Past Weekend the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe came to visit the infamous Nürburgring.
The Successor of the Blancpain Sprint Series stays with the well-known Format of two 1 hour-long Races on Saturday and Sunday, with a mandatory Pit Stop from Minute 25 to 35.
The Nürburgring and the beloved GT3 Category promised dramatic Races with furious battles for Positions – and they fulfilled it.
Qualification predicts distinct Races
The Qualification for both Races was held on Saturday Morning in two 20 Minute Sessions.
As the Cars are shared by 2 Drivers in the World Challenge Europe each takes on one of it. The first Session sets the Grid for the Saturday Race, so does the second Session for Sundays Race.
The Result of the Sessions couldn´t be much more different. It was Mirko Bortolotti for Grasser Racing in his Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to secure the Pole Position for Saturday, followed Black Falcons #4 Mercedes and then 3 Audi R8.
With 5 R8 GT3 in the top 10, they were underlining that Audi is generally strong at the Nürburgring.
Mercedes had 3 Cars in the Top 10 and Lamborghini 2. The first Car not being an Audi, Merc or Lambo was on P12 the Aston Martin Vantage from Ricky Collard and Marvin Kirchhöfer.
The second Sessions Result showed more Variation but again Audi as the dominant brand. This time taking Pole Position and even the Top 3 spots.
The best Audi was the #1 Car from WRT with Dries Vanthoor behind the Wheel. Black Falcon seemed to have the strongest driver line-up at the Weekend. Both Drivers, Luca Stolz and Maro Engel, were able to secure good positions for the Races. After P2 for Saturdays Race, it was P4 for Sundays. But what to expect else from the Championship Leaders?
This time in the Top 10 also an Aston Martin and a Ferrari. The Ferrari was the best placed Pro-Am Entry on P9, secured by David Perel.
The best Lamborghini was to find at P7, which was the #563 Car from the Orange 1 FFF Racing Team. The Pole Setter from first Session was only able to take P10.
So we got set up the basis for 2 very different Races, also showing the close and unforgiving competition in this Series.
You wanna know how the Weather was?
It was a hot Saturday from the beginning to the end, which meant good light for making Pictures, as you will see.
Action Packed Battle for Victory
After I discovered that the Tribunes after the Michael-Schumacher-S was open, there was no doubt to take this very seldom chance to watch the Race there, which made up for a spectacular side and an unspent place for photographing.
The Race started with no drama in the first lap, seeing #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini leading from the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes. Both lead an intense Battle for the first position over the first half-hour until the Pit Window opened.
Behind them, the #563 Lamborghini started its way up the order. Started at P6 they took the fight to the 3 Audis in front of them. Conquering P5 when the Pit Window did open, they decided to Pit at the earliest possible time as they were stuck behind one of the Audis. This Move resulted ultimately in making one position up and to go back on Track just behind the Leading #63 Lamborghini and #4 Mercedes.
Coming back to the Leading Cars from Grasser Racing and Black Falcon. After Showing intense Racing under high Pressure they had an also intense Performance in the pits.
When the Lamborghini was released from his pit he reeved in just before the #4 Mercedes, close to be a unsafe release. But the Merc had its very own moment, reeving back into the pit straight overseeing an Audi which resulted into contact, which was an unsafe release indeed.
While the Situation with Lamborghini took no consequences with it, the contact between the #4 Mercedes with the Audi resulted Logically into a Drive Through Penalty.
After this, the Merc was out of the Top 10, but they never gave up and finished in 8th position, keeping the damage done as small as possible.
This meant it was now a Lamborghini 1 – 2 with quite a margin to the Audis behind them. And the battle was raging on between these two. Just over 20 Minutes to the End a furious battle for Race Victory was shown. Andrea Caldarelli in #563 on Positon 2 was clearly faster than Christian Engelhart at the Top Position. Building up high-pressure Engelhart was able to to take the heat.
With the Lamborghinis Racing intensely each other, the other Audis were able to close the gap, transforming the battle of 2, into a battle of 3.
The best of the Audis was the #25 Entry of Santéloc Racing, which was able to make up places in the pits, bringing the Car up from P6 to p3.
When an overtake attempt of #563 on #63, at the end of the Start Straight, ended up in contact between the two, a gap opened up for Christopher Haase in the #25 Audi to take P2, just behind the leading Car.
What followed was some action-packed corners. #563 was immediately able to build up Pressure on the Audi which was pressuring on the Lamborghini in front just after the Mercedes Arena Section. At the following Turn, a lock-up at braking caused a lost of Momentum for both the leading Lamborghini and the Audi which was cold blooded occupied by the #563 Lamborghini going into the lead!
With now having free realm in front, #563 was able to pull a gap to P2 and his Victory was no more harmed.
