Ortelli And Vanthoor Claim Title With Victory In Chaotic Baku Finale


Baku GT - Photo Credit: V-IMAGES.com/Fabre
Baku GT - Photo Credit: V-IMAGES.com/Fabre

Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor netted the Baku World Challenge and the FIA GT Series title in a chaotic season finale on the streets of the Azerbaijan capital.

Rene Rast and Niki Mayr-Melnhof scored victory from pole position in a qualifying race that was red flagged with around 15 minutes to go after Cesar Campanico crashed his Audi at turn five.

Ortelli and Vanthoor finished second behind their WRT Audi team-mates and the experienced Monegasque man took the lead away from Mayr-Melnhof at the start of the main race. Chaos reigned behind as contact sent Sergei Afanasiev‘s Mercedes into Mayr-Melnhof at the first chicane, with Frederic Vervisch and Markus Winkelhock taking a shortcut to move into second and third.

That became a lead battle as Ortelli slipped to third, before the safety car came out for a while as broken kerbing at a chicane was repaired. At the restart, Vervisch pulled into the pits with an electrical problem, holding up the car of Ortelli who came in to hand over to Vanthoor.

Drive-through penalties for Winkelhock and third-placed Alexander Sims and front-end damage for the Trackspeed Porsche of Nick Tandy after contact with Winkelhock’s Phoenix Racing Audi promoted Maximilian Buhk into a healthy lead in the #1 Mercedes, which had started the qualifying race from the back after Buhk crashed out in qualifying.

The Mercedes began to struggle with a loss of power however once it had been handed over to Alon Day, and Vanthoor was able to quickly catch and pass the Israeli and drive to victory. Nearest title rivals Frank Stippler and Edward Sandstrom could only manage 13th in their sister WRT car after a slow pitstop.

Alvaro Parente also caught Day in the McLaren he shared with Sebastien Loeb and got past into the first hairpin. Kevin Estre – who charged up the order in the Hexis Racing McLaren that suffered a puncture in the first lap scramble when Rob Bell was behind the wheel – also dived to the inside of Day at the same point and the pair made contact with each other, then nudging Parente in a move that Loeb labelled “unfair”.

That allowed Estre through into second ahead of Day and Parente, but ten-second post-race penalties for the Hexis and HTP Gravity Charouz cars promoted Parente and Loeb back up into their ‘rightful’ position of second.

The top six was completed by the Grasser Racing Lamborghinis of Dominik Baumann and Hari Proczyk and Stefan Rosina and Filip Sladecka. Proczyk had earlier missed out on the Pro-Am title, which was secured by Afanasiev and Andreas Simonsen with class victory in the qualifying race.

Campanico and Michael Ammermuller took seventh ahead of Sims and Stef Dusseldorp in their Boutsen Ginion McLaren. Andy Soucek and Oliver Turvey were ninth in MRS‘s McLaren with the top ten completed by Henry Hassid and Anthony Beltoise in the TDS BMW.