Mercedes duo Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Gotz charged to victory in the main race of the annual Coupes des Paques meeting at Nogaro on Easter Monday – the first event of the Blancpain Sprint Series.
Buhk began the race from fifth on the grid in the #84 HTP Motorsport SLS and benefited from a bizarre start, where front row starters Cesar Ramos and Niki Mayr-Melnhof made contact in their Audis on the formation lap.
That caused Ramos – who along with team-mate and reigning champion Laurens Vanthoor dominated Sunday’s qualifying race – to pull the into the pits, while Mayr-Melnhof continued with damage.
Sergio Jimenez surged into the lead in the #0 BMW Team Brasil car but was passed immediately by 2013 Blancpain Endurance champion Buhk, who quickly opened up a gap over the opposition before handing his car over to Gotz as soon as the pit window opened.
Gregory Guilvert on the other hand stayed out as long as possible before pitting to let Stephane Ortelli take over his G-Drive Racing Audi. Ortelli joined the action only a few seconds behind Gotz and continued to cut the gap over the remainder of the race, but the Mercedes driver had enough in hand to win by 1.7 seconds.
Jimenez’s co-driver Caca Bueno spent his stint trying to hold on to third under attack from the Audi of Vincent Abril and the Mercedes of Stef Dusseldorp, and eventually lost out and fell behind his two pursuers in the final minutes.
19-year-old Frenchman Abril – a graduate of his national GT series – and team-mate Mateusz Lisowski claimed the Silver Cup in addition to their overall podium, with Dusseldorp and Sergei Afanasiev taking fourth.
Bueno made it home in fifth ahead of the Grasser Racing Lamborghini of Hari Proczyk and Jeroen Bleekemolen. The Dutchman had put the car on pole position for the qualifying race, where Proczyk was knocked out of second by the Audi of Enzo Ide. Ide’s car was later excluded for a technical infringement, with co-driver Rene Rast bringing the car up to seventh on Bleekemolen’s tail in the main race.
Italian former GP2 drivers Giorgio Pantano and Fabio Onidi finished eighth in their Bhaitech McLaren ahead of the Phoenix Racing Audi of Marc Basseng and Alessandro Latif and the Scuderia Villorba Ferrari of Filip Salaquarda and Andrea Montermini.
Alex Zanardi finished his first weekend back in racing after four years away with a 13th place in his ROAL Motorsport BMW.