GT World Challenge Europe

McLaren dominates for Nurburgring Blancpain GT Series victory

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Rob Bell and Alvaro Parente took their Garage 59 McLaren 650S into the lead in the first corner and didn’t look back to claim their first Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup victory in the main race at the Nurburgring.

At the start of the race, Enzo Ide in the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS was powerless to stop Bell from charging into the lead from second place as he out-dragged the Belgian down the main straight and held on round the tight first corner.

One car to lose out was the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 as Andy Soucek tangled with Franck Perera’s ISR Racing Audi and left the Bentley with damaged bodywork and deflated left-front tyre.

No such issues befell those ahead though as Jules Szymkowiak in the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3 started to put the Team WRT Audi of Nico Muller under immense pressure for fourth place. However, Szymkowiak had to keep looking over his shoulder as Alexander Sims in the ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 didn’t want to stay in sixth place for much longer.

Their battle for fourth, fifth and sixth allowed Enzo Ide and Team WRT team mate Will Stevens to battle for second place – the McLaren already breaking off down the road at this point. Their battle would captivate the crowds at the Nurburgring for the first ten minutes of the race before Ide was obviously encouraged to letter the faster Stevens to get past and try to charge after Bell’s McLaren.

Behind, and also losing a place, was Alexander Sims who found himself relegated down to seventh place by Norbert Sielder’s Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 which would end up climbing up to fourth as the pit window opened.

Also moving forward was Szymkowiak who dispatched Muller and Ide in quick succession to lie in third in his Mercedes as the pit window opened with 35 minutes to go.

For Nico Muller’s #4 Audi, things would get worse as a rear-left wheel that refused to come off in the pitstop saw Dries Vanthoor take over the car and come out down in the mid-20s as they lost a shed load of time trying to fix the problem.

Will Stevens wasn’t having that issue at the head of the field though. With Bell pitting his McLaren early-ish into the window, Stevens in the #28 Audi had a few laps of clear running to try and build up a gap so the team could come in and out in the lead of the race. However, try as they might, Rene Rast couldn’t come out in the lead – exiting the pits just a second or two after Alvaro Parente blasted through in the Garage 59 machine.

That set up a rather captivating battle for the lead, with the gap hovering around the 1.5s mark as Rast nibbled into the lead Parente held, before the Portuguese driver then extended the gap out a bit. The gap would change in the last 28 minutes of the race, and except for a notification flashing up about Bell’s start of the race being investigated, not much of any interest really happened with the race lead.

Thankfully, that meant focus could be shifted onto the battles a bit further behind and the main battle was the one that involved Marco Seefried in fifth – who had taken over the Rinaldi Ferrari from Norbert Sielder – and the battle that was forming behind with both Maxi Buhk and Laurens Vanthoor looking to unseat Seefried from his fifth place.

Unfortunately, nothing would change in that battle as the chequered flag fell and that left Christopher Mies, in the car started by Enzo Ide, to sit in fourth all by himself with no threats behind and no pace to catch up to Bernd Schneider in the #86 Mercedes.

In the Silver Cup, Luca Stolz claimed a hard earned victory in the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, a drive-through penalty towards the final ten minutes of the race looked like it was going to deny Stolz his chance of class victory but that was ultimately cancelled and allowed him to cross the line ahead of class rival Markus Pommer in the Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS by more than three seconds.

Pro-Am honours went to the Kessel Racing Ferrari 488 of Giacomo Piccini and Michael Broniszewski which dominated the entire one hour sprint race and finished a lap ahead of Morgan Moullin-Traffort in the AKKA ASP Mercedes AMG GT3.

The next round of the Blancpain GT Series is the big one – the 24 Hours of Spa held at the end of July.

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