according the best-hoped script. Dries Vanthoor kept the advantage of the pole since the start, with both Riberas and Leonard gaining one position, up to 3rd and 7threspectively. Positions remained stable throughout the stint, with Vanthoor trying to build some advantage, up to almost 3 seconds. Cars #2 and #17 were among the very first ones to stop for the pit stop, at the end of lap 16, with car #1 doing the same one lap later. Everything went well and the strategy paid off, as Will Stevens kept the lead of the race, with Mies third and Vervisch sixth. Still, suspense grew up as Stevens had to fend off the attacks of Kelvin Van der Linde. In the last laps, Mies managed to steal second at the end of the straight, with Vervisch climbing back to a final P4. A very calm Stevens commented: “We had the right pace at all moments today, we were fast, focused and made no mistakes”.
Race 2 saw a perfect start of Vervisch from the pole, with Mies taking second. At the back, though, there were several contacts, which left four cars stranded and prompted the intervention of the safety-car for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the car of Stevens was also touched and damaged. The Brit ran 16th throughout his stint and the car eventually retired right after the pit-stop.
The race restarted in lap 8, with no changes in the top positions. Mies made an early pit-stop (lap 16), with Vervisch stopping two laps later. It was a hot entry back to the track for Leonard, right in front of Riberas, but the Londoner could keep the lead until the chequered flag, with the Spaniard handicapped by a radio failure and under a warning for track limits. “It’s a great day for the team”, commented Leonard (who now leads in the Sprint Cup overall standings) after the win, “and I am very happy with my performance in the final stint.”
The Blancpain Sprint Cup will return on stage 23-24 June at Misano, but the Blancpain community is staying in the UK for the second British race, the 3 Hours of Silverstone, on 19-20 May, which counts towards the Endurance Cup.
Blancpain Sprint Cup – Round 2 Brands Hatch, United Kingdom, 5-6 May 2018
Race 1 results:
1. Vanthoor-Stevens (Audi R8 LMS) 40 laps
2. Riberas-Mies (Audi R8 LMS) + 1s195
3. Meadows-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) + 1s751
4. Leonard-Vervisch (Audi R8 LMS) + 2s502
5. Jamin-Serralles (Mercedes AMG) +19s861
Race 2 results:
1. Vervisch-Leonard (Audi R8 LMS) 39 laps
2. Mies-Riberas (Audi R8 LMS) + 0s586
3. S.Schothorst-v.d.Linde (Audi R8 LMS) + 1s280
4. Meadows-Marciello (Mercedes AMG) +12s646
5. Engelhart-Bortolotti (Lambo Huracan) +12s982
DNF Stevens-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) (22 laps)
Provisional Blancpain Sprint Cup Drivers’ standings after Round 2 of 5:
1. Leonard 37 points
2. Van Der Linde-S.Schothorst 35.5
7. Vervisch 25
11. Picariello-Magnus 7.5
Provisional Blancpain Sprint Cup Teams’ standings after Round 2 of 5:
1. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 55.5 points
2. Attempto Racing 47.5
3. Akka ASP 41
4. GRT Grasser 39
5. Saintéloc 24
More info on the Blancpain series, live timing and live commented TV streaming of each race on www.blancpain-gt-series.com
Picture: Patrick Hecq