The first main race of the new Blancpain Sprint Series took place at the Circuit Paul Armagnac in Nogaro, France. The series was formerly promoted as the FIA GT Series until Swiss watch manufacture Blancpain and SRO Motorsports Group decided to extend their partnership to the Sprint series at the end of 2013. And in this first race, reigning champions HTP Motorsport drivers Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Götz finished first in their Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to claim the first win of the season.
The HTP duo finished only 2 seconds ahead of the No.3 G-Drive Racing Audi R8 LMS Ultra driven by Stéphane Ortelli and Grégory Guilvert. In third place was yet another Audi, the No.4 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 LMS ultra of Mateusz Lisowski and Vincent Abril. The duo not only won third place, but also the Silver Cup category; on top of the 10.000 euro cheque they received for finishing third, they also received another 10.000 euro cheque for winning the Silver Cup.
The race started under sunny conditions. An incident occurred during the first lap when the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi of Cesar Ramos and the Phoenix Racing Audi of Niki Mayr-Melnhof made contact. Fourth place went to another HTP Motorsport car, the No.85 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 of Sergei Afanasiev and Stef Dusseldorp.
Sergio Jimenez and Caca Bueno completed the top five in their BMW Z4 of Sports Trophy Team Brasil. The next round of the Sprint Series will be at Brands Hatch in Britain on 18th May.
Maximilian Buhk (#84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes):
The start was quite confusing, after the incident between the two Audi cars. Once the race got underway I was able to quickly overtake the G-Drive Audi and BMW and I managed to give the car to Maxi with a healthy lead.
Maximilian Götz (#84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes)
We knew the Audi team would perform well during the pitstop, so we decided to come in early, to give me the possibility to push on a clear track. That plan worked out well and once Stéphane was behind me, my engineer was always keeping me up-to-date on the gap and where he was quicker than me. So I pushed a bit harder in the second and third sectors, to conserve our lead.
Grégory Guilvert (#3 G-Drive Racing Audi):
First of all, I would like to thank G-Drive Racing and Stéphane for giving me the opportunity to race here. Car racing is my passion, but on my own I would never have been able to participate in this event. After the contact during the formation lap I was convinced that there would be another formation lap, which is why I completely missed my start. The Mercedes immediately took a lead which would be impossible to bridge, even though our mechanics performed exceptionally well during the pitstop.
Stéphane Ortelli (#3 G-Drive Racing Audi):
I feel for Laurens and Cesar, because they were a class apart during the whole Nogaro weekend. It is not the way I wanted to claim a podium finish, I would have preferred to fight with my former team-mate. But that is part of racing, and I am very proud that for the third year in a row I am on the podium of the opening round of the best GT Series in the world.