Laurens Vanthoor and Cesar Ramos delivered a dominant victory for the WRT Audi team in the qualifying race for the opening Blancpain Sprint Series round at Nogaro.
Vanthoor took the lead away from pole-sitter Jeroen Bleekemolen on the first lap and quickly built a healthy lead at the head of the field. That margin only extended during the pit stops, and team newcomer Ramos was able to bring the #1 car home to win by nearly 20 seconds.
“I knew Jeroen lacked some experience on a wet Nogaro track and last night in my bed I figured out how I would overtake him in the first or second corner,” said reigning champion Vanthoor. “The plan worked marvellously. It made my life during the opening half of the race a whole lot easier. If we manage to repeat this process for the main race – have a good start, create a gap, and win – it would be a dream start of the championship.”
Bleekemolen was also passed by the #2 Audi driven by Rene Rast but managed to reclaim the place later on in his stint. The Grasser Racing Lamborghini suffered a slow driver change and Hari Procyzk came under pressure from Rast’s co-driver Enzo Ide after the stops. Contact was made when Ide attempted to take the position, sending Proczyk into the gravel.
Ide took the chequered flag in second place but the #2 Audi was later excluded for a technical infringement. Inheriting P2 was the similar Phoenix Racing machine driven by Markus Winkelhock and Niki Mayr-Melnhof, who kept the #0 BMW Team Brasil car of Sergio Jimenez and Caca Bueno at bay in the closing stages.
The G-Drive Racing-entered WRT Audi of Stephane Ortelli and Gregory Guilvert took fourth ahead of the HTP Mercedes cars of German aces Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Gotz and team-mates Sergei Afanasiev and Stef Dusseldorp.
Vincent Abril and Mateusz Lisowski claimed seventh overall and top honours in the Silver Cup – for silver-rated drivers aged 25 and under – in the final WRT Audi. The Scuderia Villorba Ferrari of Filip Salaquarda and Andrea Montermini was eighth with the top ten rounded out by the other Grasser Lamborghini of Tomas Enge and Sascha Halek and the second Phoenix Audi, driven by Marc Basseng and Alessandro Latif.