Belgian Audi Club Team WRT claimed a one-two finish in the main FIA GT Series race at a wet Nogaro, even after the original winning car of Rene Rast and Niki Mayr-Melnhof was handed a post-race penalty.
The pairing of Frank Stippler and Edward Sandstrom was promoted to first place as a result, ahead of the team’s third car of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor.
After starting second, Mayr-Melnhof managed to keep the McLaren of qualification race-winner Sebastien Loeb in sight during his stint so that when he handed over to Rast, the German was able to emerge from the pits narrowly ahead of Loeb’s co-driver Alvaro Parente.
The pair then made contact when Rast ran wide after passing a backmarker, receiving a tag from Parente as he retook the racing line and going into a spin. Parente took the lead but his joy was short-lived, as he was handed a drive-through penalty after Loeb was found to have released his seat belts before coming to a stop in the pits.
Rast crossed the line 11 seconds ahead of teammate Sandstrom, but lost the victory soon afterwards when he and Mayr-Melnhof were given a 30 second penalty for failing to switch off the engine in the #12 machine at the pit-stop.
Stippler and Sandstrom had carved their way through the field in the #13 WRT car after retiring from the qualifying race with an electrical problem.
The team’s #11 car finished in second place after Vanthoor wrestled his way up onto the podium, brilliantly passing two cars on the last lap. Maximilian Buhk and Alon Day ended up third in their Mercedes, ahead of the Audi of Anthony Kumpen and Enzo Ide.
Parente was next across the line, but was penalised another 30 seconds for his clash with Rast. The Novadriver duo of Carlos Campanico and Carlos Vieira took Pro-Am honours in fifth, one place ahead of the penalised Rast/Mayr-Melhhof in the final results.
The Nissan GT Academy Team RJN car of Lucas Ordonez and Alex Buncombe was seventh ahead of the Grasser Lamborghini of Dominik Baumann and Hari Procyzk, Caca Bueno and Allam Khodair of BMW Team Brazil and Karun Chandhok and Jan Seyffarth’s Mercedes.
Round two takes place at Zolder on 20-21 April.