The inaugural season of the new Blancpain GT world challenge for Europe got underway last weekend at the UK’s Brands Hatch Circuit. Known as the Sprint Cup before, the freshly rebranded series followed the same format with 2 60 minute sprint races for the GT3 machines.
AMG Mercedes have been a dominant force for a long time in GT3 racing but still show they are up at the top with an ever older machine by taking wins in both races.
AKKA ASP took control of the first race. Nice Bastian and Thomas Neubauer took the win over the pole sitting Black Falcon machine. Neubauer showed exceptional pace especially for a rookie to the series at only 19 years old.
#4 Black led the race ahead of the #63 Lamborghini of Grasser Racing Team through the first half of the race having little battle leading into the pit stop window. The #4 was handed over to Maro Engel whilst #63 was taken by Christian Engelhart to continue the battle between the 2 monsters of the series. The stops continued to cycle through with pretty much everyone pitting apart from the #89 of AKKA ASP. Nico Bastian onboard the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes was left out by the team until the last moments of the window before the pitted to insert the rookie of Neubauer. Consistent pace from Bastian gave AKKA ASP the lead as the emerged from the pitlane.
#89 in the hands of Neubauer was out in the lead and holding good pace. #4 in the hands of Engel was hunting him down closing the gap but the 19 year old Neubauer kept his cool to hold off Maro Engel and take the first win of the weekend for Mercedes AMG with the #4 of Black falcon in second only 2 seconds behind. Rounding off the podium was the #63 GRT Lamborghini piloted by EngelHart.
Black Falcon completed a Mercedes double with a race 2 win after their earlier podium position finish. Luca Stolz and Maro Engel ran a strong consistent race to put them ahead and sit pretty at the top of the tables overall for the European challenge.
The race start wasn’t a calm affair with a multi car accident at turn 1. #333 Rinaldi Racing had a coming together with the #11 Phoenix racing Audi. This Collision between the 2 cars spiralled into a multi car accident as other were caught up in the mayhem trying to make avoiding manoeuvres. A full course yellow was called to clear up the accident
As Racing commenced after the full course yellow the #90 Mercedes AMG of AKKA ASP was out in front and chose to replicate the #88 pit strategy of race 1 and run long into their stint to gain advantage. #4 Black falcon did as they did in race 1 and pitted early whilst the pack was still close together bringing them out in clearer air and giving themselves space to push. the #88 of AKKA ASP sswapped their late pit technique for a much shorter first stint to almost copy the #4 of black falcon. As the #90 of AKKA ASP ran long the gap was being closed down by the #4 and by the time of the pit for #90 it saw the car slip down the order and out of contention.
The #4 of Black Falcon eased away at the front in the hands of Luca Stolz. #88 in the control of Vincent Abril tried to contend but couldn’t hold the pace of Stolz. #88 wasn’t a certain finish yet though, Abril soon ground to halt and pulled off circuit due to a clutch failure. Orange1 FFF racing would take over the second spot with AKKA ASP’s retirement.
#55 Attempto Racing Audi would round off the podium in third place.
Pro-AM honours went right down to the line, the top two finishers were split by 0.025secs. Phil Keen with Hiroshi Hamaguchi took the class win as Hamaguchi stole the win from the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes right on the very line by getting the drive out of the final corner and down the start finish straight.
Majority of these teams now make the journey a bit further north in the UK up to the Silverstone circuit where this weekend will see the Endurance cup continue with their 3 hour race around the Grand Prix Circuit.