It was not to be: the Blancpain GT Series season ended on a sour note for the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT, who went to Barcelona for the last round of the Endurance Cup still with chances to conquer the Drivers’ and Teams’ titles in both the Endurance Cup and the overall competition. Unfortunately, a very difficult race, marred with safety-car and full-yellow-courses in its second part, on a track where overtaking proved challenging, ended with no rewards. Christopher Mies-Àlex Riberas-Dries Vanthoor were bound to at least a fourth position, which would have been not sufficient but would have been a nice consolation, but had to serve a last-minute drive-through, while car #17 of Stuart Leonard-Sheldon Van der Linde-Robin Frijns retired following damage after a race incident.
The European season is now over, but the team is fully determined to do well in the remaining international outings of 2018.
Team Principal Vincent Vosse was philosophical at the end of the weekend in Catalonia: “We had a difficult Sunday and the outcome is what it is. Our cars had a good pace, but we were not perfect and we lacked the zest of success you need in close finales such as this one. We will analyze what happened and take the lessons of it. Still, it has been a very competitive season and we have been fighting for all the titles until the end, taking home the Sprint Cup’s Team crown. You can’t always win everything, but one thing is sure: we’ll come back stronger to fight again!”
In Barcelona, the Audis R8 LMS of the Belgian squad proved competitive, with Dries Vanthoor fastest on car #1 in the free practice session. In pre-qualifying, car #1 was third and car #17 seventh. Qualifying took place on race day, with car #1 securing first row in the combined results of the three sessions, and car #17 qualifying in P21.
On a warm Sunday afternoon, the start was smooth, despite the 52 cars on track, with Mies having to concede P2 at first corner to the faster Aston Martin bouncing from second row, while Stuart Leonard, after a good start (P16 in lap 1) dropped some positions due to a contact. Mies remained in contact with the Aston for a long while but could not pass it, while at the same time he had to defend himself from the compact group behind him. Marciello eventually passed him in lap 28.
Car #1 made a late pit stop (in lap 35), which did not bring any advantage, and Riberas rejoined in 7th, then gained two positions to bring the car in 5th to the second pit stop. In car #17, Sheldon Van der Linde climbed up to P17 before losing ground after a contact, which required a pit stop for repairs. The third stint was going to be marked by several safety-car and full yellow course periods, which broke the flow of the race. Unfortunately, Vanthoor, who had taken P4 in lap 82, had to serve a drive-through inflicted for an earlier contact with the Aston, finishing 15th. Car #17 was eventually withdrawn following the consequences of the earlier contact.
Blancpain Endurance Cup – Round 5
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 28-30 September 2018
1. Engel-Stolz-Buurman (Mercedes AMG) 92 laps
2. Marciello-Juncadella-Vautier (Mercedes AMG) +1s733
3. Rigon-Aleshin-Molina (Ferrari 488) +6s046
4. Fontana-Zaugg-Grenier (Jauar G3) +6s806
5. Giammaria-Companc-Mapelli (Lambo Huracán) +8s908
15. Mies-Riberas-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) +16s576
DNF Leonard-S.Vander Linde-Frijns (Audi R8 LMS) - 20 laps (damage)
Final Blancpain GT Series Drivers’ standings after Round 10 of 10:
1. Marciello 164 points
2. Riberas-Mies 127.5
3. Meadows 104
4. K. Van der Linde 101
5. Vanthoor 100.5
Final Blancpain GT Series Teams’ standings after Round 10 of 10:
1. Akka ASP 192 points
2. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 174
3. GRT Grasser 121
4. Saintéloc 109.5
5. Emil Frey Racing 108.5
Final Blancpain Endurance Cup Drivers’ standings after Round 5 of 5:
1. Engel-Stolz-Buurman 73 points
2. Marciello 66
3. Vautier 51
4. Eng 47
5. Blomqvist 45
7. Vanthoor-Riberas-Mies 37
Final Blancpain Endurance Cup Teams’ standings after Round 5 of 5:
1. Black Falcon Racing 78 points
2. Akka ASP 72
3. Emil Frey Racing 58
4. Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 51
5. M-Sport 46
More info on the Blancpain series, live timing and live commented TV streaming of each race on www.blancpain-gt-series.com