Audi has kicked off the 2016 Blancpain GT season with a major win at the Misano World Circuit today, thanks to the Belgian Audi Club Team WRT team of Laurens Vanthoor and Frederic Vervisch in the #1 Audi R8 LMS. HTP Motorsport displayed their experience with the new Mercedes-AMG GT3 by finishing second while Rowe Racing rounded off the top three with the new BMW M6 GT3.
Blancpain Sprint Series Misano 2016 Results
P1. #1 Audi R8 LMS, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Frederic Vervisch, Laurens Vanthoor
P2. #84 Mercedes-AMG GT3, HTP Motorsport – Dominik Baumann, Maximilian Buhk
P3. #99 BMW M6 GT3, Rowe Racing – Philipp Eng, Alexander Sims
P1. #11 Ferrari 458 GT3, Kessel Racing – Michal Broniszewski, Giacomo Piccini
P2. #87 Mercedes-AMG GT3, AKKA ASP – Jean-Luc Beaubelique, Morgan Moullin-Traffort
P3. #12 BMW M6 GT3, Boutsen Ginion – Matias Henkola, Maxime Martin
P1. #5 Audi R8 LMS, Phoenix Racing – Nicolaj Moller Madsen, Markus Pommer
P2. #2 Audi R8 LMS, Belgian Audi Club Team WRT – Stuart Leonard, Michael Meadows
P3. #100 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Attempto Racing – Max Van Splunteren, Jeroen Mul
Today’s race revealed the spectacular nature of performance offered by the new GT racers, namely the Mercedes-AMG GT3, BMW M6 GT3 and the Audi R8 LMS. The #8 Bentley Continental GT3 of Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek from Bentley Team M-Sport started from the first row alongside Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 of Philipp Eng and Alexander Sims. The BMW managed to jump into the lead first leaving the Bentley in the hands of an aggressive pack behind.
Two Audis, the #4 car of Dries Vanthoor and the #1 car of Vervisch were both fighting for second place trying to displace Soulet in the #8 Bentley. Vervisch managed to make a clean pass into second but young Vanthoor ended up hitting the Bentley sending it into a spin. Podium chances for the Bentley were swept away, the Audi driver was handed a drive-through penalty for that incident.
Vervisch began chasing the BMW for the lead and he achieved a swift pass into P1 through a clever overtaking manoeuvre. Moments later Dominik Baumann in the #84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 passed the #99 BMW for second place. The #1 Audi made an impressive stop that rocketed them further into the lead, meanwhile, Maxi Buhk had swapped into the #84 Mercedes-AMG GT3 taking over from Baumann – he managed to stay in second place till chequered flag.
Mercedes would have clinched two podium finishes with the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 which had passed the #99 BMW for third but ran out of fuel moments away from the finish. That said, the BMW went back into third leading the #58 McLaren 650S GT3 of Rob Bell and Alvaro Parente from Garage 59. Fifth place went to the #75 ISR Audi R8 LMS of Frank Stippler and Filip Salaquarda.
Elsewhere in the Pro-Am Cup, Michal Broniszewski and Giacomo Piccini scored the win in the #11 Ferrari 458 GT3 of Kessel Racing sharing the podium with the #87 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 and the #12 BMW M6 GT3 of Boutsen Ginion.
The Silver Cup was won by Nicolaj Moller Madsen and Markus Pommer in the #5 Audi R8 LMS from Phoenix Racing sharing the podium with another Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS of Stuart Leonard and Michael Meadows and the Attempto Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 of Max Van Splunteren and Jeroen Mul.
Monza will host the second round of the 2016 Blancpain GT Series, and the first Blancpain Endurance Series race of the season on April 23.
Laurens Vanthoor (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8): “I haven’t thought that much about what happened here last year, but the memories definitely came flooding back up on the podium. So it is good to put that to bed. The level of teams and drivers is so high in this championship so I think we can be really proud of the result. Everyone’s done a great job – the mechanics were even better than us! – and we did what we had to do. I thought Maxi [Buhk] was really quick in his stint and it was not easy for me to maintain the gap. Fortunately it was enough in the end.”
Maxi Buhk (#84 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG): “Consistency will be key this year so finishing on the podium here is a good start. Reducing the number of Sprint weekends from seven to five does not make that any easier because you must still focus and make no mistakes. I think anywhere in the top-five is a solid result. I did not have the pace to catch Laurens [Vanthoor] but maybe the traffic helped me make up a little time. But even then I think he saw me in his mirrors and was happy to manage the gap.”
Phillip Eng (#99 Rowe Racing BMW): “We seemed to have a good package today and maximised the car’s current potential. There’s still more to come from the M6 but, for now, we have done everything we can. My start was pretty good and I was able to overtake Maxime [Soulet], who was very fair, but Fred [Vervisch] eventually got me with a good move, I have to admit! It is a pleasure to race with such professional drivers; everyone knows how to treat each other, which is always hard but fair. That is how it should be. I am really happy to be back on the podium today. Let’s hope we are here more often.”