Vanthoor Secures Blancpain Endurance Series Crown with Nurburgring Win


Nurburgring 1000 - Photo Credit: Brecht Decancq Photography
Nurburgring 1000 - Photo Credit: Brecht Decancq Photography

Laurens Vanthoor became the 2014 Blancpain Endurance Series champion as he claimed victory in the Nurburgring 1000.

Vanthoor came into the race as the points leader and his #1 WRT Audi began the race from pole and finished up with nearly a minute’s advantage at the end of the six hour race, but it was not quite as easy as that.

Christopher Mies was drafted in to the #1 car to support Vanthoor’s title bid and had claimed pole position, but in treacherous weather conditions that had necessitated a safety car start, the German ended up conceding the lead inside the first hour to an aggressive Kevin Estre in the #99 ART Grand Prix McLaren.

The #1 then went back into the lead when Cesar Ramos jumped in, but the Brazilian would slip down to fourth during the course of the second hour, when Alex Buncombe starred. The RJN Nissan driver mastered the poor weather conditions, going from 13th to the lead, ahead of the HTP Motorsport Mercedes duo of Nico Verdonck and Maximilian Buhk.

The Pro-Am Nissan would drop away from the lead fight in the third hour, once Buncombe handed the car over to his GT Academy co-drivers, meaning Verdonck’s #84 went into P1 with Bernd Schneider behind the wheel ahead of the sister #85, now with Stef Dusseldorp in the driving seat.

Another Mercedes would then spend time in the lead in the fourth hour, after a fortunately-timed safety car period at the half-way point allowed the #19 Black Falcon car of Hubert Haupt to rejoin from a later pitstop out front, after Andreas Simonsen had dragged the car up from 17th to fifth in the opening two hours.

After the restart, the #1 moved back up to second place with Mies back behind the wheel, and he didn’t waste much time taking the lead back from his compatriot Haupt. From there, Vanthoor took over for the final two hours as the #1 built up a healthy lead as the track dried out.

The #84 Mercedes held second at the restart with three hours to go behind Haupt, but quickly slipped back from second place to sixth with Harald Primat before the Swiss driver found the gravel trap at the final corner.

Nick Catsburg charged up to third in the fourth hour in his TDS BMW with passes on the #85 of Sergey Afanasiev and then Andy Soucek in the #99.

Abdulaziz Al Faisal held second in the #19 Black Falcon car until just over half an hour ago, when he was passed by Dusseldorp in the #85 HTP.

Catsburg’s co-driver Henry Hassid brought the car home in fourth and first in Pro-Am, ahead of the #99 ART. Sixth overall was the second Black Falcon Mercedes of Anders Fjordbach, Devon Modell and Vladimir Lunkin, while seventh was the Scuderia Villorba
Ferrari of Stefano Gai and Andrea Rizzoli, who did enough together with new co-driver Thomas Kemenater to beat their old team-mate Francesco Castellacci to the title.

Castellacci had been tied on points prior to switching to AF Corse when Rizzoli was upgraded from Bronze to Silver status, making the previous trio ineligible for the Pro-Am class. Castellacci’s car began third overall in the hands of Marco Seefried, but they ended up 16th overall after Castellacci ended up in the gravel at one stage.

Eighth was, suitably enough, the #8 Bentley of Guy Smith, Steven Kane and Andy Meyrick that won at Silverstone and Paul Ricard earlier in the year, and took second to Vanthoor in the standings. Two British teams completed the top ten, with the Triple Eight BMW of Alexander Sims, Warren Hughes and Jody Firth ahead of the Leonard Aston Martin of Stuart Leonard, Paul Wilson and Michael Meadows.

Ian Loggie and Julian Westwood took the Gentleman Trophy race win in 17th in their Team Parker Audi, but Peter Mann and Francisco Guedes did enough to secure the title despite Filipe Barreiros putting their car in the gravel early on.

Some of Vanthoor’s closest title challengers had their races ruined early when the Sainteloc Audi of Edward Sandstrom came together with Alvaro Parente‘s ART McLaren.