GT World Challenge

Grasser Racing Team Takes First Blood at Sprint Cup Opener at Zolder

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Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti won the opening race of the Blancpain Sprint Series at Zolder. Credit: Dirk Bogaerts Photography.

Reigning Blancpain GT champions Grasser Racing Team took first blood at the opening race of the Blancpain Sprint Series at Zolder.

Christian Engelhart and Mirko Bortolotti in the #63 Lamborghini Huracan managed to beat the previously dominant WRT Audi due to quick pit work and a scintillating outlap by Bortolotti.

Dries Vanthoor, who grew up just a stone’s throw away from the circuit, led Engelhart from pole and managed to build up a small lead of three seconds over the German.

Engelhart sought to keep Vanthoor in the #2 WRT Audi in sight but soon the Lamborghini came under pressure from fellow WRT runner Alex Riberas in the #1 Audi who continued his impressive Blancpain debut in third place.

Engelhart and Riberas continued their battle in the pits, but swift pitwork for GRT saw Bortolotti leave the pits with a bigger advantage over the newly installed Christopher Mies.

When Vanthoor came into pit on the next lap, he was first baulked by the Am Lamborghini entry coming into the pitlane and the pit stop was not up to WRT usual high standards.

These factors and Bortolotti’s rapid outlap allowed the Lamborghini to sweep around the Audi as it emerged from the pitlane.

Once in second place the newly installed Will Stevens was unable to match the pace of Bortolotti, as the Italian built an unassailable lead to the end.

Soon Stevens came under pressure from Mies, with the German taking up to 0.2 seconds off his English team-mate, yet he was unable to get close enough to make a move on his team-mate.

Robin Frijns pulled off the move of the race with an instinctive dive on Andrea Caldarelli in the #19 Lamborghini for fifth place at turn two.

The reigning Sprint Series champion Frijns was on a charge in order to reach the podium places, however fourth placed Kelvin van der Linde, in the new Attempto Racing Audi squad was in fine form and Frijns was unable to reduce his lead.

Pro-Am was won by Carlo van Dam in the TP-12 Kessell Racing Ferrari just ahead of stablemate Giacomi Piccini in the #11 Kessell Ferrari, with the two cars locked together for much of the race.

The new Emil Frey Lexus team had a difficult Blancpain debut.  Albert Costa in the #14 RC-F took a trip across the gravel trap and retired shortly afterwards, but Stephane Ortelli bought the sister #114 machine home, albeit down in fourteenth.

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Sports Car and GT writer. Perhaps being named after James Hunt and Murray Walker (first and middle names) might have something to do with how I have always been motorsport obsessed. After failing to get int racing, I might as well write about it.
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