Vincent Abril and Raffaele Marciello, teammates in the #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3, took a light-to-flag victory in Race One of the two one-hour race double header at the Hungaroring, the final round of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe. Abril took the chequered flag 2.352 seconds ahead of the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes, Maro Engel at the wheel of the car he shared with Luca Stolz.
The top three overall positions were completed by the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3, Christian Engelhart taking the second stint in the car he shared with Mirko Bortolotti.
Silver Cup class honours went to the #89 AKKA ASP Mercedes driven by Thomas Neubauer and Nico Bastian, the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 crewed by Hugo de Sadeleer and Aaro Vainio finishing second in category.
The win in the Pro-Am Cup class went to the #87 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes driven by Jean-Luc Beaubelique and Jim Pla, completing a clean sweep of wins for the Rabastens, France-based team.
Racing got underway behind the Safety Car, as the forecast rain became a downpour just ahead of the 15:10 start time. Raffaele Marciello in the #88 AKKA ASP Team Mercedes-AMG GT3 led the field from pole with Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe driver championship standings leaders, the #4 BLACK FALCON Mercedes and the #563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, in second and eighth places respectively.
The grid followed the Safety Car round the 4.381 kms circuit for three laps before being released to race. Ricky Collard, who started from fourth, lost ground on the opening green flag lap and had fallen back to seventh after four laps.
Raffaele Marciello in the leading #88 Mercedes drove a controlled race over the opening laps and had pulled out a gap of less than a second after 15 minutes of racing. Mirko Bortolotti in the #63 Lamborghini saw an opportunity to pass Luca Stolz for second place on the ninth lap, the preceeding battle allowing Marciello in the #88 Mercedes to increase his lead to over 2.4 seconds.
Meanwhile in the Silver Cup category, Mattia Drudi in the #56 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 led the class with Aaro Vainio in the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 in second.
As the pit window opened, Marciello had increased his lead to over three seconds while Marco Mapelli in the #563 Lamborghini was amongst the first to stop, handing the championship-leading car over to team owner Andrea Caldarelli.
Luca Stolz came in after 14 laps to hand over the #4 Mercedes to Maro Engel, a new set of wet tyres being fitted despite the temptation to fit slicks and gamble that the drying track would yield huge advantages to a slick-shod car.
There was drama in the pit lane when Frederic Vervisch in the #11 Phoenix Racing Audi made contact with the rear of Dries Vanthoor’s #1 Belgian Audi Club Audi. The release of Vanthoor’s car was investigated and the #1 Audi driver was later served with a penalty.
After the driver changes had cycled through, Vincent Abril held on to the lead in the #88 Mercedes with Christian Engelhart in #63 Lamborghini in second, .627 seconds back. Maro Engel in the #4 Mercedes was in third but on a charge, lapping in 1:59.128 on his eighteenth lap.
Andrea Caldarelli in the #563 Lamborghini was in sixth but lapping some eight-tenths of a second slower than Engel, making it unlikely the Italian team principal was going to challenge the #4 car as the race entered the final quarter.
Caldarelli, however, did pass Hugo de Sadeleer in the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin for fifth place on the 23rd lap, reducing the points advantage to the #4 car.
As the race entered the final ten minutes, Vincent Abril held a 1.616 second advantage over second placed Christian Engelhart in the #63 Lamborghini with Maro Engel just over 1.5 seconds further back in third. Andrea Caldarelli was in fifth but was just under three seconds behind Clemens Schmid in the #66 Attempto Racing Audi. The #4 BLACK FALCON pilot was on a charge however and was on the back of Engelhart’s Lamborghini with five minutes remaining, Engel visibly quicker than the Lamborghini in the closing stages.
Engel was pushing Engelhart hard with three minutes remaining and was urgently looking for a way past the orange-and-green Lamborghini. Engelhart, however, was driving a superb defensive race, damage to the rear of the #63 car potentially not helping.
As Engelhart and Engel started their final lap, the #4 driver looked for an opportunity to pass at Turn One but Engelhart held him off. However Engel was not about to give up and eventually found a way past the #63 car at Turns Seven, Eight and Nine.
At the chequered flag Vincent Abril took the win in the #88 Mercedes, finishing 2.352 seconds ahead of Maro Engel. Christian Engelhart completed the overall podium positions less than a second behind.
“First of all, thank you to the team,” said Vincent Abril, after the race. “We didn’t have an easy start to the weekend but the car was absolutely amazing in qualy this morning. When you start at the front. Raffaele did a mage start. The car was tricky to drive again. One important thing, I want to wish my best to Enzo Ide. I know he’s having a tough time right now. He’s a good friend of ours and I really hope he gets better.”
Orange 1 FFF Racing Team’s Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli now have a two-point lead in the World Challenge Europe drivers standings over BLACK FALCON’s Luca Stolz and Maro Engel.
Race Two of the final weekend of the 2019 Blancpain GT World Challenge Europe gets underway at 13:45 local time on Sunday September 8.