Bleekemolen and Proczyk Win Brands Hatch Qualifying Race

by Peter Allen
Grasser - Photo Credit: Brecht Decancq Photography

Lamborghini drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen and Hari Proczyk claimed victory in an entertaining Blancpain Sprint Series Qualifying Race at Brands Hatch on Sunday morning.

Bleekemolen started the race from third on the grid, and gained a place when the fast-starting HTP Mercedes of Maximilian Gotz was pushed wide at Paddock Hill by pole-sitter Laurens Vanthoor, who led the first part of the race in his WRT Audi.

Gotz was forced down to fourth behind the Phoenix Racing Audi of Markus Winkelhock, and pitted as soon as the window opened to hand over to team-mate Maximilian Buhk.

Vanthoor and Winkelhock pitted on the following lap, and it was the latter’s co-driver Niki Mayr-Melnhof who emerged ahead, with Vanthoor’s team-mate Cesar Ramos dropping behind Buhk.

Just as Bleekemolen came into the pits one lap later, the safety car was deployed after Alex Zanardi spun coming onto the straight and ended up in the gravel trying to get going again. That slowed the rest of the field and allowed Proczyk to jump into the Grasser Racing car and rejoin in the lead.

Buhk cleared Mayr-Melnhof at the restart and then caught Proczyk, but was unable to find a way past and had to settle for second place.

The two BMW Brasil cars went on a charge in the second half of the race to claim third and fourtn. After taking over from Caca Bueno, Sergio Jimenez moved ahead of the sister car of Valdeno Brito and Matheus Stumpf and the two cars then worked their way past the Audis of their compatriot Ramos and then Mayr-Melnhof, who conceded third place with a very wide moment at Graham Hill Bend. Mayr-Melnhof did hold on to fifth ahead of Ramos and the Scuderia Villorba Ferrari of Andrea Montermini and Filip Salaquarda.

After qualifying a fine sixth on his return to the venue of his Paralympic triumph, Zanardi held eighth during the opening stint until his moment in the middle of the race. He was helped out of the gravel and back into the race, but lost four laps in the process.

Giorgio Pantano took eighth place after a late charge in the Bhai Tech McLaren he shares with Fabio Onidi, including an aggressive move down the inside of the sister car of Daniel Lloyd at Druids. Huddersfield racer Lloyd had recovered after co-driver Sten Pentus spun on the first lap. Finishing between the two MP4-12Cs was the Reiter Engineering Lamborghini of Tomas Enge and Stefan Rosina, which charged through to ninth from the back of the grid after problems in qualifying.

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