Joined by the #2 Audi a 3 Car battle began for the remaining Podium Positions. For the remaining 10 Minutes, the #63 Lamborghini was able to take another time the heat and bringing back home P2 from the #25 Audi.
With that high-Class Racing in Mind, the wait for Sundays Run couldn´t be short enough.
What a difference a day makes
Sunday could not have been much more different from Saturday as it was. After the Sunny Saturday, the Green Hell welcomed us with a Cloudy Sky, much colder Temperatures and every chance on Rain.
So the Racing had also a different Character from the day before.
Coming around the first time at Michael-Schumacher-S, yes, I choosed this spot again, the field was already much wider spread as on Saturday.
After P5 at the Saturday Race, it was the #1 Audi in front already with some margin.
Saturdays Winner #563 Lamborghini was able to make up 2 Positions at the start seeing him on P5, keen to take on his contenders in front of him. He was followed by the #76 Aston Martin Vantage who finished on the 7th place on Saturday.
The #63 Lamborghini, which was only starting from 10th Position, had kind of a black Sunday. Losing some Positions at the Start they found themselves still on P15 with 10 Minutes gone into the Race.
Though the battle groups were smaller as on Saturday, the tension was still there in the opening laps. Especially P3 to P5 showed close Racing in the starting Phase of the Race.
A rarely being seen Car is the Lexus RCF GT3. It was a pleasure to see this car, entered by Tech 1 Racing, again at the Nürburgring. Finishing only P19 at Saturday, the Team showed a much stronger Performance on Sunday. They made up 4 Places at the start and managed to overtake one of their contenders at Lap 2, which resulted at P8 by that time. Rounding up their strong Performance they rewarded themselves with a surprising P5 at the end of the Race.
But back to the Starting Phase. After some furious opening laps, the field got settled and the Race seemed to be much more tactical.
With the Positions being more or less settled, the #1 Audi was able to build up a gap followed by the sister Car #2 and #4 Mercedes.
With visibility to the Merc, the #25 Audi followed under pressure by #563 Lamborghini, which was not able to crack the defense of the Audi.
With small Margin on P6, was the above mentioned Aston Martin, entered by R Motorsport.
One of the first Cars in the Pit, the #563 Lamborghini was able to take again advantage and overtook in during the Pit Stop the #4 Mercedes, which pitted at the same time. But the Lambo was not able to get in front of the #25 Audi.
After the pit stops were done it was the #1 Audi, now driven by Ezequiel Companc, in front of #2 Audi with Charles Weerts at the Wheel.
Now it seemed to be the perfect day for the W Racing Team leading 1-2.
Whilst the #4 Mercedes was the big loser of the Pit Stops, the #76 Aston Martin managed to get from P6 to P3 in the pits and with Ricky Collard driving it now, they had all the chances to bring back a good result.
Though the Race remained tactical it was still not lacking tension. And it was rising as the #2 Audi got closer to his Sister Car and Ricky Collard was able to set the fastest lap time so far by the point of 22 minutes to go in the Race.
With the gap to P4 getting bigger, a Podium result for the R-Motorsport Aston Martin got more real, but was it already their Climax?
Short reminder on the Weather, which was no match to Saturdays bright Sunshine. But it improved during the day. The sun was able to break through the clouds and temperatures were rising. So was also the Race about to change.
17 Minutes to Race end it seemed that most of the Positions were settled, all tension was gone from the fight for the 4th Positon. The #25 Audi tamed the #563 Car and the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes had to let go a bit.
At the same time, the gaps were closed between the top 3 cars and a three Car Battle for the glory of the day began.
And Drama immediately raised.
Ricky Collard starting an overtake attempt on P2 had to back up as the #2 Audi closed the door for the Aston Martin, now realizing he was in a good Position to go for the top spot he decided to brake later than usual.
The #1 Audi overseeing his attempt went into the corner and both Audis from the W Racing Team collided.
The Aston Martin went into the lead whilst the #2 Audi went into the chase for him. For the other Audi, the Race was unfortunately over as a tire failure forced him off the track and to park the car as a consequence. Meanwhile the #2 Audi suffered also a puncture costing him the Race as well.
With the remaining time to go, we saw a glorious Team Performance by R-Motorsport and especially Ricky Collard finding its Climax by finishing First and giving the Maiden Victory to the second Generation Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in the Blancpain GT Series`.
The Podium was completed by #25 Audi and #563 Lamborghini.
The #4 Mercedes got 4th followed by the Lexus RCF and the best Audi on P6 now. #63 Lamborghini finished on P8.
After the weekend at the Nürburgring, the standings in the Driver Ranking has changed with the #563 Lamborghini Drivers now in front of #4 Mercedes Drivers. The Gap is very small, and with only one Round to go in the Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe will find its Title Decider at the Hungaroring already this Weekend.
So be sure to turn in on the SROs YouTube Channel GT World, don´t miss the action.