Belgian Audi Club Team WRT battled to the top step of the podium in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup qualifying race at the Nurburgring, with Garage 59 chasing them all the way to the flag.
Starting on pole, Alvaro Parente in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S managed to survive the squeeze into the first corner that comes from 37 cars charging from the line – a big loser though was Laurens Vanthoor who got spun out and was forced to rejoin at the back of the grid.
The first half of the one hour qualifying race saw Parente use all the tricks in his book to try and fend off the advances of the Audi R8 LMSs behind from both Team WRT and ISR Racing. Try as he might, the Portuguese star couldn’t pull away from Enzo Ide in the #33 Team WRT machine and come the pitstops, and a less than best stop from the McLaren team, that inability to pull away from those behind would come home to roost.
A slow stop meant Rob Bell, who had taken over the McLaren, would come out third behind Marlon Stockinger’s ISR Audi and Ide’s Team WRT machine. However, Bell is not a man to settle for what he’s got and he decided to go on the charge, and a few laps after the pit stops he dispatched Stockinger but couldn’t get past Ide who had developed the widest car on the track.
After the race, Bell said: “With four Audis around me, I must say it felt like a bit of a German party at times. But it was all competitive racing and it is still Garage 59’s best result in the Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup. For sure, we will be battling hard tomorrow and they will not give us any leeway, but the racing has been of a fantastic level this year and I hope it will be the case again tomorrow.”
Behind, a battle for third place was developing with Stockinger in a battle with Team WRT’s Will Stevens who was looking to get himself onto the podium. For a while it looked like Stevens wouldn’t be able to haul himself onto the podium, but a great piece overtaking at the first corner handed the former Manor F1 racer a well-earned podium alongside teammate Rene Rast.
“We had a bit of a mishap at the driver change, when the seatbelt fell into the car. We lost some time there, after which I had a great battle with Marlon. Once I got past him I immediately knew that the gap towards the leaders was too big to close. But today was all about being in the front for tomorrow, and we moved up quite a bit in this race, so that’s good.” Stevens said in the post-race press conference.
In the Silver Cup, the start of the race saw a major battle between Michael Meadow’s Team WRT R8 and Jeroen Mul’s Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 but as the race went on the major competition seemed to die away and claiming class honours was actually the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini of Luca Stolz and Michele Beretta – 17th overall.